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?
I believe that the People’s Action Federal Homes Guarantee addresses many of the key issues that we need tackle: reinvesting in negatively impacted communities, establishing means of providing housing for unhoused/unsheltered citizens, deconstructing the power imbalance that renters face in obtaining housing and throughout the eviction process, and addressing the displacement that comes with gentrification. I have separately called for pillars of Homes Guarantee in previous questionnaires where I highlighted the need for rent control, the guarantee of due process and legal protection in the eviction process, and the sealment of eviction records.
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.
Decades of institutionalized racism, the war on drugs, and mandatory minimum policies from the Republican-controlled legislature have created a criminal justice system intent on putting people of color in prison rather than legitimately assessing predictors of violence or likelihood of future criminal activity.
As a state representative I would first work to ensure that Pennsylvania fulfills its obligation to allot money for public defenders. The state currently shirks its funding mandate and shifts the entire financial burden to municipalities. This hinders the ability of PD’s in cash-strapped counties to provide for a fair defense in criminal proceedings.
If not previously introduced by the time I take office, I would draft legislation barring cash bail statewide. Sadly, bail has degraded into yet another punitive measure. Moreover, its current application more often than not unequally burdens citizens who bear no flight risk while racking up costs to those who have not yet been found guilty. Finally, it creates an under-regulated cottage industry of predators who take advantage of those who should be home in the first place.
I support attempts to institute a merit based judicial selection system. It is wrong that judicial nominees’ success be determined by the luck of a coffee can lottery or massive cash infusion from corporate interests.
One of the last programs I instituted at CeaseFirePA before becoming a full time candidate was an endeavor in giving victims a voice. Five years of full-time involvement in the gun violence prevention movement allowed me to meet and speak with many victims and survivors. While I have a tremendous amount of respect and reverence for victims I believe that Marsy’s Law as currently written will not achieve its intention by placing too much strain on our current court system.
I am not in favor of any form of capital punishment. I believe it to be in violation of the 8th Amendment of the US Constitution. In addition, Pennsylvania should follow in the footsteps of numerous governmental and pharmaceutical entities that have removed themselves from the production, the acquisition, and the provision of substances necessary for the imposition of the death penalty by lethal injection.
Finally, we have to undo the consequences of an unfair criminal justice system we can do this by implementing some of the following:
- Statewide Ban the Box Policy
- Expungement of criminal records for non violence, minor drug offenses
- Expungement of criminal records for sex workers
- Decriminalization of marijuana
- Decriminalization of sex work
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?
As the candidate in the race with an expertise in gun violence prevention policies I wanted to frame my answer in two parts. The first are a set of concrete policies that I believe would reduce Pennsylvania’s gun deaths. The second set are more abstract ideas that I would ask all of us to keep in mind while tackling our gun violence epidemic.
Permit to Purchase Mandate- Currently Pennsylvania does not require a permit in order to purchase a firearm. This means that individuals who have never seen or used a firearm can walk right out of the store with a limitless amount of guns and ammunition.
Closing PA’s Private Sale Loophole- Currently the private sale of long guns does not require a background check. This has to end, and previous attempts in the legislature have failed.
Mandatory Waiting Period- Assuming the passage of a background check (if one is required/administered), state residents can purchase a firearm within minutes. Lack of a waiting period exacerbates PA’s suicide crisis. Often those who take their own lives with guns do so within hours of firearm purchases.
Local Control- For years the cities across the Commonwealth have been unable to address gun violence within their borders because of the concept of “preemption”. This has restricted cities like Philadelphia from being able to pass legislation to attack its gun violence problem. Worse yet, the NRA has weaponized this legal premise to attack cities that attempt to pass GVP laws. If elected I would work to remove this concept and give cities the ability to enact life-saving laws.
Assault Weapons Ban- I am saddened that the Virginia legislature was unable to advance an assault weapons ban. These war-like weapons have no value other than to devastate and maim. They are the weapons of choice of mass shooters and have killed 50% of PA law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. Their velocity ensures that vital organs struck with their bullets cannot be mended and dramatically increases the likelihood of fatality. I would proudly work with lawmakers who have introduced this bill already to aid in its passage.
