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 have been a proud supporter of affordable housing in my district through grants to build and manage affordable housing to organizations like NKCDC. I also have introduced and moved legislation to protect homeowners from unfair property tax increases under the “assessment process” in Philadelphia that often forces long-time homeowners and renters to move in areas that are rapidly gentrifying. That bill is currently waiting for a full house vote. Further, I have also introduced a bill to require all property assessors in Philadelphia to be certified so that a home or property is appropriately assessed by a trained professional that must follow certain requirements for increases.
I am also the prime sponsor of legislation to stop predatory harassment for homeowners, primarily seniors, for being harassed into selling their homes. My bill is modeled after legislation that passed in Chicago to keep developers from preying upon the most vulnerable citizens with offers of cash payments and false promises. I am looking further into legislative measures that will also protect current homeowners from predatory practices and poor construction.
I believe in a Homes Guarantee as every person in the state and in the country should have safe, accessible, sustainable, and permanently affordable housing. In line with this belief, I believe in rent control as well as increasing the number of affordable housing options.
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 think that Pennsylvania’s current criminal justice system is equitable. In Philadelphia and in Pennsylvania, we must take action to fully understand the impacts of previous administrations when it comes to the war on drugs and the current dynamics of the opioid crisis that heavily affects my District. I believe that Pennsylvania should take necessary steps to legalize marijuana, expunge past convictions associated with marijuana, and put forth policies that support those struggling with substance use disorder rather than criminalize them. I have put forth legislation that would create an opiate reparation and accountability fund from increasing manufacturer and distribution fees for companies that profit off of sales of opiates. It is my vision that this fund could make significant investments in communities that have been criminalized and provide further support to cities and neighborhoods that have been negatively affected for decades.
I believe that we need to end cash bail and was a cosponsor of legislation ending mandatory minimum sentencing. I have also cosponsored legislation to end solitary confinement for at-risk populations and recently stood with Rep. Tina Davis to draw attention to the conditions of solitary confinement. I am also supporter of legislation and policies for better treatment of incarcerated women, specifically not shackling pregnant women. I have also cosponsored legislation for merit selection for appellate judges and would like to end the death penalty rather than just maintaining the moratorium.
When it came to voting for Marsy’s Law, I was frankly very torn, especially when the ACLU came out against it. I know that the system is broken and that much of the burden often falls on victims of crimes, specifically women and children, but I also believe in our constitutional rights. I ended up voting for Marsy’s Law due to the fact that several women of children that had been sexually assaulted and family members of victims from throughout the District met with me about the lifelong trauma and stress disorders that they have each dealt with due to the current processes and procedures in the court room. Their stories and their heartbreak were with me when I voted for them. It is still a vote that I think about.
Further, Pennsylvania needs to sever its ties with the school to prison pipeline and ban for-profit prisons and detention centers. Too many counties in this Commonwealth rely on the incarceration of citizens to fuel their economy and provide jobs and it is beyond morally corrupt and far too easily accepted by county leaders. We also need to invest resources for incarcerated individuals upon their release and ensure that previous actions do not stop people from re-entering the workforce. I have been impressed by Lt. Governor John Fetterman’s recent actions and ensured that my staff has been trained in the pardons process as well as up-to-date on the resources available for our returning citizens.
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 am an avid supporter of gun control. I believe automatic weapons are weapons of mass destruction and should be banned. I think it is no coincidence that the number of mass shootings has skyrocketed since the federal ban on assault weapons has been lifted.
I am the prime sponsor of bills to destroy guns that are confiscated during acts of crime after they are no longer being used in investigations. Legislation that needs to be passed includes banning bump stocks, thorough background checks, and red flag laws.
I have also cosponsored many bills that have been introduced that address gun control and I would be in favor of liability for gun deaths upon gun manufacturers. I find it a disgrace that Pennsylvania is one of the 34 states providing blanket immunity to the gun industry.
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 crisis affects not just my District or Philadelphia, but the entire Commonwealth. All 67 counties have been impacted by the opioid crisis which is why my legislation with the most number of cosponsors was a resolution for Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, as so many are trying to tackle this issue on the local, state and federal levels and in both parties.
