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?
I am a graduate of the Philadelphia Public School System via Masterman and the Philadelphia High School For Girls. I have a bachelors and masters degree from West Chester University of Pennsylvania and completed the WCS at Yale University in 2017. I have had the pleasure to serve as a staffing coordinator at Pennsylvania Hospital and a long term substitute teacher at Overbrook High School. In graduate school I served as a graduate intern in City Council. After grad school in 2008, I began working in City Council as a constituent services representative, legislative aide working behind the scenes on public policy for 5 years and Chief of Staff learning how to run a City Council office. I have worked on numerous bills that have resulted in positive quality of life improvements for seniors, families, children, and youth. Some of the notable ordinances I assisted in authoring include, but not limited to, disclosure and certification for rental properties, Green Building standards for new and updated city buildings, Philadelphia’s local bidding preference, creating a permanent Office of Sustainability and Women’s Commission, and eliminating fees for group child care providers.
After a long career of service, I am uniquely positioned to be ready on day one to (1) provide more investment in educational funding and opportunities for our most vulnerable citizens: children and seniors; (2) create job readiness programs for growing business sectors; (3) more investment in public safety, crime reduction, and criminal justice reform. I know how to effectively navigate City Government to make it work for others, I will work hard to significantly reduce poverty and income inequality by navigating through the red tape to get things done.
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.
Today the number one predictor of life expectancy is the zip code where you live. Philadelphia continues to soar to new heights, while leaving many of its citizens behind in poverty. Investing in education is key in alleviating poverty and boosting economic growth. It is our moral obligation to break the chain of generational poverty by preparing the next generation of young people to succeed. In Council, I will increase investments in our schools and school buildings, expand and increase the number of career and technical education for students that decide not to attend college, and use my knowledge of government to support and create new innovative incubators that prepare middle and high school students to become productive working adults. Upon graduation, all students will be prepared to enter the workforce especially in small and middle market businesses.
I also understand that one root cause of poverty is the lack of access to markets and resources. I will introduce legislation that invests in commercial corridors, small and middle market businesses to spur job creation for families supporting and sustaining jobs. It is also vital that we steer funding to middle neighborhoods, to help seniors and families stay preserve within their homes. I will work hard in creating and implementing comprehensive strategy to address poverty in Philadelphia.
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.
I support the steps City Council has taken in the past year to increase funding for affordable housing, most recently with a $100 million commitment over five years to the Housing Trust Fund. The Housing Trust Fund should target affordable housing programs for low-income residents and in middle neighborhoods that are not receiving private development. Philadelphia’s affordable housing problem is amplified by the poor quality of our housing stock across the city. Council must ensure that home maintenance programs like Basic Systems Repair are fully funded and accessible to all Philadelphians. I believe all processes for land disposition should be transparent to members of the public. Lastly, I will introduce a resolution to investigate how we can establish a program to convey blighted properties to homeless/low income individuals.
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?
It is difficult to predict the future economic state of the City, however, raising taxes should be a last resort. We cannot tax our way out of everything. Tax increases have unintended consequences for both residents and businesses particularly in a City with 26% poverty. As a former dedicated City Council staffer, it was my job to investigate and analyze sustainable sources of revenue, which meant understanding the annual city budget. As Councilwoman At-Large, I will examine the full extent of the annual City budget to evaluate where we can make necessary changes and re-appropriate revenue before there is any proposal for new or increased taxes.
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?
There are many components to a comprehensive equity in education agenda – as a staffer in City Council, I have learned that it is critical to create requirements for diverse and inclusive representation at all levels of government and decision-making. In some circumstances, you ensure there are enough seats at the table, while in others, you have to create a new table to be most effective. In schools, we must prioritize both diversity and an inclusive and equitable mindset when recruiting and developing our teachers, our school-based leadership, our administrators, our contractors, and our partners. We must also create spaces and pathways for non-traditional voices to emerge. In City Council, I worked to establish both the Youth Commission and the Women’s Commission as permanent institutions in our City, and continue to work to ensure the commissions are able to carry out their work efficiently and with sufficient expertise and independence. I have also worked on legislation to diversify the businesses that operate with the city, knowing that diverse leadership can be a first step to new voices, ideas and approaches.