Extreme Risk Protection Orders- There are several versions of this legislation already introduced- and I would be happy to support and champion any of them. This would save lives by allowing family or law enforcement to petition a judge to have someone’s ability to possess or purchase firearms temporarily suspended.
Regarding the more abstract;
Police Violence- A blindspot within the gun violence prevention movement has been a hesitation to uniformly and unequivocally address police-involved shootings as gun violence. Many within the movement hope to court law enforcement as allies in passing legislation- but officers who shoot unarmed civilians, or whose first (heavily prejudiced) instinct is to shoot, inflict the same pain on families as other shooters. Legislators and advocates have to recognize that this type of violence is as insidious and debilitating as others.
Mental Illness- It’s far too easy to attribute mental illness as a prime culprit of gun violence. To be blunt, it is not, and we must be vigilant not to fall in this rhetorical trap set by those who seek to prevent sensible limitations on firearm access. Most who suffer from mental illness are more likely to be victims of crimes than perpetrators. But as lawmakers and candidates . We should encourage struggling people to seek and obtain mental health treatment- not penalize them for doing so. We have to avoid stigmatizing language like “red flag,” and legislation that classifies the pursuit of mental health treatment as an indicator of a propensity for gun violence.
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?
The government’s primary goals in attacking the opioid epidemic should be stemming the body count and halting the spread of communicable diseases like HIV and Hepatitis. There is convincing evidence that safe consumption sites can be useful tools toward accomplishing these goals. However, public support for these sites demands a clear commitment – not attaching so many caveats that isolates them from those who need them. Moreover, one neighborhood cannot bear the entirety of need; therefore, we need multiple sites throughout the city.
I also support the idea of safe consumption sites for female users only. Female users are at higher risks of sexual abuse and sexual assault. Also, female users who rely on their partners for injection can find their partner using their ability to inject as a means of control that amounts to domestic abuse.
Finally, safe consumption sites are not the final answer. Ideally, all who suffer from addiction especially to something as dangerous and devastating as opioids should seek longer term treatment to manage their addiction. As government officials we have to support and invest into treatment for users to access when they are able to.
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?
I would support any measure to ensure paid family leave and mandatory sick days for all Pennsylvanians. Additionally, I would work to expand access and financial assistance for child care. We can increase unionization of workers by supporting and drafting laws that make it easier to join/form a union. These include harsher penalties for employer interference. Finally, state government must take an active role to increase the percentage of workers who are paid a living wage; I support a $15 minimum wage for all workers, including tip employees.
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.)?
The misclassification of workers is an insidious tactic to circumvent employer accountability that leaves too many workers vulnerable to abuse and deprived of protections that all employees should enjoy. We cannot stand on the sidelines as industry “disruption” metastasizes into monopolization and leaves explosive growth of “independent contractors” in its wake. While I am sensitive to those who enjoy freelance work we must enact legislation that addresses the rapidly changing dynamics of industries such as passenger drivers, baristas, service employees, and countless others.
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?
From my conversations with parents it is clear that individual school districts and individual schools determine how to proceed when lead and asbestos is discovered. I would convene a panel of parents, teachers, and environmental justice advocates to help me draft a mandatory guideline of how schools have to proceed when these toxic elements are discovered. Requirements would have to address issues regarding the notification of faculty, staff, and parents, along with the creation of plans to address the abatement of lead and asbestos.
As a legislator I would ensure oversight into the accountability by hosting regular hearings on forums on the issue.
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.
I support the current lawsuit pursued by the Public Interest Law Center and other partner organizations. I am hopeful that the litigation can be a catalyst for rectifying the systemic inequity that has plagued our students for too long and compel the legislature to provide adequate funding. I also support a moratorium on issuing new charters, along with stronger regulations that compel charter schools to adhere to the same standards as public schools, particularly those involving labor protections. I also am supportive of a funding formula that reigns in funding for cyber charter schools to correspond with their actual per-student expenses.
