City Council must advance policies, develop relationships, and establish standards that foster a growing and inclusive economy. Our future will be determined by our ability to remain competitive regionally and globally without leaving people behind. As such, constant attention is required to produce well-paying, quality jobs for our current and future residents that produce adequate funding – through taxes - for our shared spending priorities.
Based on labor, taxes, and facilities, the cost of doing business in other comparable (East Coast) cities averages 33% more than in Philadelphia. Our overall cost of living, including housing, transportation, and healthcare is an average of 54% lower than our peer cities. We’ve had eight straight years of job growth. Our economy is growing, but it is doing so very slowly; from 2009-2018 private-sector jobs in Philadelphia grew slower than the national average and below the average of the 26 largest US cities. Philadelphia’s tax and regulatory structure must strike a better balance to unleash our City’s economic potential, enhance our competitiveness with peer cities and the Philadelphia suburbs while facilitating equity.
We must provide existing businesses with warm hospitality and present a welcoming attitude to companies that we want to attract from the suburbs and beyond. Finally, because new businesses account for nearly all net new job creation, we need to support entrepreneurs and startups.
Cultivate our Startup Community: The best way to support job growth and working persons in Philadelphia is to support startup businesses in the City. Philadelphia leaders can support the startup community by reducing barriers to entry, building more flexibility into the City’s regulatory regime for small and growing businesses, and expanding business support services.
Support Hometown Businesses: We need to build stronger, mutually beneficial relationships with hometown companies - those with their headquarters in Philadelphia or the region. These companies anchor our local economy through the generation of taxes, jobs, wealth, and intellectual capital. As a City, we need to create more alignment between our aspirations for prosperity and our relationships with these existing companies in order to improve job and wealth creation outcomes.
Expand Existing Services: Let’s provide a higher level of customer service to our City’s business community and create a reputation regionally and around the world as a City that is open and welcoming to business. To improve our brand in this regard, I would like to meld and build on two existing programs - the Commerce Department’s Business Services Team and Philly311. I would like to see businesses - those already here or thinking of coming - be able to leverage 311’s online knowledgebase, call center, and other networks for their purposes. We can use information gathered from these programs to bring focus on areas of opportunity for streamlining services and processes.
READ THE FULL ECONOMY POLICY PAPER
For the full economic policy paper, please click here.
As a Councilperson, I will be primarily focused on the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) and how we as a City government can work with our colleagues on the Board of Education of the School District of Philadelphia to direct new resources to the SDP and improve educational outcomes.
There is a good story to be told about the SDP in terms of management and educational attainment. The credit rating for the School District of Philadelphia has improved according to credit rating agency Moody’s who noted that the SDP has improved its finances and is operating with a surplus. The rating puts the district back into investment-grade rating for the first time since the 1970s and broadens the investment pool. District-wide financial stability is allowing investments to improve the education students receive. Nurses, counselors, new textbooks and hydration stations are in every school. Computer and science labs have been modernized and more resources put into the lowest performing schools.
Academically, Scores from the 2017-2018 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) and Keystone Exams show School District of Philadelphia students making continued academic progress. Large gains were made on the PSSA, with a significant number of students moving out of the below-basic category on the English Language Arts (ELA) and Science portions of the test. In the Keystone Exams, District improvements outpace those at the state level, with the percent of high school students scoring proficient or advanced showing increases in all subject areas.
While the District continues to make steady progress, we must also recognize the larger challenges we face. Of the 15 largest cities in the U.S., Philadelphia has the highest rate of adults who have never attended college (49%) and the second lowest rate of adults with college degrees (29%). There is no better strategy for changing these dynamics than ensuring students all across Philadelphia have a quality school close to home.
Inrease Access to School Counselors and Psychologists: Our primary focus must be ensuring students graduate from District schools with the academic skills required to successfully pursue college and career opportunities, but improving academics must be paired with relevant social and emotional instruction. It is important that our students learn how to make good decisions and learn the soft skills required to be successful in the workplace. By providing students access to quality social and emotional care, we support the development of the whole person, not just academic and job skills.
