Lack of affordable housing is a critical issue in our city. What are your positions on key issues such as a Homes Guarantee, rent control, and increasing the number of affordable housing options?
Many candidates can talk about affordable housing in this race however I am the only candidate in this race who has worked on legislation to ensure there is affordable housing throughout our city. As a Legislative Aide on City Council for Councilmember Sánchez we worked on an affordable housing bill where anyone who was developing anything larger than ten units would have to ensure that one unit was affordable, in the end we ended up ensuring $100 Million through budget discussions to be appropriated for affordable housing. I support rent control however that is a local issue, the way I would support Rent Control legislation to be introduced (as it has been by Councilmember Brooks) would be to protect any preemption at the state level. One of the many lessons I have learned at the local level as a legislative aide, is that the state (not only in PA but across the nation) has multiple preemptions that prevents progressive legislation at the local levels including but not limited to rent control. The 175th District is a very transient district as many who live in the district and move across the city or into another unit due to the continued rise of rent in the district.
Do you believe PA’s current criminal justice system is equitable? Please explain your positions on ending cash bail, mandatory minimum sentencing, PA’s judge selection process, Marsy’s Law, and the death penalty.
Our Criminal Justice system is in deep need of reform, there is no question about that. I am the only candidate in this race who is talking about criminal justice reform, along with decriminalization of marijuana in the 175th Legislative Race. I not only believe in the legalization of marijuana because of the revenue it would bring into Pennsylvania but I believe in the legalization and expungements of records for low level possessions need to be a priority for all of those who have served time preventing employment, housing, and other opportunities due to an outdated policy that mostly impacted our black and brown communities. In regard to cash bail, I am the only candidate who has stated unwavering support to end CASH BAIL. I believe that we also need to reduce our pretrial arrest rates and move to a (CVN) code violation notice model where low-level non-violent offenses are written up as a summons rather than going through an intake process. In a recent study it was found that 95% of those who were given the option of the summons, returned for their court hearing.
In regards to minimum sentencing I am in support of reforming and giving discretion back to the judge overseeing the case. The original intent of minimum sentences was to be used in drug trafficking cases however this is now a tool for prosecutors use to extend sentences as leverage in trying to get an early plea deal. We elect judges in order to ensure all accounts, aspects, and evidence of the case are presented to the judge and for that elected official to determine the severity of the crime, not a one size fits all approach. In regards to the death penalty given the advances in technology that we have over the years which have freed hundreds who were wrongfully convicted I believe that we should end the death penalty as I believe it’s a cruel and unusual punishment. I fully support creating a review board for “ lifers” that examines each case to determine if the charges and sentences fit the severity of the crime. I also applaud our District Attorney Krasner who currently has exonerated 16 people in Philadelphia after reviewing their cases and our Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman for everything he has done around exonerations across the Commonwealth.
Gun violence is a major public health issue. What is your position on gun control and what would you do at the state level to combat our gun violence epidemic, including universal background checks and imposing liability for gun deaths upon manufacturers?
I firmly believe that if you need an assault riffle to go hunting you may need to pick up a different sport. I believe that Pennsylvania needs red flag legislation and universal background checks which is incredibly frustrating that it does not currently exist. We need Red Flag legislation, so if you are a threat to yourself or society you should not have access to a weapon and if you are a convicted domestic abuser we need to operationalize ACT 79 which takes guns away from Domestic Abusers, which failed to have that have the enforcement component when being implemented so that our local authorities could issue warrants immediately when those individuals failed to give up their weapons.
We have 300+ families a year losing loved ones across our city and this is a public health epidemic. Our City Council has taken steps while I served as a legislative aide to promote turning in guns no questions asked, but we need to do more. We need to hold gun owners accountable for reporting lost or stolen weapons, as many of these weapons later are sold through straw purchases many later being used in crimes in our city.
How do you plan to tackle the opioid crisis across the city and state? Do you support safe injection sites, such as the one proposed for Kensington?
Once again I am the only candidate in this race who is speaking about tackling the opioid crisis because I am the only candidate who has put in the work to combat the opioid epidemic, and the only candidate who lives in Kensington living next to the four encampments that were formed. As a legislative aide I took the lead on addressing the opioid epidemic working with the Managing Directors Office to create, introduce, and operationalize the Municipal ID program as one of the biggest challenges for those battling addiction was having a form of identification to get into treatment. As a legislative aide for Councilmember Sánchez we worked through the appropriations committee to allocate over $20 million dollars to assist with beds, outreach efforts, and increase city services in the “Resilience Project Zone”. We need to breakdown barriers to treatment, and fully audit our behavioral health systems so we are efficient and effective with our funds.