When it comes to addressing the crisis through policy and programs, I am supportive of safe injection sites. I am also supportive of implementing harm reduction policies and gaining funding for these wraparound services. In fact, I brought home a $250,000 state grant to address harm reduction in the District. I also believe that we must fight for long-term substance use disorder treatments and increased education and awareness efforts. I also think that we need to focus more on protecting and providing services to our neighborhoods and communities affected by the crisis. Just this year, we had an outbreak of Hepatitis A in the District due to the lack of sanitation and outreach, and this is unacceptable.
I also think that we need to hold drugmakers responsible. As previously stated, I have put forth legislation that would create an opiate reparation and accountability fund from increasing manufacturer and distribution fees for companies that profit off of sales of opiates. It is my vision that this fund could make significant investments in communities that have been criminalized and provide further support to cities and neighborhoods that have been negatively affected for decades.
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?
Most recently, I have introduced an economic bill of rights as an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution as poverty is a huge issue in Philadelphia and the rest of the Commonwealth, and far too many people are affected by not only a lack of jobs, but also generational and systemic poverty.
I am a firm supporter of paid family and medical leave, increasing unionization of workers, and reducing poverty across the city and state. We need to make investments in our higher education systems including those that offer vocational training as a college education is not the path for everyone. I am very happy to see many unions in Philadelphia apply for certification to become their own technical colleges, giving many apprentices a degree, trade and well-paying job with little to no debt upon graduation. But, we cannot depend on this alone.
We also need to make it easier for students in middle and high schools to achieve their diploma as many students are fighting poverty, abuse and other obstacles with no control over their environment and access to resources. I have even introduced a bill to make certain that accommodations and leave are providing for lactating students and young parents so that no student is forced out of high school simply because they are pregnant or caring for a child.
As a member of the Education Committee I have been a part of many hearings and debates on issues about Pennsylvania’s job market, necessary skills, and where to recruit and train the incoming workforce. I am in support of raising the minimum wage to $15/hr immediately, bridging gaps such as language barriers and accessibility, and implementing criminal justice reform policies to make certain that previous offenders are not kept from finding gainful employment. As previously stated, I would also like to see more internships, apprenticeships, and training in the green economy that does not require a college diploma.
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 do not support this law. Employers should not be able to apply for exemptions to providing workforce protections that all employers should provide, no matter the structure or scheduling of employment. I think legislation like this gets to the core idea of what type of society we want to live in. And I want to live in a society in which writers, musicians, photographers, and the many artists that live in my District can afford to live the same quality of life as someone who has chosen to pursue other careers that offer workplace protections and a fair wage.
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 have stood at podium after podium and will continue to fight for not only an expansion in funding for PlanCon, but also for emergency funding for the building conditions of Philadelphia Schools. I am a founding member of the PFT’s Fund Our Facilities coalition as well. Just yesterday, I stood with fellow elected officials and called for Governor Wolf to declare the state of our schools a state of emergency. I am advocating for the full $1.2 billion Governor Wolf has proposed in the annual budget, however, as ten schools in our City have already closed, I do not think that we can wait while our children and teachers are being poisoned.
I serve on the Education Committee and am the only Democratic freshman to do so. I am constantly pushing for legislation to hold the Board of Education accountable and have been very vocal in the need for reforming charter schools and stopping our tax money from flowing into corporate education. No one should profit off of Philadelphia’s children having to learn in classrooms in which it is literally raining.
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.
As previously stated, I am a full supporter of charter school reform with a specific focus on cyber charter schools. I am not a proponent of corporate education and I am sick of charter schools not being held to the same standards and accountability as our public schools. I have visited cyber charter schools in which they are selling curriculum to public schools that was paid for by state funding that should have gone to educate our children in public schools and I have received brochures for cyber charter schools that are literally gilded in gold.
Republicans in the PA House have constantly blocked legislation which would enable the full education budget to go through the Fair Funding Formula. They only allow each new revenue source per budget year to go through the revised formula which shortchanges school districts like Philadelphia. While I am a strong advocate for the entire budget going through this formula, I do believe that it will gaining the majority in the house to make significant reform. Many Republican campaigns are funded solely by charter schools and their votes are bought and sold.
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?
Since I have been elected, I have protected a woman’s right to choose as well as strived for better access to reproductive services. I will not support any abortion bans or legislation that restricts a woman’s right to bodily autonomy. The legislature should never come in between patients and their doctors. The number of healthcare clinics that provide reproductive services has decreased significantly in recent years, with the majority of clinics being located in southeastern Pennsylvania, making it hard to access these services for women living in rural areas and without access to transportation.