As a legislative aide, I worked on legislation that provided an additional $30 million to the School District after the economic downturn in 2008. Today, we must take another look at the impact of the tax abatement on our schools.The evidence shows that the tax abatement has worked in certain areas in our City and not in others. If the city continues the tax abatement in any form, it should be modified to increase the amount of dollars the School District receives similar to the measure Councilman W. Wilson Goode, Jr. introduced in Council when I served as a legislative aide.
Thirty three percent of Philadelphians attend charter schools – it is critical that policymakers consider the impact on the entire system when making decisions on the expansion of charter schools. When the Charter School Law was passed in 1997, school districts were provided a charter school reimbursement to help manage the expansion of charter schools. Without this reimbursement, expansion of charter schools can put District schools at risk of disinvestment and closure. I will lead the fight in Council to urge restoration of the charter school reimbursement, which has cost our District millions of dollars.
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 support an end to stop and frisk, based on years of data from the American Civil Liberties Union indicating that the policy unfairly targets people of color. Stop and frisk harms the fundamental relationship between police and the communities they serve. I also support the efforts of the City to “ban-the-box” by removing barriers to city jobs for returning citizens. These efforts should be expanded so that one’s status as a returning citizen is not a barrier to accessing any resources funded or regulated by City government. I would also advocate for increasing funding and restructure of the City department that handles returning citizens who need resume review assistance, housing counseling (rent or own) and job preparation assistance, college admission prep and the list goes on. I have worked with one of my former students from Overbrook High School who is a returning citizen. The process is not easy and you need dedicated advocates who can ensure returning citizens are receiving the help they need to live new and different lives after release.
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?
Public-private partnerships must be monitored carefully by City government to ensure that the public mission of the partnership is executed with fidelity and full public participation. When I reviewed the minutes for the Historical Commission hearing in January 2019 approving the new installation at Dilworth Plaza, I was concerned to see that no member of the public provided comment in favor of or against the project, an indicator that true community input fell short of the ideal. The City must make an extra effort to ensure that the terms of these deals are clear and reserve City authority to act in the best interest of Philadelphians. Additionally, there should be public hearings/meetings to ensure input is received from the people we serve. I support efforts to increase green public spaces through the Green City, Clean Waters stormwater management plan and am supportive of the Mayor’s effort to improve park and recreation centers through the Rebuild program.
How will you advance immigrants’ rights?
Philadelphia is a melting pot of different ethnicities. America was founded on the belief that everyone is created equally, no exceptions. Immigrants play an essential role in the economic growth of the City. According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, from 2000-2013, immigrants were responsible for 96% of the Main Street neighborhood business growth. As Councilwoman At-Large, I will continue to advocate for our immigrant community and further protect the City’s sanctuary city status. A brighter Philadelphia is one that embraces all its citizens.
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?
Philadelphia has faced environmental and public health threats that for too long have gone unaddressed. These threats have higher and more significant adverse health and environmental effects on minority populations and low-income communities. It is imperative that government creates avenues for low income and communities of color to identify barriers to participation in environmental decision-making. As Councilwoman At-Large, I will work on and advance legislation that will create practices to ensure the involvement of all Philadelphians in the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental policies. Environmental justice ensures that every Philadelphia neighborhood enjoys just environmental benefits.
Creating an equitable future also requires that we invest in strategies that expand on energy efficiency. As Councilwoman At-Large, I will work with state officials to encourage energy efficiency by advocating for updated commercial energy codes that will effectively reduce building energy use over time. I will expand and increase already existing programs that educate and promote reducing energy waste on an individual basis. I will also work with unions, environmental advocacy groups, and the Philly Healthy School Initiative to address the growing concern of lead in our schools. We must develop new non-traditional sources of revenue to ensure our schools have adequate resources to combat our aging school infrastructure in Philadelphia public school buildings.