Editor’s note: The responses have been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness.
What do you think of everything that’s going on in the neighborhood and the city in regards to the following: peaceful protests, damage to businesses, looting, and the police response to protests, damages, or looting?
I understand and share the anger. The Philadelphians I represent have seen their neighborhoods suffer from decades of disinvestment, the widespread effects of the opioid crisis, the devastation of the pandemic, and now this. People are right to stand up and demand change, and it’s our responsibility to both listen and lead. I am proud that many civic and community organizations in Kensington have spoken out in solidarity with the protestors.
I support the protestors who are calling for systemic change to combat our institutional racism, starting with the police department. As for damages to businesses – it is very unfortunate. However, buildings and property can be replaced. The lives lost cannot.
Looting is an unfortunate consequence of many people rightfully angry and the mob mentality that leads to destructive behavior.
Widespread access to video technology now captures the grim reality of the problems we have been facing in this country. The large majority of police officers have demonstrated great restraint and professionalism. The others should be removed from the police department or their command. Everyone knew the spotlight was on them.
What solutions do you hope to see in your community or in general after these protests?
As a former member of the dismantled Police Oversight Committee, I agree with the 8 Can’t Wait reforms. Philadelphia has instituted seven of the eight already, but the missing piece is comprehensive reporting. Reporting requirements make all other reforms more successful by providing transparency and accountability. A citizen-led oversight board with real power and resources is an essential first step.
In light of current events, what are the issues that you would like the Kenney administration, city council, and the rest of city government to focus on in the upcoming budget to help your community?
I continue to repeat, the budget is a moral document. As co-chair of Council’s Committee on Poverty Reduction and Prevention, my top priority for this budget season has always been to fight for more investments in people to help lift families out of poverty. The pandemic and the protests both show how important that is. I am proud to have worked with the council president and my colleagues to develop the New Normal Budget Act as a starting place. We need investments in affordable housing, access to jobs and education, and more direct support for low income households. I would like to see major investment in a recovery plan for our commercial corridors and affordable housing to help communities recover equitably.
How would you describe the policing in your community, and what would you like to see in the police department moving forward?
In my community, I see a difference between officers who are part of the community and officers who aren’t, between those who hear directly from neighbors and those who sit in their cars. We face unique challenges as a community with deep poverty, and I need partners who care about our neighbors, especially our most vulnerable. I would like to see meaningful change in terms of accountability and transparency, especially regarding the [Philadelphia Police Department]’s arbitration process. As chair of Council’s Appropriations Committee, I am constantly asking folks to get involved in our budget process, and I’m happy to see the public interest emerging this year. I hope that energy continues when [Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5] contract negotiations come up again, as that is one of our major opportunities for change.
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Editors: Claire Wolters, Zari Tarazona, Siani Colon / Designer: Henry Savage