Mayor Street, 56 years old, was born into rural poverty in Norristown, Pennsylvania, and came up the "hard way," growing up without electricity or indoor plumbing as a child. Understanding that education was the key to his future, Mayor Street graduated from Conshohocken High School and worked his way through Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama, where he studied English.
In 1975, Street earned his Juris Doctorate from Temple University Law School, paying his tuition by moonlighting as a sidewalk vendor on the university's campus.
Following his graduation, Street served clerkships with Common Pleas Court Judge Mathew W. Bullock, Jr. and with the United States Department of Justice. In his first professional job, Mayor Street taught English at an elementary school and, later, at the Philadelphia Opportunities Industrialization Center. He also practiced law privately prior to entering into public service.
Mayor Street began his public career as a community activist. A fiery leader, he led efforts for fair housing opportunities for the poor, and challenged the Philadelphia School Board to spend more on students and less on administration. Mayor Street has also been a leader in forging closer cooperation between the police and the community in the fight against crime and drugs in Philadelphia's neighborhoods.
Elected to Philadelphia City Council in 1979, Mayor Street assumed office in 1980. For nearly 20 years, Mayor Street represented the city's Fifth Councilmanic District, distinguishing himself as a fighter for working people and neighborhoods. Diverse economically and racially, the Fifth District comprises 11 wards in North Central Philadelphia and Center City and encompasses some of the city's most affluent addresses, such as Rittenhouse Square and some of the city's most depressed areas.
Widely acknowledged as one of the most knowledgeable and effective leaders in Philadelphia City Council history, Mayor Street was chosen unanimously by members of the council to serve as president in 1992, and again in 1996. Mayor Street is known for his expertise on a range of issues including city budgeting and fiscal matters, housing, education and crime.
Street, working closely with former Mayor Edward G. Rendell, was instrumental in crafting and implementing a financial plan that passed Council unanimously and turned a $250 million deficit into the largest surplus in city history. By cutting the business and wage tax four years in a row, Street and Rendell helped reverse the 30-year loss of jobs from Philadelphia. And, in the years since 1996, Philadelphia has actually gained jobs.
During his time as City Council President, Mayor Street worked to promote community policing and for tougher gun laws, while also promoting Townwatch organizations and after-school recreation programs for young people. Reflecting his activist roots and concern for improving blighted neighborhoods across Philadelphia, Mayor Street spearheaded efforts to tear down abandoned buildings that breed crime and the crack down on landlords who allow their property to be used as drug houses.
Mayor Street is equally proud to have passed, during his council term, a liquor-by-the-drink tax that resulted in an additional $23 million per year for Philadelphia public schools. To date, the liquor-by-drink tax has pumped more than $100 million into the School District. Importantly, the additional revenue has made possible all-day kindergarten for every child in Philadelphia.
Mayor Street retired from Philadelphia City Council on December 17, 1998, to run for mayor of Philadelphia. On November 2, 1999, he was elected to serve as the city's first mayor of the new millennium.
Raised on a farm where he rose at 5:00 a.m. to perform daily chores, Mayor Street is widely admired for his stamina and work ethic. He arrives at his office each day at 6:30 a.m. to begin his "routine" 12-hour workday. He is strongly committed, however, to setting aside time to be with his family ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¯Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¿Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â½ wife Naomi, an attorney and children's rights advocate and his four children:
Sharif, a lawyer with the Philadelphia firm Wolf, Block, Schorr & Solis-Cohen; Rashida, an architect currently working towards her master's degree at the University of Pennsylvania; Lateef, a sophomore at the University of Maryland and Akeem, who attends Philadelphia's Masterman Middle School.
An avid fitness enthusiast, Mayor Street jogs 15 miles and bicycles between 30 to 40 miles each week. In his role as the Philadelphia's chief executive, Mayor Street has pledged to take a leading role in helping to "shape up" Philadelphia's standing as a physically fit city. (A magazine article earlier this year dubbed Philadelphia America's fattest city.)