Philly leaders, activists and Philly Jesus look ahead to 2015:
Michael Nutter: Mayor of Philadelphia
As he begins his last several hundred days in office, Mayor Nutter isn’t slowing down.
“We’re not counting. We just keep working,” Nutter said. “You never stop moving, you never stop fighting for the citizens of our great city.”
Nutter has seen significant economic growth during his term, with $8.5 billion in active or planned investments since 2013. The city’s murder rate is down by 30 percent since he took office. But that’s not enough, he said.
“The big issues in 2015 are schools and educating our children,” he said. “If we focus on those two issues, than issues of public safety and crime will go down, and folks can take care of themselves.”
Nutter is also planning a series of “listening” sessions between the public and city officials in 2015 to address concerns about police-community relations.
“I want to foster that kind of dialogue and discussion,” Nutter said. “I think 2015 will be an important moment for us to really take the some time to really focus on those issues.”
Darrell Clarke: City Council President
“Concluding the whole education issue” is Clarke’s biggest goal for 2015.
“While we were successful in establishing some annual sources of revenue, the cigarette tax and retail tax, the simple reality is there is going to be a significant gap,” Clarke said. “Hopefully, given Gov.-elect Wolf’s commitment, we’re going to be having additional funding from the state.”
Clarke also hopes to investigate “community schools” - which package health and social services into the school setting -- as a new way to approach “the education of a child.”
Asked about rumors that he might be run for the office of mayor in 2015, Clarke laughed and declined to answer.
“That will be quite clear soon,” he said.
Pastor Alyn Waller:Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church
Waller said his ministry in 2015 will focus on the “human family.”
"Our theme for the new year is family matters,” Waller said. “It’s about helping people to understand that both in the church and throughout our city, we're all part of one big family and we're called to love one another, to see that there is both justice and peace in our city.”
But Waller said his religious work is also related to the economic realities of the city.
“The economic revival that we had in the city was a jobless recovery,” Waller said. “We need jobs. We need a better education system. We want our new governor to make sure that funding comes. That is the greatest need in our community -- the lack of funding to public education.”
JeffreyLurie:Philadelphia Eagles owner
For Lurie, the year ahead is all about his team going from good to great.
“We’re at the good, but we don’t want that, we want to be great,” he said at a press conference after the Eagles beat the giants on Dec. 28.
He blamed his team’s performance this season on what he called three obvious things:
“Turnovers, number one. You can’t be a Super Bowl team if you’re going to lead the league in turnovers. Two, the red zone offense. Third, giving up the big play on defense.”
“It’s all in front of us, but I don’t want to sound overly enthusiastic because we’ve got to fix those three things,” he said.
“I think we’ve got a really good nucleus of young players, mostly under 27, a lot of players below 30, a lot of up and coming stars in this league.”
Eli Kulp:chef of Fork, A.Kitchen, and High Street
Rising culinary star Kulp has big plans for 2015. The chef at Fork Restaurant on Market Street since 2012, Kulp sees the Philly food scene continuing to blossom in the near future.
“If you think that doing the same thing that you were doing two years ago is gonna cut it anymore, it’s not,” Kulp related while traveling from A.Kitchen to High Street, two other restaurants where he serves up fine cuisine.
“People are more understanding of what quality means in this town. For so long it was just you had to take what you got.”
Kulp said he is focused on maintaining the quality of food and service that restaurants he cooks at have become known for.
“2014 was a big growth year as well as establishing our name type of year,” Kulp said. “Now we are focusing on working towards really solidifying all the accolades … we don’t want to rest on our laurels.”
Lu Ann Cahn: Journalist
The new year will be a new adventure for the woman who became a fixture on NBC 10 news programs, where she covered stories for 27 years.
Cahn stepped down from broadcasting earlier in December, after publishing a book – now out in paperback – called “I Dare me,” chronicling a year of taking on new challenges.
Now, she’s about to set off on a 30-day road trip to some 20 different states to help others who want to dare themselves to do something different.
“It’s 30 dares, in 30 days in 30 cities,” she said.
First stop is a familiar one for her – the polar bear plunge on New Year’s day in Atlantic City, which became the first “dare” in her book, and from there it’s on to New York to help a woman dare to dance, something she’s swears she cannot do.
