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What experience and/or personal background qualifies you to hold this office? If elected, what would be your top three policy goals for this office?

Like many Philadelphians, I was raised in a working-class family – my parents, a retired nurse and a labor union representative, taught me that a successful career is measured in the number of people I help. I’ve tried to carry this lesson with me throughout my career and intend to bring this mindset to City Council.

I’m a first-generation college graduate who attended Cornell University while working through school and during summers to help pay my own way. I later went on to earn fellowships that funded my Master’s in Government Administration at the University of Pennsylvania.

My decision to run for City Council is driven in large part by my personal commitment to addressing substance use disorder. My experience with loved ones’ recoveries has taught me a great deal about how trauma, mental illness, and emotional scars can manifest into larger problems later in life if unaddressed and how one individual’s challenges can impact an entire family for generations. I have lived through the process of recovery with family and understand why new, comprehensive approaches are necessary as the stakes and costs of these complex issues are too high.

I am also a mother. My husband and I are raising two school-aged children – I understand what it’s like to be a working mom, raising children in the City. I know well-resourced public schools and programs can help change the trajectory of Philadelphia.

Lastly, my professional background in public service, more specifically in city management and public finance, uniquely positions me as a candidate who understands how to get things done in city government. Philadelphia deserves a Councilwoman who has implemented programs, argued effectively for change, and has what it takes to make tough decisions in this political and financial environment.

My previous work as a Deputy Managing Director in Philadelphia resulted in new and exciting changes, including programs such as Philly311 and PhillyStat. No longer did Philadelphians have to know someone in government to receive the services they deserved; and from that point forward, departments were held accountable for responding to people’s requests for service. I spent time learning how all of our major departments manage their budget, deploy resources, and can improve their daily and long-term operations. In this role, I spent my time cultivating a more customer-friendly and strategic operation to better serve our people and businesses. If we want things to change in this City, then it will require someone who understands how we activate 28,000 employees every day, spend $12B in our communities, and most importantly, how we can alter our system to get the kind of results Philadelphians deserve from their city government.

I also worked with cities across the country while serving as a Senior Managing Director at Public Financial Management. There, I mainly advised cities in distress, and worked alongside members of various city governments to make sound budgetary decisions in part by identifying inefficiencies and underachieving programs. This allowed the cities I worked with to invest more in underfunded programs and activities that effectively served residents and businesses.

Philadelphia faces many challenges in the near and long-term, but I believe we can invest differently in our people by addressing the root causes of our greatest challenges. As Councilwoman, I will be focused on issues of mental, emotional and behavioral health. This includes providing counselors, case workers, social workers and therapists in our schools and in our communities. I also want to ensure our local economy is growing equitably to increase job and wealth opportunities for all. Lastly, I want to see Philadelphia provide high quality basic city services in every neighborhood across the city – focusing especially on issues of waste management, transit, business services, and street paving.

Our city has a major inequality problem: 26% of Philadelphians live in poverty, making us the poorest big city in the US. If elected, how will you address the issue of poverty, through legislation and other means? In your response, please address our tax structure, programs to support and invest in neighborhoods and small businesses, workforce training, and engaging businesses and non-profits to address this issue.

I believe that the most effective way to reduce poverty is to focus on its deconcentration through the creation of jobs and wealth, investment in our education system (addressed in question #5), and a multi-agency approach to servicing those most in need.

To weather future economic storms, Philadelphia must build a growing, diverse, inclusive and resilient economy. We must align taxes, regulations, and incentives to cultivate the right type of job and wage growth. Philadelphia urgently needs a comprehensive review of our city’s tax code (including tax incentives), regulatory framework, and fees-for-service in the context of our budgetary needs and job/wage growth aspirations. Acknowledging that it would require a change to the Commonwealth’s Constitution, I am supportive of the “Levy/Sweeney Plan” floated several years ago that would shift tax burdens toward commercial real estate and away from wage and business taxes. This approach would be consistent with that of our peer cities, most of whom are growing their economies more quickly than Philadelphia.

