The Boy Who Would Be Mayor

Since sixth grade, Andrew Hohns has had only one goal: to govern the city he calls home.

By Liz Spikol
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Feb. 28, 2001

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You bump into Andrew coming out of a coffee shop and he smiles easily when he sees you. "Hey," he says. "You know what I got my hands on today?"

He pauses and raises his eyebrows in a slightly lascivious way; maybe he got a bootleg of Debbie Does Philadelphia?

"I got a copy of the City Charter. I'm going home to read it now. I'm really excited." And that's how he'll spend his evening, sitting on his neat, minimalist couch beneath his neat, minimalist art, listening to records on a record player. He'll probably nod off there, with the City Charter, then wake up, head swimming in Ed Bacon reverie, then go into his neat, minimalist bedroom and pass out.

"I don't know if you've noticed, but Drew is something of a genius," Andrew's best friend, Miller Brownstein, says. "It's irritating being his friend," he says, "because when you go out with him he's always tapping other people on the shoulder to strike up conversations. Not to hit on them, not to say, 'I'm Andrew Hohns--I'm a candidate for mayor,' but to meet them and hear what they have to say."

An interview is arranged in the coffee shop, but it's too noisy. On his way out, Andrew turns to the three older men sitting at the next table. They are talking about a show.

"Wasn't that sponsored by" Andrew asks.

They look up, surprised. Who's this kid? But they answer him.

"Yeah," Andrew says, as though they're all continuing a conversation they started weeks before, "can you believe ..."

As he leaves, he says, "I'm Andrew Hohns," and shakes hands firmly. The men look at him like he may be a little off.

"Yeah, man," one of them says without giving his name.They watch as he makes his way between the tables.

They might think he's strange, but they won't forget him. They won't forget Andrew Hohns.

This is going to give the impression that the only thing that matters is Andrew Hohns. It's an impression he doesn't want to make.

He's just a cog in the wheel, he insists. He's just part of a bigger plan, and that is to make Philadelphia the best city it can be. And he can't do that alone, nor would he want to. He doesn't have all the answers--that's what "the group" is all about.

The Group. The group that was formed to create the Ultimate Public Policy for Philadelphia. There are seven of them right now, but they're trying to branch out. They have only one woman and no minorities, unless you count Troy, who's half-Filipino.

It's the group that does the work, Andrew will tell you, the group that deserves the credit, the group that is most interesting.

This focus on him is odd, incidental, not unwelcome but not necessarily correct. He'll remind you, more than once, that Job has political aspirations, too, as does Troy. Miller, he'll say, wants to stay more behind the scenes, but it's Miller he turns to for questions of public policy. After all, that's what he's studying at Penn.

The Group, all of them registered Democrats: Troy Madres of Northeast Philadelphia, 22, consultant, Penn graduate; Miller Brownstein of Chicago, 23, in his last semester at Penn; Eva Churchill of Haddonfield, N.J., 24, writer, Barnard graduate; David Simons of Philadelphia, 39, past owner of the Trocadero and Khyber Pass, now a headhunter; Job Itzkowitz of Mt. Airy, 22, market analyst, University of Michigan graduate; John Christner of Philadelphia, 18, senior at Masterman, attending Penn in the fall.

That's the Group. Would you like to join? All ages and walks of life welcome. They need more people, more voices. They're aware--very aware--of their limitations.

When Troy introduced Andrew and Job, Andrew said he'd heard they had something in common, this desire to be mayor. Yes, Job said, he wanted to run after he had done other things, when he was older, 40 maybe. When did Andrew want to run?

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