“This is to share dares with people who are fans of the book, or who had their own dares they wanted to do, but needed a push,” said Cahn.
Not all of the 2015 dares are physical – in one case, in Joplin, Mo., she’s aiming to help a woman who wants to learn how to give back to her community.
She’ll also be doing motivational speaking in the new year, as well as taking on a new role as director of career services at Temple’s school of Media and Communications.
Sister Mary Scullion:Poor and homeless advocate
For Philadelphia’s best-known advocate for the poor and the homeless, the visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia in late September of next year looms large indeed.
Scullion, proclaimed by Time magazine in 2009 as one of the 100 people on the planet who most affect our world, is hoping that the papal visit can be an opportunity to instill a greater commitment to social and economic justice. Scullion is the founder of Philadelphia’s Project HOME, which is an acronym for Housing-Opportunities-Medical-Education.
“We’re hoping to engage more people in these issues just by virtue of his visit,” she said.
“It (the visit) impacts the city of Philadelphia in a huge way but we’re also hoping and will work for it to impact the lives of the men and women we serve who are homeless, hungry and poor in our city,” she said.
“I think it’s going to be a great year and a great opportunity to deepen our compassion and our commitment to those in need,” she said.
Scullion, of the Sisters of Mercy order, estimated that in any given year there are about 6,000 people who are homeless and living on the street, and another 20,000 to 25,000 who are homeless, living in shelters.
Pastor Adán A. Mairena: West Kensington Ministry
Mairena is closely watching the 2015 mayoral race. “It’s a pivotal year that’s gonna determine the next decade,” Madeira said.
“I really want to listen to the candidates and see which are gonna best serve the city. … For all the big flashy things that are going to happen, we're not addressing that we're the poorest of all the large cities.”
Madeira said his biggest concerns are addressing education and poverty.
“If we say education is the way out and the educational system is broken, where does our hope lie?” he asked. “We're still poor in Kensington. Until the poor people are advanced, that’s the number one thing on their mind – survival.”
N.A. Poe: Comedian/pot activist
Marijuana activist and comedian Poe is still high off the recent decriminalization of marijuana, but hoping for positive social change in 2015.
“I predict that in 2015, because marijuana is decriminalized, everyone will get really high to forget how much money was wasted on Dilworth Park,” Poe said while vacationing in California. “I also believe that Pennsylvania will come to its senses and legalize marijuana so we can invest that money in our failing school system.”
Poe, who last month completed a year of federal probation after being arrested during a marijuana protest, said he also hopes that Philadelphia police implement body cameras department-wide to prevent corruption and increase accountability.
“I can also guarantee that if [former D.A.] Lynn Abraham is elected mayor, I'm moving to Mexico,” Poe said.
Jeffrey Rosen:President and CEO of the National Constitution Center
Rosen is looking forward to a year of continuing to educate the public about the U.S. Constitution – which he said is more relevant now than ever.
“It’s remarkable how the most controversial political issues of our time all have a constitutional dimension – from Ferguson, which raises vexing issues about race and crime, to the CIA's torture report, there are strong arguments on all sides of the debates about whether or not the constitution was violated,” Rosen said.
“At the Constitution Center, we're the only place in America that can bring all sides together for respectful debate.”
The Center is now showing the original Bill of Rights, launching an online interactive constitution, and preparing their celebration of the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery.
“We’re looking forward to an even broader audience in 2015,” Rosen said.
For Philly’s favorite bearded Christ-imitator, Mike Grant, who rose to global fame in 2014, where do you go from here?
“In 2015, I will continue to keep doing what I'm doing as a visual street ministry bringing awareness to the Name of Jesus,” Philly Jesus said in a Facebook message. “As for the details, it shall be a surprise.”
Philly Jesus was catapulted to the world’s attention after a November arrest in LOVE Park. The charges were later dropped by the D.A.’s office.
“To all my haters I would like to say..’I love you..be patient..more for you to hate on coming soon,’” Philly Jesus wrote.
“I'm also very excited for the Pope coming to Philly in September. I can't wait to meet him, and get a epic selfie with him, and show him around Philly.”