I am the only candidate who has publicly voiced his stance on safe consumption sites and the only candidate who has traveled to Toronto, Canada to learn about their safe consumption model and their procedures in place to address the epidemic in their city. I am in favor of a safe consumption site on the condition that it is placed a medical facility with trained medical staff, security, and a reunification plan to reunite those battling addiction with family or friends as this is a lifelong journey. I would not support a safe consumption site in any residential area as I believe we do not have the capacity to protect our residents and students, as many residents already believe that Kensington which is still recovering from the crack epidemic is already a safe consumption site.
Employment was a major issue for Pennsylvanians in 2016 and will be again in 2020. What are your stances on paid family leave, increasing unionization of workers, and reducing poverty in general? What do you see as the cause of Philadelphia’s high poverty rate and will you do at the state level to address this?
One of the biggest challenges here in Philadelphia is our high rate of generational poverty. This generational poverty stems from broken households due to outdated policies such as minimal sentencing, high rates of incarceration of small possession of marijuana or other drugs, and although its 2020 workplace discrimination whether it be based on the color of your skin or the gender you identify as. We need to continue to break down barriers for employment such as Ban the Box on job applications, along with employers being denied the ability to ask individuals what their previous salary was which thankfully was just held up in the Supreme Court protecting those applying from receiving a lower salary than they deserve. Unfortunately, I witnessed this practice first hand in what is a never ending cycle after graduating college, employers seek experience, yet for students the only experience a student has is an unpaid internship, so students are forced to take a low paying entry level job to gain that experience for a few years. Shortly after getting their “feet wet” their first couple of years they apply to a new job and then are asked what their previous salary preventing job growth.
I am the only candidate in this race who has drafted, passed, and operationalized legislation to protect our workers as I took the lead on drafting the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights as a Legislative Aide for Councilmember Sánchez. This legislation ensured workplace protections from being filmed while changing to written contracts which ensured pay, hours, and job duties. This legislation was deemed the most progressive and comprehensive bill in the nation and is currently being replicated across the country to protect one of our most unappreciated and unregulated sectors in the country!
Not only have we fought for Domestic Workers but we have for Collective Bargaining Agreements at the airport, and I am in support of workers unionizing to ensure workplace protections and a honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.
There is a national push for states to adopt the gig-work law that was recently passed in CA as AB5, which allows employers to apply for exemptions to recognizing basic employee rights for gig workers. Do you support this law, and if so, how will you navigate the fallout for the many workers who need and want flexible careers and schedules (writers, musicians, photographers, etc.)?
Gig economy workers should all have workplace protections as well and apply for exemptions. When I was younger, I created a mobile application that informed voters who was running in particular races at all levels of government. The cost of creating the app., maintaining it, and trying to sell the “product” to politicians made it a difficult business model to maintain. Although my project, is not the traditional example when we think of the gig economy had the business grown, I would have needed to staff up employees and offer PTO, sick days, contracts, and workplace protections. I am absolutely in favor of creating basic workers’ rights, the same way I did as I created the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights for another industry that was unregulated not only in Philadelphia but is still unregulated at the state level, and across the country. I would want to apply the same approach to gig employees to ensure they have a contract that describes pay and job description, I would want to ensure a fair work week, I would ensure there are protections from sexual harassment, and ensure that when they file their income taxes they receive exemptions not only for their business but employees as well as this is a rising industry that currently is not regulated.
Our schools in Philadelphia are environmentally unsafe, with toxic levels of lead and asbestos. What is your plan to ensure that students have a safe place to learn? How will you ensure the Board of Education is held accountable in their spending on and effectiveness in addressing this issue?
Our schools are unsafe as are the very communities these same students walk through every day. When we talk about the “safe corridors” that students have to walk through every single day due to the opioid epidemic being ignored just to go to school where they may be poisoned by the very air they breathe, that’s a very serious problem and our students will have a number of mental health issues from all of these traumatic events they are going through. We deserve a Better Vision for our schools. As a Legislative Aide in City Council we had a number of meeting with the school district to find out what exactly the next steps should be to remediate and address the State of Emergency that we have with our schools. Unfortunately, we know there are many more schools across our city that will have to close as they will find asbestos in them and will need to remediate it. The way we are currently operating is in a reactive approach rather than a proactive approach. What I mean by that is we are waiting to find the asbestos or lead in our schools rather than strategizing full investigations of every school and be data driven to determining the prioritization of the remediation that needs to occur. So for example if we find a school that has lead, asbestos, and needs a lot of work on the building itself, we may classify that as a tier 1 priority that needs to be shut down immediately to repair. There are others schools that may only need a day of work to remediate the issues and those we could call “tier 2’s” where the next holiday or half day the repairs can begin to ensure that we are as effective and efficient with the repairs to ensure that the money is being used appropriately.