Specifically, if elected I will work towards:

  • Building a more comprehensive and responsive tax system in partnership with our Revenue Department, including incentives and tax credits that build the economy we want – focused on drastically enhancing our economic growth rate, responsibly supporting our city’s revenue needs, and aligning job training programs with emerging industries.
  •  Shifting to a higher commercial real estate tax model – rather than a uniform tax rate for commercial properties and homes – to enhance overall real estate tax collection.
  • Continuing the reduction of the wage tax and shifting to a progressive rate while the tax remains.
  • Geographic-based and graduated property tax abatements for the real estate community intentionally
    targeted in areas of the city that have yet to experience the benefits of development. We must also consider the high costs of construction relative to our surrounding counties and ensure we are competitive in the development market. Simultaneously, preservation of affordable housing through increased investment in programs like the Housing Trust Fund, must be a goal of any adjustment to our real estate tax abatement program.
  • Gross receipts tax reduction and elimination over the next 5 years.
  • Simplifying our tax code; for example, by gradually phasing out the requirement that businesses pay for
    estimated future revenues as part of the Business Income and Receipts Tax (BIRT).
  • Strategic investment in our transit system, including rapid bus lines, to areas yet to experience
    residential and commercial corridor growth at the same levels of other neighborhoods.

City government is currently set up to provide services to very specific individuals in very specific instances; our departments and agencies too often exist in silos. We need a cross-departmental response to effectively address our poverty rate and create programs that confront the varying reasons individuals and families find themselves caught in generational poverty. The circumstances of every individual and their loved ones are different; City government must recognize this if we truly wish to sustainably reduce our unacceptable and stagnant poverty rate.

Philadelphia lacks sufficient affordable housing and programs to help address homelessness. What actions will you take to combat this? Please be specific and consider land disposition (Councilmanic prerogative, land trusts, land banks, etc.), tax laws, zoning regulations and assistance programs in your response.

Philadelphia is experiencing a housing crisis for its most vulnerable populations (e.g., households earning less than 30% of Area Median Income (AMI)) who faced the greatest losses of housing units (13,000) over the last decade. Philadelphia also faces a growing need to preserve and build new units for renters and homeowners who don’t qualify for housing subsidies like the aforementioned group, but still face high levels of rent burden (e.g., households earning under 100k/yr). We need a multi-pronged approach around preserving affordability, stabilizing changing neighborhoods, and bringing a wider range of affordable units online. I support more inclusive zoning and believe we need to change the zoning code to allow for smaller, less expensive and more affordable dwellings such as tiny homes and single room occupancy buildings. I also support increased investment in programs like Philadelphia’s Housing Trust Fund, and continuing programs like LOOP and OOPA that help individuals and families stay in their homes.

Philadelphia’s approximately 40,000 vacant lots present an opportunity to develop new affordable units. To ensure we redevelop that land to its highest and best use – including additional affordable housing – I support ending councilmanic prerogative by elevating the decision-making power of our urban planning experts and neighborhood based organizations. District councilmembers should play a role in representing their district’s interests by providing neighborhood-level sentiment, but the power to acquire and dispose of city land should be in the hands of the experts and truly independent actors. I will also seek opportunities in Council to support new models of community ownership, such as Land Trusts, that support affordable housing opportunity.

Additionally, we need to do more for our renters to protect vulnerable individuals and families from involuntary relocation/eviction. Rent control can work under a targeted approach (e.g., in neighborhoods with rising speculation and rents) for either a limited number of years, or in conjunction with incentives to landlords to preserve affordability such as tax rebates for permanently affordable units.

In the past, the Federal government was largely responsible for funding and preserving housing units for households earning less than 30% Annual Median Income, but this funding has dried up substantially. In addition to increasing lobbying efforts to put pressure on the Federal government to continue funding Housing Choice Vouchers, public housing preservation and capital needs, Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), and Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA), the City and the State need to work together to make sure this population’s needs are served at the rate of those above 30% AMI. That said, Philadelphia cannot wait for Washington, DC or Harrisburg to step up – City government needs to work towards preserving and expanding affordability, and ensuring that homelessness is rare, brief, and non-recurring.

If elected, do you plan to reduce or increase taxes, and which ones? Do you support the creation of any new taxes and, if so, what would be your plan for the revenues generated?

When seeking to fund new programs, our city government’s first impulse should be to look within the approximately $12B local government budget ($9B Operating, $3B Capital) for efficiencies and opportunities. Similarly, new taxes, tax increases, and regulations should be reviewed with a keen eye on what we’re trying to achieve and for whom, as well as the impact on business productivity. Well-intentioned regulation can have unintended consequences and we want the “golden eggs but don’t want to kill the geese.” People and businesses need predictability to grow and thrive, and we must fashion tax and regulatory policy with this in mind.

