Richard Negrin: Former City Manager and Deputy Mayor Angles for Ethics Reforms
Richard Negrin, the Former Philadelphia City Manager under the Nutter administration, has cast himself into the race to become Philadelphia’s next District Attorney.
Negrin began his career in 1995 in the DA’s office working to prosecute various hate crimes and violent crimes. Now a partner at Obermayer, Rebmann, Maxwell & Hippel, he gained citywide attention in 2010 when he led the then newly founded independent Philadelphia Board of Ethics, serving as Vice-Chair for a number of years.
His profile on the Obermayer, Rebmann, Maxwell & Hippel Law’s website states that while heading the Board of Ethics he helped “promote greater transparency in government by overseeing financial disclosures by city officials and by having oversight related to campaign finance limits and disclosures.”
Even after ethics changes helped brought about by Negrin and others within the leadership of city government, Philadelphia still remains one of the most corrupt cities in the country. A recent piece in Vice News put it even more bluntly, “This is Philly: machine politics, pay to play, and blatant nepotism are the norm in this jawn.”
Negrin has been criticized for his perceived ties to Philly’s party machine-driven establishment. He hits back at the naysayers and emphasizes that he is looking to continue his work on implementing ethics reforms in the city, amongst other policy initiatives. While in the midst of bringing his message to the people, he recognizes it’s been a crowded and contested campaign thus far.
“It’s been a bizarre and interesting, unique race, which means a lot can happen,” Negrin said. “But it’s going to be a sprint to the finish line.”
The bizarre nature of the DA race comes into focus under a cloud of corruption. Former District Attorney Seth Williams announced in February that he would not seek another term in office due to a then ongoing corruption probe regarding $160,000 in gifts that he failed to report. Williams was later charged with bribery and corruption and is due to stand trial next month.
Negrin sees his past work as the head of the Ethics Board as tantamount to what he would bring to a DA’s office plagued by scandal. He wants to implement a number of policy changes within the office to fundamentally change the current culture of corruption left by Williams into one of transparency.
“You can’t work together with different agencies in the city and solve big problems like the proliferation of guns and a massive heroin epidemic when there is no trust,” Negrin said. “You build trust by being personally involved in the hands on work of reforming, and being a partner in the community directly, not by telling people to trust you.”
Negrin’s policy platform includes a number of changes to current DA Office practices, including “being smarter on nonviolent crime,” providing second chances to first-time nonviolent criminal offenders, and seeking to end the school-to-prison pipeline by working directly with kids in the community at a young age. In terms of the opioid epidemic, Negrin has advocated for a geographically targeted approach that focuses on rehabilitation first, rather than incarceration.
When it comes to the the issue of gun violence, though, for Negrin it’s personal. At the age of 13 he witnessed first-hand the overwhelming tragedy of violent crime when he watched his father get shot to death on the streets of Newark in a random act of violence.
“My journey to become DA really began then, when I was sitting in the back of that police car with my dad’s body bleeding out in the street,” Negrin said. “That’s also the first time I ever met a lawyer, the prosecutor, who prosecuted the gang members that killed my father.”
This experience, he says, has profoundly impacted his perception on how to handle violent crimes and led him to develop a more holistic plan for combating the issue. Negrin supports improving both community and citywide initiatives at combating gun violence and most importantly its root causes.
In that same sense, he is a proponent of policies like increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour and equal pay for women. Negrin believes that while these policies are not directly related to the role of DA, they are pivotal initiatives in creating a culture of crime prevention.
“If you look at what’s happened to the middle class over the years and areas where they pay a living wage, there are lower crime rates,” Negrin said. “I really think there is a direct correlation between us being one of the poorest big cities in the country and also having one of the highest incarceration rates.”
Negrin has recently enjoyed a number of endorsements, including ones from the Fraternal Order of Police, the Guardian League of Black Police Officers, and the Spanish American Law Enforcement Association.
Negrin recognizes the limitations he will have if elected to become the city’s next DA, but stresses that he wants to bring back integrity to the office above all else by directly reaching out to communities.
“You must demonstrate a commitment to communities in a way that has credibility. I know many of these communities, I know many of the block captains and leaders, heads of the CDC’s,” Negrin said. “So for me, that trust is already there. It’s just about activating that network to help start making a difference on these huge issues affecting our city.”