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Candidate for State Representative, 182nd District

2nd Ward Candidate Q&A

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 rent control is essential to maintain existing affordable housing options and to limit rapid rent increases. Rent control reduces cost burdens and displacement risk; however, I believe it’s necessary to look at broader policies for how housing can promote inclusion and limit displacement, as well as its impact on social, educational and economic policy. The Homes Guarantee is essential in eradicating homelessness in Philadelphia and providing necessary social housing that this city needs. There are plenty of vacant homes and unused buildings in neighborhoods across the city that could be converted to affordable housing options. We must also reinvest in current public housing structures to ensure that they are safe and efficient for tenants.

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.

No, I do not believe that the current criminal justice system is equitable. I support reforms to address issues such as mass incarceration, for-profit prisons and racial discrimination in law enforcement. I support ending cash bail to stop routine pretrial incarceration. I support cutting mandatory minimum sentencing. I believe that the judge selection process needs to be completely revamped to ensure that the most qualified candidates reach the bench. I vehemently oppose the death penalty.

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?

Gun violence is a public health crisis. I’m horrified by Philadelphia’s gun violence epidemic, the recent spike in gun violence, and the irreparable harm it inflicts on our families and communities. I support a multifaceted approach that tackles the issue from both a public safety and public health perspective. Common-sense gun safety reform will be a top priority for me in Harrisburg. I support universal background checks for every gun sale and transfer, reporting requirements for lost or stolen firearms, and a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Gun manufacturers and dealers should not be shielded from liability. In absence of statewide legislation, Philadelphia should be allowed to make our own gun laws to protect our innocent children and families. I would also advocate for more support for gun violence survivors.

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 opioid epidemic is a public health emergency in both urban and rural parts of this state. Access to effective treatment for opioid use disorder is essential to combating the opioid epidemic. Access to these treatments is particularly important in Medicaid, because Medicaid covers a disproportionately large share of people with opioid addiction. Therefore, I support continued funding for Medicaid and expanded prescription drug coverage. The issues surrounding supervised injection sites are incredibly complex, and while research has proven that they reduce the number of overdose deaths per year by monitored injections, critics say they undermine prevention efforts and raise safety concerns. Site plans would require tremendous feedback from the community and a commitment to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

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 support paid family leave and increasing unionization of workers. With more than a quarter of Philadelphians living below the poverty line and the gulf between rich and poor widening, all of us must come together to confront this issue and stand up for those who are struggling just to get by. I believe that the roots of poverty are complex and intergenerational—from redlining to underfunded schools to challenges with healthcare. On the state level, there’s a tremendous amount that can be done to help alleviate economic insecurity in our city and across Pennsylvania. For example, all children should start out on a level playing field with access to early childhood education and quality schools. No one should go bankrupt because they can’t afford their medical bills. Increased economic mobility is critical not just for individuals or families but for the success of our city and our state as a whole.

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.)?

I understand that the intention of these laws is to prevent employee misclassification, but in practice they are problematic in many ways for freelancers. I would need to see that these costly implications for freelancers were addressed before supporting any kind of similar legislation in Pennsylvania.

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?

I’m a parent of three students currently enrolled in Philly public schools, and the complacency regarding years of underfunding and neglect that led to this appalling situation is what motivated me to run for office. I will fight every day in Harrisburg not only for the health and safety of my children, but for all of the students, teachers and staff in Philadelphia and other underfunded school districts throughout our state—especially for students and schools with the fewest resources. I will push for a dramatic increase in funding as well as measures to ensure that the money is spent efficiently and in a manner that remedies the situation as soon as possible.

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.

Increased investment in our public schools would be one of my top issues in Harrisburg. Simply redistributing the state’s basic education fund through the Fair Funding Formula is not enough to fully fund all students, particularly those living in poverty, English language learners and students with other needs. I believe that there should be a moratorium on any new charter school funding; however, we should continue to support charter schools that are high-performing and are serving communities where there is a clear need.

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?

Abortion is health care and our legal right, and as a woman who has relied on Planned Parenthood at different times in my life, I’m horrified by the increasing attacks on our sexual and reproductive health in Pennsylvania and other states. I am 100 percent pro-choice, and I will do everything in my power to push back against these dangerous and unconstitutional restrictions.

I understand how vital access to quality healthcare is for women, and how inequitable the system can be for women who are uninsured, underinsured or simply cannot advocate for the care they receive. I will be a fierce advocate of women’s healthcare in Harrisburg and fight to ensure that a women’s right to choose and the decisions that she makes regarding her healthcare remain out of the hands of legislators and stay in our complete control.