As stated in my response to answer 2, if elected I would specifically work towards:

  • Shifting to a higher commercial real estate tax model – rather than a uniform tax rate for commercial properties and homes – to enhance overall real estate tax collection.
  • Continuing reducing the wage tax and shift away to a progressive rate while the tax remains.
  • Geographic-based and graduated property tax abatements for the real estate community intentionally targeted in areas of the city that have yet to experience the benefits of development. We must also consider the high costs of construction relative to our surrounding counties and ensure we are competitive in the development market. Simultaneously, preservation of affordable housing through increased investment in programs like the Housing Trust Fund, is a goal of any adjustment to our real estate tax abatement program.
  • Gross receipts tax reduction and elimination over the next 5 years.
  • Simplifying our tax code; for example, by gradually phasing out the requirement that businesses pay for estimated future revenues as part of the Business Income and Receipts Tax (BIRT).

If elected, what would you do to ensure our public school system is fully funded and provides an equitable education experience for all Philadelphia students? What is your perspective on charter schools?

Philadelphia continues to spend less per student than our surrounding suburbs, and this remains one of our most pressing 21st Century civil rights issues. Philadelphia must advocate to the state for increased investment in our public schools, but city government also has the responsibility to ensure our schools are fully funded and that the quality of our school buildings are improved.

As we remain focused on academic achievement and the well-being of our students and families, our approach to education must recognize and respond to the emotional, behavioral, physical and mental health issues plaguing our children and their families. We have to expand in-school support services and further invest in counseling, therapy, casework, and social work if we truly hope to change the trajectory of our children and families’ lives for generations to come.

With the return to local control under a Mayoral-appointed school board, we should explore opportunities to create “back office” efficiencies that can improve the performance of both the city government and the SDP while further stretching our tax dollars. Back office functions include vehicle and bus maintenance, human resources, finance and accounting, risk management, facilities management, etc. These savings should be reinvested in the schools most struggling, and in capital investments to make sure our all of our school buildings are safe for students, families, and faculty.

While I believe we need to increase the level of resources provided to the School District, we need to ensure that the tax dollars the District does receive are spent wisely and efficiently. I will strongly support enhancing the School District’s implementation of performance management frameworks and tools, with an ultimate goal of a “SchoolStat” program to assess how individual schools and the District as a whole perform academically and across key budget, operational, community and parental engagement areas. We must include teachers as part of this process so their voices and perspectives are heard on an on-going basis.

I will also focus on both traditional and non-traditional sources of funding and support for our schools. Specifically, I will work to:

  •  Adjust the ten-year tax abatement to increase funding for our public schools.
  • Explore creative resource development mechanisms like SILOTS (Services In Lieu of Taxes) and PILOTS (Payments In Lieu of Taxes) so that our major nonprofits such as hospitals and universities are investing in our schools.
  • Establish annual audits of the Parking Authority to ensure every dollar owed to the School District is paid.
  • Shift to a higher commercial real estate tax model – rather than a uniform tax rate for commercial properties and homes – to enhance overall real estate tax collection for our public schools.
  • Eliminate inefficiencies in city government by employing best practices and effective management tools (such as a City Council based PhillyStat program) to free up additional resources for our public schools.

I support more accountability for charter schools and believe that underperforming schools should have their charters revoked.

Do you support any reforms to current policing practices in Philadelphia, including stop and frisk? What programs would you advocate for to assist returning citizens, including post-release counseling for jobs, housing, and other support services?

I chose to run for City Council for many reasons; however, a main factor fueling that decision was my vision to ensure more wrap-around support services – including counselors, case workers, and social workers – are available and accessible for those most in need. This is based on my experience with loved ones’ substance use disorder challenges and recovery. I have seen and experienced how we can support people and their families differently and more compassionately to get them onto solid footing.

Philadelphia should heed lessons learned from New York City’s successful reduction of its homicide rate and its connection to the drastic decrease in the use of stop-and-frisk. We can only be a safer city if we create productive and positive relations between our police force and the communities they serve. Philadelphia has made great strides in strategic community policing efforts by investing in community-based violence reduction strategies. For example, the Focused Deterrence Program and the Youth Violence Reduction Partnership (YVRP) both resulted in reductions in crime and violence, promoted positive life choices, and included appropriate supports (i.e., counseling, community mentorship, and social workers) for people to move forward as productive members of their communities. As our number of deaths by homicide and shootings in our city increase, these approaches have shown significant benefits to reduction in gun violence and crime while providing a new social construct and reliance on much needed social service support systems.