The PA Fair Funding Formula still does not address the vast inequities in funding and therefore quality of educational experience between districts. Once in Harrisburg, how would you create more equitable educational opportunities statewide, and how would you address this problem particularly for Philadelphia students? Include your position on charter school funding.
The PA Fair Funding Formula has been one of the hottest topics of discussions since the drastic cuts from the Corbett administration, and although Governor Wolf reinstated the hundred of millions we still have district across the Commonwealth being deprived of the resources they need, leading to this state of emergency at our facilities due to asbestos. We need a fair funding formula that ensures that all districts receive minimum funding increases, we need a fair funding formula that addresses challenges such as poverty, homelessness, English proficiency, district size and sparsity, local tax efforts and district wealth, and charter school enrollment. We need a formula that mandates states investments annually phased in over the course of a number of years to ensure that no matter how our economy is that those funds will always be locked in. We need to provide the much needed for our future leaders today and the fact that we mandate libraries in prisons (which I think is great that we have them in prisons) yet cannot fund to have them in our school is a major problem, it shouldn’t be an either or it should be an “and” so we have them both in our schools and prisons. We need to address that ASAP with a formula that continues to bring resources to Philadelphia which I will fight for everyday in Harrisburg.
Once in Harrisburg, what will you do to protect a woman’s right to choose and ensure that adequate reproductive healthcare remains accessible in PA?
As a male I do not believe it is my place to tell a woman what she can do with her own body, I am in favor of supporting a woman’s right to choose and ensuring that a woman’s reproductive healthcare remains a top priority here in PA and will vote against any legislation that infringes or could potentially infringe on any women’s rights and work with other members in the House and with our Governor to ensure that any legislation is vetoed.
As of today, Maryland is threatening to sue PA for its failure to address water quality concerns, infrastructure funding is limited, state legislatures across the Commonwealth are encouraging renegade municipalities to ignore state regulation on water pollution, and the EPA is allowing cities like Pittsburgh to roll back their clean water policies. How would you balance clean water goals and equity concerns? Would you be willing to support the position of the Republican MD governor on clean water in PA?
One of the biggest challenges for municipalities across the Commonwealth is preemption on what they can implement locally as the state can take away or give authority to local governments. Following the election of 45 in the White House, we as a local government examined the ramifications of protecting our sanctuary status as well as joining the Paris Climate Agreement although at the federal level we were withdrawn. Given that we do not have a majority in the House I would also encourage local municipalities to ignore the state regulations and set their own standards if the goals are more ambitious than the state standard. For example, if PA were to move towards 100% renewable energy by 2050, our municipalities who are able to get to 100% renewable energy by 2030 should do that immediately! As a legislative aide for Councilwoman Sánchez I worked closely with the Sierra Club and the Office of Sustainability on a resolution urging the City of Philadelphia to move to 100% renewable energy by 2035.
I support any initiatives to make sure our environment is protected and moving to a Green New Deal. At the state level we need to create tax credits and incentivize businesses and households that go green whether they are putting in solar panels, hydroelectric pumps in the Delaware River, or mandating green roofs on new constructions. We are running out of time to fix decades of destruction and ignorance when it comes to our environment and it needs to be addressed now as Philadelphia is already 2 degrees warmer than previous decade temperatures.
Many of the largest unions have opposed the Green New Deal. How would you tackle that issue between environmental and labor communities?
I believe that protection our environment while protecting our labor community is not an either or but rather an “and” because we can move to renewable energy and a Green New Deal and ensure that union jobs are green jobs as well. An example of that is any new development that occurs in Philadelphia could have a renewable energy component to it. For example, any property that is being constructed could have a union doing the work while creating a green roof space and ensuring that we have energy star rating of 75 in the house which helps move PA to renewable energy. I also would like to work with our unions to create apprenticeship programs that would teach apprentices how to build and install solar panels, hydro pumps, wind turbines, etc. to ensure that our unions are a part of that discussion and process.
Do you support a ban on fracking in PA? If so, what is your solution for income loss and immediate job opportunities for 609,00 people that a fracking ban would create in Western, PA?