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 state representative the first step I would take would be fighting to remove all public money going to crisis pregnancy centers. There is no reason that one cent of taxpayer money should be going to these dangerous shams. Additionally the US Supreme Court has ruled against laws requiring these facilities to be forced to disclose their non-medical status; to my knowledge they have not ruled against state governments doing so. I would work to ensure the government does all it can to expose their centers for what they are.
However, the most important thing we can do in the legislature is work to repeal all “TRAP” laws that were put into place on or about 2011. These laws created erroneous restrictions that forced many providers in the state to close their doors. This has created large swaths within the Commonwealth that have no abortion providers and has placed tremendous strain on those that still can. Such an example is within the 175th. The Philadelphia Women’s Center is forced to see patients from some of Philadelphia’s surrounding counties.
Finally, anti-abortion extremists often stand outside providers and peddle “abortion reversal” pills. These pills, the hormone progestrone, do not reverse abortion and have serious side effects on women’s health. I would criminalize the act of telling women about this dangerous course of drugs.
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?
The only way to undo decades of damage inflicted on our environment comes from coordinated action on tremendous scale. I believe the 2014 multi-state agreement to protect the Chesapeake Bay water supply from pollution is a prime example of such action. Our Commonwealth has fallen woefully short of its commitments under the agreement. Moreover, the leadership of the EPA under the Trump administration has betrayed the agency’s mission and given the green light to spoil the Chesapeake. I support litigation to compel the enforcement of this agreement.
Many of the largest unions have opposed the Green New Deal. How would you tackle that issue between environmental and labor communities?
First, we have to recognize that the largest unions in the country are not the traditional building trades but organizations like SEIU and unions representing teachers. These unions have supported GND-style legislation in states like California and New York. Second, all stakeholders have to have a seat at the table in drafting GND language. This means giving organized labor the chance to voice their concerns and work to find solutions. The GND can be a way to stimulate union growth and put folks to work.
But, the goal of any GND has to be A: curbing man-made climate change and B: reinvesting in our infrastructure and into communities disproportionately impacted and marginalized. We can never lose sight of these goals. I hope that the building trades will support a GND for PA, but we cannot be afraid to challenge them if they are intractable to the point of blocking a GND. This means we need lawmakers who have the courage to stand up to them. It also means having lawmakers who have not already declared complete fealty to their whims. There has been no evidence to suggest the current state representative for the 175th possesses such autonomy. She has already voted against vulnerable citizens at the behest of building trades and she has solicited and received over $50,000 – the majority of her annual fundraising tally – from them.
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?
We have allowed energy companies to cause large scale environmental harm and create unsafe living conditions for many who reside in the western part of our Commonwealth. They have been shielded from having to disclose what chemicals are used in hydraulic fracturing and have been given free rein while the national EPA and PA’s Department of Environmental Protection have been starved or gutted. I support a ban on fracking in PA. Regarding the potential job loss it’s important to recognize a few things. First, energy companies have not been hiring PA residents and have offered a battery of unproven excuses for doing so. Most, notably the false claim that Pennsylvanians cannot pass drug tests. Second, the jobs in Western PA that get created as a result of the industry are positions like wait staff or service employees. However, these jobs were never sustainable. Western PA needs a sea change to its economy that is not as fleeting as this industry. Folks who live in Western PA, like my parents, would benefit from some of the policies I have already called for, like a GND or an increase in the minimum wage.
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?
While informing the legislative strategy at CeaseFirePA I had the opportunity to work on many pieces of legislation we hoped to pass in a Republican controlled legislature. In 2018 we had success in passing HB 2060 (now Act 79). We were only able to do so by working across the aisle to gain Republican support and candidly, working with our allies to keep them from blocking the measure to deny Republicans the win. We worked to ensure that Republican concerns with the legislation were met, but stood firm when the NRA and Republican leaders attempted to overreach and remove critical components of the bill.