Encourage Trauma-informed Practices: It is especially important that students dealing with the impacts of trauma from violence, poverty, hunger and many other reasons learn in compassionate classrooms from teachers with comprehensive training in implementing trauma-informed practices. Teachers should have the support and resources to help students who are struggling with any multitude of traumatic circumstances.
Get Creative with Fundraising & Development: The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia raised $4.7M in Calendar Year 2016 (ending July 2017). I would focus on increasing the amount of money raised annually. Private K-12s and public colleges/universities have evolved their fundraising and development capacity and the SDP must move in this direction.
Seek out PILOTS and SILOTS: Pursue both payments-in-lieu of taxes (PILOTS) and services in-lieu-of taxes (SILOTS) from major non-profits (including hospitals and universities) to increase dollars and services available to public schools.
Support “Friends of” Groups / Home and School Associations: Great schools need engaged parents and community stakeholders. There are many schools across the District that have strong Home and School Associations and/or “Friends Of” groups, but there are many schools that need support to establish and sustain these programs. Even in neighborhoods without significant financial resources, connecting the communities inside and outside of a school can be a powerful tool for increasing student performance and providing additional support for teachers and staff.
Develop Performance Management Frameworks: 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.
READ THE FULL EDUCATION POLICY PAPER
To read the full education policy paper, click here.
I am dedicated to making Philadelphia the cleanest City in the world and I fully support the aspirations of the City’s Zero Waste & Litter Action Plan, but we can be more ambitious and build next generation technology and trash collection processes! As your City Councilwoman, I will commit myself to modernizing our trash and recycling collection practices to clean up our City streets and neighborhoods.
Philadelphia is decades behind worldwide trends in waste collection - most notably using a manual process for trash collection whereby residents place bags and cans - and piles of trash - curbside for collection. This process is unsightly, unsanitary, and creates risk of injury for our workers which also negatively impacts our City finances. We must do better and we can do better.
Elevate 311: Excellent city service is the primary objective of our local government and Philly311 can be the brain that analyzes data and prompts the appropriate governmental response. Becoming the central ingestor and analyzer of information related to City services is a natural evolution. Leveraging “smart city” technologies to monitor operations in real time, mining social media sentiment, and combining that with existing Philly311 and other City data can provide a rich analytical composite from which to identify areas of success and opportunity.
Re-Establish PhillyStat: We manage for results when we measure for them. Therefore, I will work to re-establish a PhillyStat system for the City, which will establish performance metrics to be reviewed by City Council on a monthly basis so that operational and resource adjustments can be made to improve outcomes and we can track progress throughout the City in a constructive, collaborative, and transparent manner.
Modernize: It’s time for the City to invest in automated, semi-automated and containerized trash collection both above ground and underground where possible. New technology provides opportunities for implementing more efficient routing techniques that can save time and money and free up resources for other important activities. Additionally, City employees are performing a labor-intensive job that too often results in work-related accidents and injuries. We must invest differently in our employees by using new technology to improve their health, well-being and productivity.
READ THE FULL CITY SERVICES POLICY PAPER
To read the full City Services policy paper, click here.
Substance use disorders impact Philadelphia’s residents, families, and communities everyday. 1,200 people died from overdoses in the City in 2017. Philadelphia is on the frontline of the opiooid crisis, with the highest per capita death rate from accidental overdoses of any major metropolitan county in 2017. National media held up the Kensington encampments as a case study of the effects opioids and substance abuse can have on individuals, families, neighborhoods, and cities.The statistics are harrowing, but there are proven ways to help those struggling and to establish Philadelphia as a pioneer in recovery policies that work. I know that Philadelphia can also become an example how a city pulled together and responded to a crisis.
Continue to act on the Opioid Task Force’s recommendations: The Mayor’s Opioid Task Force, which recently released an update for 2018, highlights actions the City has taken in Prevention and Education, Treatment, Overdose Prevention and Harm Reduction, Involvement of the Criminal Justice System. Progress on medication-assisted treatment (MAT) – a proven method of helping to wean individuals off of opioids – is particularly noteworthy, as for too long obtaining such treatment was difficult. The more than 2,900 open slots now available for MAT should be put to good use as quickly as possible.