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?

I consider clean water and reducing water pollution in Pennsylvania to be vitally important and will absolutely support conservation projects and practices. As far as the responsibilities of different states and the EPA in this particular case, I understand the importance of reducing pollution that washes into the Susquehanna, but I will need to research the lawsuit further to get a full understanding of the situation.

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 climate change is an emergency and that we absolutely cannot continue with business as usual. I support immediate efforts to transition to a cleaner economy, and I understand that there are many details to work out so that workers are not left behind as we make that transition. Tackling this issue will be an incredibly complex process that will involve finding areas of common ground for environmental and labor communities and coming up with innovative solutions.

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 a ban on fracking because I believe that the harmful environmental implications and safety concerns outweigh the benefits. Of course such a ban would have tremendous implications for workers in our state, and the transition would not be quick or simple. We’d need to invest more in clean energy research and development. And I would support solutions such as job retraining, education and other assistance for oil and gas workers.

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?

Because I grew up in rural Upstate New York, I understand where lawmakers from outside of metropolitan areas are coming from. During my career in government relations and public policy, I represented higher ed and healthcare institutions on the local, state and federal level. I have proven experience collaborating with colleagues, elected officials, and stakeholders with diverse points of view to get results. I would focus on the issues that connect us, such as the opioid epidemic and underfunded schools, to find common ground to improve the lives of all Pennsylvanians.

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 the daughter and daughter-in-law of immigrants, I am proud to live in a sanctuary city. I understand that politically disenfranchised immigrant communities are especially vulnerable and terrified today, and I believe that it is on all of us—both lawmakers and everyday citizens—to help defend their rights. I would do what I could on the state level to push for releasing imprisoned immigrant families, and I would consider sponsoring legislation stipulating that family separation is an “extreme hardship.”

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?

The E-verify system itself seems problematic because research has called into question its effectiveness and accuracy rate. Considering these issues, I’m not sure that I feel this is a fair and just law. I also believe that it prevents many immigrant and undocumented people from seeking work out of fear of being put directly into the hands of ICE, which is counterintuitive to our status as a sanctuary city.

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 do not believe that the current system works for everyone. We need to address myriad issues such as deep poverty, hunger, economic inequality and the racial and gender wage gap to begin to work toward a better 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?

Before tackling any tax issues I would need to get a thorough understanding of any proposed changes and their implications for all of my constituents.

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.

I believe that election security is vitally important and that some of the criticisms surrounding the recent voting machine selection process are valid. I would be open to revisiting the functionality of the machines, but I’m not sure that a presidential election year is the best time to begin that process. I’m open to discussing this further.

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 serve as an elected Committee Person and Secretary for Ward 5. My husband and I have lived in Center City for the past 15 years, and our children attend Philly public schools. I’m running for State Representative because I believe that the many and varied problems we face—from the severe underfunding of our public schools to the climate crisis—need more urgent action on the state level. Residents of the 182nd District deserve someone who will fight for them every day in Harrisburg and also improved constituent services. I believe that I am well-positioned to do this because of my experience living in the district and sending my kids to school here, coupled with my professional background advocating for diverse groups on the state and local level.

During my career in government relations, I focused on education and health care issues on the local, state and federal level. In Washington, DC, upstate New York, and Pennsylvania. I collaborated with colleagues, elected officials and stakeholders with diverse points of view. At Syracuse University, I worked in government and community relations—organizing students, representing the university in state and local government issues, and engaging with local civic groups. As the Director of Government Relations for the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council of HAP, I advocated for uninsured and underinsured populations in the Philadelphia region.

In 2019, I was one of 13 people appointed by the Philadelphia School Board of Education to the Parent and Community Advisory Council to help amplify the voices of parents and community members. In addition, I serve on the Fund Our Facilities Coalition, a group of elected leaders, labor organizations and others dedicated to securing funds to make school buildings safe and healthy for all students in Philadelphia. I also serve on City Year’s Women’s Leadership Committee, which unites women to support the service of City Year AmeriCorps members in Philadelphia schools while also inspiring women’s empowerment.

The top three issues that I care most about are funding public education, healthcare access for all, and affordable and efficient public transportation.

During my first 100 days in office I would focus on these three issues, especially securing funding to fix unsafe and unhealthy school buildings as quickly as possible. I would also create a robust constituent services program, including mobile offices, to foster an environment where residents of the 182nd District always feel heard and represented in Harrisburg.