I have also been fighting against the fact that 14 hospitals in Pennsylvania can deny emergency contraception to rape victims as well as the fact that 8 hospitals in Pennsylvania do not have to provide sexual assault emergency services beyond life-saving measures. This should be illegal when it comes to accessing the healthcare that women need not only every day, but in times of trauma and sexual violence.
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 believe in clean and potable water for everyone. I have stood against attacks on the Delaware River Basin Commission as well as the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, and will not change my stance on this issue. I am advocating for increased budget funding for the DEP in this year’s budget as those funds have been raided in recent years. In Pennsylvania, the natural gas industry has bought politicians to roll back regulatory requirements and oversight to allow the industry to flourish and pollute our waterways (as well as taking our fresh water out of the waterways), all to increase and promote the gas industry. Every Pennsylvanian should have access to clean and safe water. That is a human right. I would support any policy regardless of party that supports this underlying right.
Many of the largest unions have opposed the Green New Deal. How would you tackle that issue between environmental and labor communities?
I am supportive of a Green New Deal for Pennsylvania. I am a cosponsor of legislation to move us to 100 percent renewable energy and work to ending fossil fuel use and dependency. We need to create a green economy so we can replace the dependence of the Commonwealth on the gas industry and create a blue workforce for new green jobs.
I am dedicated to advocating for additional revenue to invest in an alternative energy/green economy and expand the alternative energy portfolio to be more dependent on alternative energy sources. The current mindset in Harrisburg is that environmental funding should be used only for enforcement and oversight and this lack of forward thinking does nothing to stem the threats of the climate crisis. We must use funding to transform the way we literally power our society and make certain that our labor communities are part of that conversation.
A union’s job is to protect their workers and their workers’ jobs. I understand that as we push back against the use of fossil fuels and push for a greener, more sustainable Commonwealth, we are threatening their union members’ jobs. However, I think the conversation needs to be shifted to how can we replace this union position with a green union position and what would that transition and training look like.
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 would support a ban on fracking in Pennsylvania and believe that these job opportunities could be replaced by green jobs which would be needed as we transfer our energy portfolio from one source to another. As stated, green jobs are blue jobs and I am supportive of any state funding that would be needed to train, educate and promote a workforce – be that in solar, biodiesel, hydro, wind, or otherwise. We need to move away from the false narrative that we need to rely on fossil fuels for 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?
Despite the fact that Democrats are currently in the minority, I was able to bring home the most money out of all other representatives of either party for economic development due to the fact that I am willing to build and foster relationships with elected officials, no matter if they are Republican, Democrat, Working Families party, or other. I have also been able to pass two bills out of committee as a freshman and am working on seeing more movement for policies that I care deeply about. I understand that there are differences in values on every level of government, but I pride myself on finding common ground with elected members and I am also willing to compromise if it means at the end of the day that a policy is moving forward, even if only an inch, rather than disappear in a committee. Compromising on a bill is not compromising my values.
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”?
The United States was founded on immigration and we must welcome all refugees, families, and individuals who are pursuing the values and dreams that so many of our families before us did. I am proud to be a representative of this Sanctuary City and will continue to fight to protect our status as a Sanctuary City despite many attempts by legislators in Harrisburg to undermine Philadelphia’s home rule charter and take away our status. I also have been supportive of calls to close the Berks Detention Center and stop the separation of families. I will continue to stand in opposition to any bill or action that would negatively affect or harm immigrants in Pennsylvania.
Family separation is an extreme hardship and I would proudly support legislation stipulating that as well as implement processes to make services available in a timelier fashion.
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 voted for the E-verify law to be used solely in the construction industry as I believe that all construction jobs should be union jobs with trained employees, proper safety regulations, and a work environment free of exploitation. In a district with rapid gentrification and construction, as well as a coalition formed by families and residents negatively impacted by faulty and unsafe construction, I needed to vote for the safety and security of families and residents.
That being said, I was not comfortable with the potential negative impact on immigrants and undocumented residents which is what made it such a tough vote for me. I believe that we as a government should be welcoming, supportive, and inclusive of all people who live in this country, no matter how they got here. I fight to protect our Sanctuary City status in Harrisburg from attacks on our Home Rule Charter. I am supportive of providing identification documents to anyone in need of it as well as making certain that access to healthcare and education is open to everyone, no matter their immigration 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?