Fund the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services (DBHIDS): DBHIDS is the City’s primary method of outreach for issues related to opioids and substance use. 99% of the department’s budget is funded by the state and federal government; the City should do everything it can to devote the necessary resources, including requested funding increases, to the Department. DBHIDS provides vital services to Philadelphians, and its proven history of serving Philadelphians makes it an unquestionably effective resource.
Clarify our standards of care: Regulations around addiction treatment are not keeping up with demand, and the City should work to establish standards of care and regulatory frameworks for ongoing treatment, including sober living facilities, to ensure a safe and effective path to recovery.
Collaborate with state and federal legislators and law enforcement authorities: Philadelphia is not alone and we must collaborate with regional, state and federal leaders. This isn’t a Kensington and Philadelphia crisis, but a Pennsylvania and National issue. All of the actions we are taking here can be taken at the state and national level as well, and we should collaborate to obtain the resources we need as well as learn from other communities that face this crisis.
READ THE FULL RECOVERY POLICY PAPER
To read the entire recovery policy paper, click here.
READ THE FULL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY PAPER
To read the entire environmental policy paper, click here.
Philadelphia’s tax abatement program, implemented in its current form in 2000, was designed to incentivize development and population growth in the city, but economic and policy dynamics have – unsurprisingly – changed in the almost two decades since the policy was enacted. With Philadelphia property prices at an all-time high and the city’s population close to breaching 1.6 million for the first time since 1989, tax abatements became a much-discussed topic in 2018 as citizens and City Council considered implications for economic equality, development, and gentrification. Given the scale of the policy, I believe that city leaders should review the program and its goals in order to determine its future. For a policy of such magnitude, we might also consider if a sunset clause should be included to force city representatives to revisit the initiative down the road and ensure it continues to deliver value to citizens.
Examnie our Options: The distribution of abatement dollars towards more valuable properties encapsulates the primary concern of Philadelphians today. That is, while the policy has been effective and is fair in that it is open to the entire city, so long as it is contributing to inequity in the city by lifting already successful parts of Philadelphia ahead while contributing little or nothing to poorer sections, it is reasonable for City Council to consider a more targeted solution. Boosting growth and development remain critical policy goals, but we owe it to the city to consider the type of growth and development as well. The Controller’s report imagines the impact of a $700,000 abatement cap, finding that such a change would (in the year 2016) generate $5.8 million in revenue from 72 properties, compared to $10.4 million from ending the program entirely – that is a ~50% reduction in foregone taxes that affects only 5% of properties. From a geographic rather than value-based perspective, removing the 8 most profitable ZIP codes (19102, 19103, 19107, 19118, 19123, 19130, 19146, and 19147) from the abatement program would generate $5 million in revenue from 712 properties. As with the $700,000 cap, the city gains about 50% of the revenue as would come from repealing the abatements entirely, but the former does so while impacting only 5% of abated properties, while the geographic target impacts roughly 50% of properties. While limiting geography may be a more blunt policy tool than focusing on value, I believe that this, too, deserves to be studied by City Council as a means to ensure neighborhoods outside Center City can participate in the abatement program.
Consider the Rental Market: Council should also be aware of the effect of this policy, and changes made to it, on renters. Within the population of properties over $700,000 that the Controller’s report examined, 83% of value is captured by what the OPA characterizes as hotel and apartment buildings. The Controller’s report highlights this elsewhere, by noting that most of the 15 properties with the largest abatement – representing 16% of total abatement dollars - are large apartment buildings. Council should consider reviewing the policy’s impact on renters given that, while homeownership is an explicit goal of the policy and indeed condominiums and single-family homes receive substantial benefits ($2.2 billion and $1.5 billion, respectively, compared to $2.9 billion for multifamily and hotels) large multi-unit construction has taken place and the renter-occupied rate in the city was 47.8% in 2017, with over 47% of renters pay more than 35% of their gross annual income in rent. The tax abatement policy has clearly served to boost large multi-unit construction in Center City – could Council attempt to tweak the policy to incentivize multi-unit construction elsewhere in Philadelphia? Given the well-publicized struggle with illegal boarding houses, this seems an area of opportunity that loops back to incentivizing construction in areas where it is currently not profitable, as opposed to increasing supply in built-out parts of the city.
READ THE FULL TAX ABATEMENTS POLICY PAPER
To read the complete tax abatement policy paper, click here.