I support PA going to renewable energy and banning fracking across our Commonwealth. As mentioned in my previous answer just because we go green does not mean that we ignore our workers’ rights. One of the things I would like to do is put a sunset on a ban, to ensure that we are training those employees who have been taught how to frack, to learn how to create parts for a wind turbine, or hydro pump and begin to transition these workers into different roles while ensuring that their union status and rights are protected. As a society we have always found a new source for energy, decades ago we were mining, and those miners then transitioned to drilling, and I know we can transition them to renewable energy as well by creating programs at the state level that incentivizes business to train their employees in renewable energy practices and jobs.
Given our minority status and political dynamics in the PA state houses, how have you or will you work to advance your agenda and pass legislation? In the past, how have you made progress with those you did not align with politically?
As a legislative aide in City Council (yes, I know it’s majority democratic) one of the things I learned was that I was not the smartest person in the room and to listen to all of the perspectives on any piece of legislation. With that comes a lot of negotiation to pass the best possible piece of legislation forward. I firmly believe that the perfect cannot be the enemy of the good which is why any piece of legislation that I worked on majority of the time had unanimous support. At the end of the day none of us are the smartest people in the room, I have learned and always welcomed those who I do not align myself politically with or disagree with because I appreciate understanding another perspective on any issue. I believe this dialogue allows you to fortify your legislation and understand the arguments or concerns from the other side or simply makes you think on any potential negative implications that you and your team may not have thought of. I believe in an open door policy welcoming those I disagree with and those who I work with to listen and work through any piece of legislation impacting our city or commonwealth.
What measures would you take to protect immigrant communities in Philadelphia and throughout the state? Would you propose legislation stipulating that family separation is an “extreme hardship”?
As a legislative aide in City Council, we worked to ensure that on day one of Mayor Kenney’s administration that our sanctuary status was protected following Mayor Nutter’s retraction of the status. Not only did we create that status but we protected it and went on to create a Municipal ID program which not only has helped our immigrant communities have a form of identification but we worked with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs to ensure that we worked with other partners such as the Philadelphia Police and Fire Credit Union so that those with this identification could open up a bank account and worked with the Free Library of Philadelphia to ensure that the ID doubled as a form of identification and a library card. This card not only helped individuals to finally have the ability to open an account in a financial institution but have access to our libraries promoting literacy and financial literacy. We protected our immigrant communities by ensuring that our databases were not accessible to ICE and have protested any and all detentions within the City of Philadelphia. I am the only candidate who has fought for our immigrant communities. I would support any legislation that continues to protect from any policies whether it be federal, state, or local that attacks our immigrant communities or attempts to separate members from our communities.
Do you support the E-verify law? Please explain your position. What will you do to protect our immigrant and undocumented population’s ability to support themselves and their families?
No, I do not support the E-Verify law, as the product of two immigrants I could not support any legislation with those implications. Unlike our current Representative I believe Philadelphia needs to do everything it can to protect its sanctuary city status from any and all attacks whether it be from the federal level, state, or within our own back yards here locally.
As a legislative aide to Councilmember Sánchez I took the lead on creating the Municipal ID assisting our re-entry population, seniors, students, undocumented population and one of the key components of the card that we advocated for was to ensure that our database was not accessible to I.C.E. to further protect our immigrant population from having their information captured. We have worked closely with our immigrant populations to translate benefit applications and created a language access line that all ROW departments now use to ensure that our immigrant population has access to their government.
Do you believe that our current economic system works for everyone or that it could be improved upon to ensure quality of life for all Pennsylvanians?
No, I don’t believe the current system works for PA. The commonwealth currently has the second highest average of student loan debt in the nation $37,000 worth of loans with 25% of student loan borrowers being delinquent on their payments. With a high influx of millennials in our area we have a district struggling to pay their loans to be able to purchase a house, rent, or even get engaged. We have a number of residents who are struggling to lift themselves out of poverty because as a government we are not proactive in enrolling individuals in assistance programs let alone creating applications in multiple languages to assist those who need benefit programs.
What reforms would you propose to PA’s current tax code? How, if at all, would you improve PA’s inheritance tax?
One of the biggest challenges not only in PA but nationally in the tax code is the inability to add student loans when filing for bankruptcy which for many is the biggest form of debt that many have. We need to work at the federal level to amend this as many students across the commonwealth are drowning in this debt with no escape. We need to create a tax credit program that puts students with loans who stay in PA for school and after graduating in tiers so that the state can give a higher percentage back on their returns, we also need to set caps on interest rates for all of our state funded universities so that students applying to these schools are not hit with ridiculous interest rates that they will never pay back.