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”?
Family separation is a stain on our country’s history. It is barbaric, misguided, racist, and amoral. It is an extreme hardship. And while our minds immediately go to kids in cages the reality is the Administration’s actions and the toxic behavior of ICE have already scarred immigrants throughout the US. Whether it’s families deciding whether to tell their children about their status, or the fear that people awaiting work/residency authorization feel while their applications crawl through the process like that of my wife’s or my brother in law, or countless friends. While a member of the State legislature cannot affect change on the federal level they can work to check the behavior of ICE, close detention centers within its borders, pass state level laws (like the ones I propose below) to protect immigrants. Finally, we can hold elected leaders responsible by voting out those who fail to stand up for immigrants and oppose the President’s agenda in tweet only.
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?
I do not support expanding the E-Verify program and the incumbent’s vote to do so was a key factor in my determination to challenge them in this primary. Expansion of E-Verify costs small businesses, harms union organizing, thrusts work eligible citizens into the margins, codifies discriminatory hiring, and expands a “government surveillance system” that the Trump administration will use to target undocumented citizens.
If elected I would be an actual champion for immigrants and undocumented peoples by first writing legislation that mirrors New York’s Green Light Law. This legislation allows all people to apply for a non-commercial driver’s license regardless of citizenship or lawful status. I would also write legislation to block ICE from obtaining driver’s license information. Finally, I would provide financial incentives for municipalities that provide sanctuary status.
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?
What reforms would you propose to PA’s current tax code? How, if at all, would you improve PA’s inheritance tax?
By instituting a progressive income tax structure we can have an economic system that works for everyone and improves the quality of life for all Pennsylvanians. I am under no illusions regarding the scale of the proposal- achieving this requires a constitutional amendment and a sea change in public support. I would be honored to start this process but introducing legislation to reform our tax code, and will not allow progressive equitable ideals to fail to launch because of their ambition.
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.
Government has a duty to ensure the integrity of its elections and to build public confidence. The statewide mandate for voting systems with concrete backup records is a sensible step toward fulfilling that duty. Conversely, the lack of transparency in the most recent voting machine procurement and testing process in Philadelphia was harmful to public trust. Pending litigation will determine whether Philadelphia will be allowed to proceed with the machines it purchased. However, instability and uncertainty regarding how the crucial presidential elections will be conducted could trigger its own wave of mistrust in electoral integrity.
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.
I am honored to be a candidate for State Representative in the 175h legislative district. It is the district that houses the birthplace of our democracy, and where the principle that governance requires consent of the people was put into action. It is where I worked when I was in college, where I watched my grandfather raise a family, and where I started my own family by marrying the love of my life.
For the last five years I served as the Program Director for CeaseFirePA, and five years before that oversaw two constituent service offices. At CeaseFirePA I had the opportunity to work with survivors, educators, lawyers, doctors, and activists who are tired of the legislative paralysis around our state’s gun violence epidemic and was tasked to bring about change. And, while there were many dismal trips to Harrisburg where good bills died, and victims’ cries fell on deaf ears, I was able to help lobby for and help pass what ultimately became Act 79, which will serve to disarm domestic abusers.
I’m well positioned to represent my neighbors and community because I have spent a decade working within Harrisburg on behalf of constituents or fighting for issues that my community cares about. I have a track record of success in working across the aisle to find common ground on legislation and in mounting campaigns to defeat efforts by Republican legislators who were intent on dismantling protections that we have. I have helped countless constituents who have suffered at the hands of bad policy- and I know how important the decisions made in Harrisburg are. And finally, I recognize that the issues we care about require more than lip service. Our strive for equality has to begin from within. It is why my campaign is 100% people-funded, why my campaign team is composed of folks who have active stakes in the debates around immigration policy and reproductive rights, and why those who are tired of legislative atrophy at the hand’s of Philadelphia’s old guard have joined our movement.