1) Ensuring Philadelphia has a well-prepared, well-educated workforce is important to business in our city. What is your plan to ensure Philadelphia has a well-educated workforce capable of filling the employment needs of business?
This takes a three layered approach. We have to ensure that our public schools are properly funded and preparing our students for the work place. It takes increasing the support and synergy between the Philadelphia Community College and our local small and major employers such as Comcast, PECO, PGW, and others such as the Hospitality Community. We have to train them for the jobs available in this market place. Finally, I would encourage a partnership with the local unions and our school district to encourage apprenticeships and other opportunities to learn the building trades as well.
2) In his most recent budget, Mayor Michael Nutter proposed a 9% property tax increase to help bridge the funding gap for the city’s schools. How do you feel about asking property owners in the city to pick up the costs?
I am against this. We are pricing families and our seniors out of their homes. The city must do a more responsible job of spending what it has. The problem with the proposals that the administration submits is that it does not use fiscal discipline. When a family has reached its spending limit it has to revise its “outgo” to match its “income”. The Nutter administration seems to prefer to increase its income by taking even more money out of the pockets of people that need it the most.
3) The real estate tax abatement can help the city grow, but it also provides a tax break at a time when the city needs every dollar. Do you favor the current tax abatement plan and what changes, if any, would you make to it as it stands now.
It needs to continue but be modified. Shorter time periods would be suggested and bend points established based on the value of the house. However, we must continue to encourage development.
4) Crime is always a hot topic in Philadelphia. What do you think should be the first priority of the new mayor when it comes to reducing crime in the city?
We must Improve community relations of the police and strengthen public confidence in our ability to police. Stop and Frisk has set back the relationships within the community by 50 years. Getting rid of Commissioner Ramsey would be a key to that. There was an article in the paper last week that had a headline, “Stop and Frisk was legal, but police went too far”. This is what can happen on any stop because it is a policy that puts the police in an awkward position and sets up potential civil rights violations for our citizens. Right now Ramsey has not been able to reduce crime within the Police Department itself. New leadership is needed to support the most talented police department in the nation.
5) The failed sale of PGW was a setback for the current administration. As we look forward to the years ahead, would you make another attempt to sell PGW and what steps would you take to earn enough support to make sure the sale is successful.
I would not be against it but would first want to be careful in selling any public asset. The PGW sale now in hindsight would have been a terrible mistake. The Administration was unaware that the company that was intending to purchase PGW itself was being taken over. The danger that we could have with a private company owning PGW would be that decisions could be made based on bottom lines as opposed to safety. Rates based on profits as opposed to affordability. We must also consider that efforts to sell utilities in other major cities have not worked in places such as Atlanta. Additionally, we should also keep in mind that PGW is also one of the few assets that brings revenue into the city and provides employment opportunities for our residents. Any sale of PGW would have to address these issues in a meaningful way.
6) There’s been a lot of debate at City Hall about creating an energy hub in Philadelphia to attract manufacturing to the city and create jobs. What are your thoughts on the city as an energy hub?
This debate is full of contradictions and continuation of the Nutter Administration policies make it impossible for the City to be an energy hub. To do so, you must broaden the discussion. You have to take advantage of solar, wind, alternative fuel, natural gas, and other sources of power available to us. Selling utilities make it difficult to make a more global decisions because a private company would fight against the use of other resources to protect or increase profits whereas the city could make decisions to advantage its residents.
7) What neighborhood commercial corridors would you most like to see strengthened – and how would you strengthen them?
All of them. Specifically, the historic district on Germantown Avenue with shops like Rothe’s Florist, Manayunk which could be Philadelphia’s version of Georgetown in Washington D.C., North Broad Street, Market Street, and Wynnefield all need support. I would establish a Business Corridor Commission working with PIDC and the Commerce Office to create “commerce partnerships” with local retail businesses with the “Community Anchors” in neighborhoods such as churches, schools, government offices, and universities. I would ask for the anchors to make commitments to do a certain amount of business normally done online or through out of state ordering to include the use of local businesses as well. I would also look at the establishment or expansion of empowerment zones and other designations that might help community businesses as well.
8) We know government has limited spending capacity—are there certain city departments in which you envision investing more resources? Are there agencies where you envision spending less resources?
We must invest more money in the Departments and agencies that support our neighborhoods. CLIP programs are prime example for this. I would also re-establish the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative that Mayor Nutter disbanded. Over the last few years things have been disjointed. We have programs to give more trees but policies that ended leaf removal. Something is wrong with this picture. All agencies serving neighborhoods must be coordinated better.
9) The city has taken steps in the past 8 years to become more green. What would you do to keep Philadelphia heading in this direction.
We have to be more strategic in our planning. Greening should be tied in and synchronized with other city initiatives. Greening has to be included as a requirement in all new developments and added in any major renovations that should be enforced by the Zoning Board. For example I would also look at how we handle things like storm water runoff. Right now the city just simply views as something to charge a fee, which essentially makes it a tax, but does very little catch it in the way that New York City does. I would also look at concepts such installing solar panels on all city buildings or creating solar bike paths like what has been done in the Netherlands. This then ties in with sustainable city efforts as well and efforts to create an energy hub.
10) Every mayor needs to make tough decisions. How will you handle implementing unpopular policies (i.e., cuts in some city services in order to fund other ones; tax increases).
Throughout my history as a legislator I showed the ability to make tough choices. However, this question assumes that a tough decision involves making cuts or increasing taxes. I think the tough decision is to make departments properly spend the money they already have. The School District is struggling for funds but had resources that were unused such as new text books, music equipment, and supplies sitting in closed schools unaccounted for. This is occurring throughout city government. The first tough decision would be to have departments make an accurate accounting of resources and eliminate waste.