Derek Green at the New Deal Ideas Summit in May 2022

Derek Green is running for mayor. The former at-large councilmember, who on Tuesday resigned his seat to join the race, officially launched his campaign in Carroll Park yesterday morning.

Green spoke from ESPM Hair Zone, a West Philly Black-owned barbershop, which he said was an intentional choice.

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The 51-year-old doesn’t have any hair, but he’s all about the industry. Green called barbershops and hair salons like ESPM the “anchors of commercial corridors,” the business-hosting avenues where he hopes to form a crucial base of support.

First elected in 2015, Green has been a longtime city employee in various roles. The Northwest Philly legislator’s priorities have mixed an emphasis on boosting civic and economic participation.

His campaign is kicking off with the idea that Philadelphians “should expect more and deserve better from our city,” per a statement on his Facebook page posted during his launch event.

Why is he the right person to make that happen? Here’s a rundown of Green’s career so far and some details about his vision for Philly.

Derek Green’s path to City Council

A resident of Mt. Airy, Green is a Northwest Philadelphia native who left home to attend the University of Virginia in 1988, where he graduated with degrees in philosophy and communications. He went on to earn a JD from Temple Law, while also working as an assistant branch manager and lender at Meridian Bank.

For a time, Green was one of the small business owners he advocates for today, when he and his wife Sheila ran a small retail shoe store in Northwest Philly.

In 1998, Green got a job as a prosecutor for the Delaware Department of Justice. He came back home in early 2000 to briefly work as a Philadelphia assistant district attorney. After a few months, he moved into working as a deputy solicitor for the city’s Law Department.

Fully familiarized with the legal nitty gritty of public policy, he went on to serve as special counsel for former District 9 Councilmember Marian Tasco, a position he held for over a decade. During this time, he served as a legislative aide and an attorney for various City Council committees, including Finance and Public Health and Human Services.

Like other Tasco mentees, Green is a member of the Northwest Coalition, a group of Philadelphia Black political players that have supported each other in elections and through endorsements. He’s likely to be joined in the mayoral race by fellow Coalition member Cherelle Parker.

Both Derek and Sheila Green have been vocal advocates for children with special needs; their son Julian is autistic. Green is a partner of the Philadelphia Autism Project, a nonprofit started by former at-large councilmember Dennis M. O’Brien to provide information and material resources for autistic Philadephians and their families.

Green unsuccessfully ran for an at-large City Council seat in 2007, and was expected to give it another shot in 2011, but held off until 2015.

That decision seemed to work, he was the top vote getter among at-large candidates in the 2015 primary and closely trailed Helen Gym in the votes column come the general election. He was comfortably reelected in 2019.

The mayoral hopeful also holds other leadership positions and serves on many other boards, including:

  • Chair of the Philadelphia Gas Commission,
  • President of the Democratic Municipal Officials
  • The City Trusts
  • The Philadelphia Cultural Fund
  • The National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials
  • The Executive Committee of the Democratic National Committee

Nothing is ‘zero-sum’: Green’s politics of balance

Green has been a small business advocate from day one, but noted that attracting larger firms would also be a primary concern as mayor. Creating more jobs would be “the centerpiece” of Green’s mayoral agenda, according to an initial campaign press release that cited the importance of the life sciences and microchip manufacturing to Philly’s workforce going forward.

The aim to boost employment aligns with one of his more groundbreaking policy proposals: The Philadelphia Public Financial Authority, an institution meant to aid in the formation of a public bank.

Green’s vision of the PPFA, with a goal of increasing access to credit for small businesses run by Black and brown residents, stems from his familiarity with both legal and financial guidelines, he told Billy Penn last winter. If the plan for a public bank came to fruition, it would be the first chartered by a U.S. city.

Ethical concerns are also an area Green has homed in on, proposing a variety of civics-oriented bills earlier this year.

Several of them passed, including a rule that candidates seeking municipal office can’t spend more than $12,000 through anyone other than their designated campaign committee (it’s intended to help clarify campaign finances flow). Another new ordinance increased protections for people filing complaints with the city’s Board of Ethics, meant to ease the concerns and lessen the vulnerability of whistleblowers.

Amid the police department’s hiring struggles, Green also introduced bills to change the residency requirement for officers and implement signing bonuses for officers joining the force if “the number of police officer vacancies is higher than five percent of budgeted officer positions.”

Mayor Jim Kenney lifted the residency requirement by executive order weeks afterwards, though the bonus policy still languishes in Council.

In keeping with his concerns as a parent, Green chaired Council’s Committee for People with Disabilities and Special Needs. He was also Finance Committee chair.

He said his mayoral campaign will be centered around balancing the desires for public safety, consistent city services, affordable housing, and other hot-button issues, an agenda forged by the belief that reaching for these goals isn’t a zero-sum game.

Fundraising status

The latest campaign finance filings show that Green has roughly $207k cash on hand to begin campaigning.

Thanks to his policy, of course, the most he can throw into that bucket himself is $12,000.

Jordan Levy is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn, always aiming to help Philadelphians share their stories. Formerly, he has worked at Document Journal, n+1 Magazine, and The New Republic. He...