I am in support of HB262 which was passed to waive the inheritance tax for those under the age of 21 who lose a parent; however we need to expand this to automatically waive the tax for those who struggling economically. The inheritance tax kicks in at one of the hardest times for families who are trying to figure out how to pay for a funeral, medical bills, student loans, mortgages/rent, etc. then inherit a property they were not prepared to take over. We need to set up a better process and a time frame to allow families to get back on their feet first economically and mentally before we as a commonwealth request money for the inheritance tax. At the end of the day this tax kicks in because a loss of life has occurred as a government, we need to be more empathetic rather than just look at a financial figure that needs to come into the state.
Election security is a major national and state concern. Philadelphia recently spent $29M on new voting machines. What is your position on the legality and propriety of Philadelphia’s recent voting machine selection process? Do you think Philadelphia should keep or replace the new machines? Please explain your position.
The new voting machines have been a hot topic following the call by our Governor for new machines around the Commonwealth. After a number of presentations and demonstrations on the machines I do believe they are capable of handling our elections and believe they force the user to look at every single race, or ballot question rather than being overwhelmed to ensure that you pushed the button for each race. I do understand that there were concerns about seniors having trouble with the machines given the new technology however I do believe our City Commissioner’s office did a great job of outreach across the city given the short timing they had from when the contract was finalized to election day as they held hundreds of demonstrations in schools, community meetings, community events, and in government buildings so voters could try the machines prior to voting.
In regard to the legality, I am not a lawyer so I cannot speculate on the legality of the process. I am aware that many people were frustrated by the procurement process and the selection of the company however I believe that it was not a unilateral decision and do believe that these machines are more secure than the previous machines. I would say that I would support the translation of the machines and the ballots in the future to ensure every voter has the ability to vote without the need to submit a voter assist form.
Please include a short bio with the following: your job experience, your major endorsements and achievements, your reasons for running, why you think you are well-positioned to represent your community, the top three policy issues you care about, and what you will do in your first 100 days in office – if elected or re-elected.
As lifelong resident of Philadelphia, my goal and passion has always been to serve our city and address some of our most challenging issues across our city, which led me to attend La Salle University where I received my B.A. in Political Science and Spanish and shortly after graduating from Temple University where I earned my Master’s Degree in Public Policy while serving a legislative aide to Councilwoman Sánchez in City Council where I served for 5 ½ years. I have had the honor of working on some of our City’s most progressive and historic legislation assisting some of our most disenfranchised communities across the city. Prior to leaving City Council I had taken the lead on the Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights drafting and passing the most progressive and comprehensive Bill of Rights ensuring workplace protections from ensuring contracts, to creating contracts, and working to a Paid Time off component for one of our most unappreciated and unregulated sectors in the City of Philadelphia. In my role as a Legislative Aide I also took the lead on addressing the opioid epidemic working with our Managing Director’s Office to break down barriers to those battling addiction so they could get into treatment (for those who were ready) and later creating thee Municipal ID program to not only assist this community, but our seniors, re-entry, students, and low income populations as well.
We have seen the ramifications of a stolen election at our national level yet in our very own backyards in 2018 the voice of the people was taken away from 25,000 voters as the Democratic Party appointed our current Representative to their seat following the resignation of the late Representative O’Brien. I am running because I have a Better Vision for our communities one that works to combat the opioid epidemic head on and break down barriers in our behavioral health systems, a vision that addresses the crippling student loan debt problem we have not only in this district but across the commonwealth by capping the interest rates and mandating that our state funded universities at the very least waive application fees and seal records for minor infractions while they were undergrad students. My vision is not only to help those in our district but around the Commonwealth to fight for Criminal Justice reform and supporting SB14 and HB1555 both bills aiming cap the length of probation for technical violations. As the only candidate advocating for Criminal Justice Reform, the student loan crisis, and combating the opioid epidemic I intend to address these issues beginning on DAY 1 in Harrisburg along with implementing red flag legislation around the access to guns in our city to continue to protect our residents. My vision is a district where the Representative is tackling all of these issues and advocating not only for their district but for all of Philadelphia from all attacks in Harrisburg and at the federal level. My vision is a district where the Representative is elected by the people to serve the people, something that I believe has been missing.
I am proud to have the endorsement of the Working Families Party thus far and would be honored to receive your endorsement as well. Thank you.