The City should also look to expand – and establish new – creative partnerships like the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Roots to Re-entry program and PowerCorpsPHL to ensure those in the criminal justice system have the tools they need to succeed. These workforce development and education programs grow our economy, create pathways of opportunity for individuals and their families, and work towards solving some of our city’s other challenges.

Additionally, Council should work with the City’s Commerce Department to seek additional opportunities to support local businesses that train and hire formerly incarcerated individuals such as Quaker City Coffee and Wash Cycle Laundry. Social entrepreneurs and small business owners can provide skills-training and employment opportunities for those re-entering society while growing Philadelphia’s economy.

What is your opinion about the increasing privatization of city public spaces and institutions, including Dilworth Park and Franklin Square? What steps would you take to protect or expand public spaces in Philadelphia?

Iamsupportiveofthe“ ReimaginingtheCivicCommons” concept,anationalinitiativepilotedinPhiladelphia, that seeks to bring residents together by revitalizing and connecting public spaces and countering economic and social fragmentation. I like the work done at the Cherry Street Pier and Spruce Street Harbor. I’d like to see this inclusive concept expanded to other public spaces, particularly libraries as they have the potential to be reimagined as civic gathering and learning hubs for the modern age. I am also supportive of the Rebuild program, and as a member of Council will advocate for investments in public spaces to advance equity.

I am supportive of public-private partnerships that ensure the City is in control of future public space development and zoning, but appreciates how the private sector may provide a sustainable funding mechanism that results in vibrant community spaces. Public land belongs to the people of Philadelphia, and future development efforts on publicly owned land should be responsive to resident needs and concerns.

How will you advance immigrants’ rights?

I strongly support the work of the City’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, and in Council will seek to increase their funding and champion their efforts. Specifically, I will support the successful implementation of their Language Access Program to make sure all city departments are equipped to provide services to our immigrant communities. I also support our status as a sanctuary city, and our decision to end our agreement to share data with ICE through the PARS system.

I also support the work of great nonprofit organizations in the city serving our immigrant and refugee communities such as the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians and the Nationalities Service Center. Additionally, City government should seek additional funding opportunities for immigrants and refugees in need of legal support services.

If elected, what will you do to advance environmental justice in Philadelphia? Specifically, how will you advocate for greater residential and commercial energy efficiency and support efforts to eradicate lead poisoning in schools and households?

Human activity is the main driver of global climate change. To address this crisis, Philadelphia needs to think globally and act locally. City Council should explore the concept of a Green New Deal for Philadelphia that is citizen-generated, focused on Philadelphia-based solutions, and recognizes that our most vulnerable communities are already disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change. We must continue to engage city departments, businesses, community groups, and residents to build upon the important strides made by our Office of Sustainability’s comprehensive Greenworks plan.

As Councilwoman, I will work to:

  • Achieve Zero Waste by phasing out single use plastics and styrofoam, working to implement a citywide compost program, and hiring a Commodities Broker within the Streets Department to ensure Philadelphia’s recycling is sold at the highest price and for the best use. I fully support the goals of the City’s Zero Waste and Litter Action.
  • Secure funding for capital improvements in our schools to make sure all of our school buildings are lead-free, and work with the Department of Licenses and Inspections to more effectively enforce lead safety laws.
  • Increase transit ridership to cut down on emissions from cars. We need to focus on improving SEPTA’s levels and scopes of service to increase ridership and reduce the need for vehicle ownership and driving. This includes improving bus service and exploring Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to better connect our communities to each other, Center City, and neighborhood commercial corridors.
  • Seek opportunities to invest in, and incentivize, the use of alternative energy sources to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Invest in solar power for all city and School District buildings, to lead by example, and support the Office of Sustainability’s energy benchmarking program to engage the commercial sector.
  • Further fund the TreePhilly program to reduce the number of “heat islands” citywide. Heat islands – where neighborhoods are significantly warmer than surrounding areas due to human activities – result in increases in energy use, utility bills, and elevated emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases.
  • Expand and invest in Philadelphia’s Green Stormwater Infrastructure network through the Water Department’s Green City, Clean Waters program.
  • Transform our vacant lots into productive use. Philadelphia has approximately 40,000 vacant lots that attract litter and illegal dumping, insight public safety concerns, and destabilize entire neighborhoods. City Council must be proactively engaged in policy solutions to crack down on absentee owners, and promote the reuse of appropriate parcels into community gardens and other green space.