I do not believe that our current economic systems works for everyone which is why I recently introduced an amendment to Pennsylvania’s constitution for an economic bill of rights. We are not really free if we cannot afford to live. Food, housing and health care all cost money. My introduced legislation would protect Pennsylvanian’s rights to jobs that pay a living wage, affordable and accessible health care, safe, efficient and reliable transportation infrastructure, and safe and health working conditions. We cannot afford to ignore socioeconomic and class issues.
I have also introduced legislation to require pay range disclosures on job postings which has been proven to push towards equal pay as well as save potential employees and employers a lot of wasted time while job hunting.
What reforms would you propose to PA’s current tax code? How, if at all, would you improve PA’s inheritance tax?
We need to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to repeal the uniformity clause as it does not currently allow for a graduated tax system. Commercial properties are currently taxed at the same rates as residentials. I believe that equitable does not always mean equal or the same and we need to take into account socioeconomic status when it comes to taxing residents. I do not currently have a strong opinion on the inheritance tax, however, I would be open to discussion for reforms when it comes to certain rates and inheritants.
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.
Election security is of the utmost concern to me, especially given recent events. I also believe that a lot of voter apathy stems from the fact that many people across the country do not trust those in control of how our elections are run, believing that their vote won’t count anyway. I have been working with Protect Our Vote Philly and other good government organizations to look into the process of procuring election machines and seeing if moving forward, the process could be more transparent to voters. I have also submitted a letter to the Secretary on behalf of Protect Our Vote Philly. I know that hand-marked paper ballots are the gold standard in election security, but I do think that any voting process should be not only secure, but accessible and easy for all communities.
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 was elected state representative for the 175th District in Philadelphia in November 2018, serving the areas of the River Wards along the Delaware River from Old Richmond to Queen Village and points in between including Chinatown and historic Washington Square. I have worked my entire adult life on issues that impact my neighbors and communities of the district I now represent. My top priorities include education funding, protecting our waterways and fighting for a green economy, commonsense gun legislation, fighting for LGBTQ and women’s rights, affordable healthcare for all and a government that is transparent and accountable to citizens, particularly in redistricting and campaign-finance reform. I am also devoted to working towards more affordable and sustainable housing, fighting the opioid crisis and ensuring that our students’ futures aren’t overburdened with student loan debt.
Prior to becoming state legislator, I served 12 years as Chief of Staff for the late State Representative Mike O’Brien, working alongside him to serve constituents and identify ways to improve life in the 175th and advance an agenda that puts people before special interests.
I have served more than nine years as a member of the Democratic State Committee and 15 years as a local Democratic committee member. I also supported the quality of life of local residents as a coordinator of zoning and land practice at a law firm in Philadelphia prior to joining the 175th District Office.
I received my Bachelor’s in Political Science from State University of New York at Oneonta, an A.S. in Early Childhood Education from State University of New York at Farmingdale, and am certified by the Temple Real Estate Institute. I reside in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia with my husband Chris and two children, Sophia and Oscar, along with our loving Swiss Mountain dog, Molly.
In addition to the experience noted in my bio, I believe I am the most well positioned to represent this district as the most experienced candidate in this race. I know the communities I represent and the issues that face each one of them specifically, as the issues that affect each neighborhood are very different than the next. I know Harrisburg and have been able to navigate being an effective legislator by not only advancing legislation, but also bringing home state money to benefit our communities and improve our quality of life.
My first priority is addressing the inequalities of our public schools by increasing education funding, implementing charter school reform, and removing all toxins out of our schools. My second priority is protecting the environment and building a sustainable, green economy in Pennsylvania. My third priority is economic development and justice for the district so that we can increase the number of jobs with a livable wage, provide affordable housing options, and stabilize our neighborhoods and communities.
If re-elected, my first 100 days will be to continue the work I have already started and build upon meaningful legislation I have introduced. This includes my top three priorities previously stated as well as working towards women’s rights and access to reproductive services, protecting the LGBTQ community, implementing gun control, and increasing funding and treatment access to fight the opioid epidemic. The 2021-22 session will also deal with two important issues – redistricting and transportation funding. My experience working with fellow members on both sides of the aisles will serve the 175th well in dealing with these two important issues.
I have received the support and endorsements for my reelection from Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, UFCW 1776, AFSCME Council 13, Transportation Workers 234 and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. I am in the process of waiting for board votes on numerous other groups who have supported my work over this past session.