• Overbrook High School
• University of Alabama, Master’s certificate in Contract Compliance
Occupation: City Councilman (incumbent, Fourth District)
• Jazelle Jones, wife, Deputy Managing Director for the City of Philadelphia for past 10 years
• Four children- two boys and two girls
• President and C.E.O. of the Philadelphia Commercial Development Corporation from 1991 to 2006
• Deputy Finance Director for the city from 1987 through 1991 under Mayor W. Wilson Goode, which included running the Minority Business Enterprise Council
• One term on the City Council
Why did you get into politics?
“In high school I had a dear friend who was a community activist and organizer – Chaka Fattah. We were involved in student government at the time, which led us into political involvement. I ran Fattah’s campaign for the State Legislature. Along that path we met other like-minded change agents such as now-State Sen. Vincent Hughes and (City Councilwoman) Blondell Reynolds Brown and that formed my political DNA.
“We got addicted to making a difference. It’s as simple as that. You don’t have to look out the window and accept things as they are. You can make an effort and make change. We followed that mold ever since.”
What is your top or proudest legislative achievement?
“Most freshman don’t pass laws in their first term. I’ve had the opportunity to pass several. The first one I passed is the Mixed-Use Bill, which allows five percent of federal appropriation (money) that comes to the city to be used to develop small neighborhood businesses in commercial corridors. Then there was also the Intern Tax Credit, which gives students at the high school and college level an opportunity to work and get practical experience from companies and actually be paid for that. They are implementing that this year.
“I also passed a resolution to halt mortgage foreclosures for a period of time, which led to banking institutions, housing advocates and the Sheriff’s Office and the courts sitting down and coming up with a mortgage foreclosure diversion program. Today the program serves as a national model. If I had to pick any of the three, that would be my proudest public policy baby, if you would.
“We have impacted the efficiencies of government. We pushed for an electronic transfer of funds. We were running around with paper checks that wasted millions of dollars in lost revenue to the city. Now we get $1 million extra in our budget just by a simple act of transferring funds electronically instead of waiting for federal and state reimbursements by Pony Express.
“Another public policy I impacted was the witness intimidation and relocation effort working with the district attorney. We had an additional $200,000 put toward the budget to help protect witnesses of violent crimes. Working with the state, (state Representative) Brendan Boyle and the federal government, we are starting to raise the profile of that issue to get more resources for that program. I’m proud of that.
“By way of environment policy, I led the charge against Marcellus Shale drilling, which impacts our waterways in Philadelphia. We had hearings on that. I saved the Walnut Lane Golf Club. To you or others in the city it may not seem like a big environmental impact, but for the people in that community, saving the golf course meant a lot. I’ve been a strong advocate for Schuylkill River bike and walking trail. And I passed legislation preserving the Manatawna Farm area, making sure that we had an environmental control district, which means that in certain parts of my district they will not lose parkland and become over-developed. So as a freshman, I’ve been busy.”
What most needs improvement in your district?
“We’re in a recession and I have to create jobs, jobs and more jobs. We have to take what exists to make what is necessary. What do I mean by that? If the city has 27,000 vacant houses then we need to be about the business of repairing them. It does a number of good things: it creates housing for people who need it and it creates jobs for people who don’t have them. When you have a living wage, it can solve a whole bunch of problems, whether it’s how your kids get educated or whether it’s your own personal healthcare. You’d be surprised what a job, a paycheck, could do for a family.
“That’s my number one task, and we should look at infrastructure as a way to do that. Whether it’s improving the rails and transportation lines in the city or from just looking at the 3,000 miles of sewer line under the city’s feet that, on average, is more than 100 years old. If we just replaced that and removed some of those dual-lateral systems that cause some of the pollution in our streams, we could put a kid graduating from high school today to work for 20 years.”
What do you love about Philadelphia?
“Philadelphia is the best-kept secret in the world. We are strategically located between New York and Washington, D.C. You can still get a decent house for the money. We have all of the trappings of a big city – restaurants, entertainment- but, yet, we still have the feel of a small town. When I walk down Ridge Avenue in Roxborough, you don’t feel overwhelmed like you would in New York. But there’s a five-minute drive to every amenity that New Yorkers have.
“I bleed Philly sports. No doubt we have made a serious rise in the sports world. We’re no longer the Bad News Bears. I love Philadelphia because we’re still underdeveloped. We have a waterfront that’s ready to take off. We have the greatest acres of parkland of any big city in the world. And, finally, we’re still blue collar, even though the factories aren’t as plentiful. I’ve been all around the world and if I meet a person from Philly I ask them what part and within two more questions I’ll find a family that is three or four generations back that that person knows. Where else can you do that? Big city, small town feel.”
What Council practice or custom would you most like to change?
“I would give better orientation to newcomers. What we didn’t receive was a how-to manual. We had to kind of ad-lib and make it up as we went along. If you don’t know your way around, no one was going to show us. I wouldn’t do that to incoming freshmen. I would give them what I knew and let them make their own decisions.”
Do you support term limits?
“I think the best term limit is every four years when we run for re-election. We get the job evaluation every four years and the public is the best judge to determine that.”
What is your position on DROP?
“I think DROP was never meant for elected officials. I was one of the freshmen in our first 90 days to introduce legislation to drop elected officials from the program. I think we have to carefully move forward to alter the existing program because it is a burden financially and perceptually a nightmare to explain to the public.”
Why should the voters give you another term?
“I think the city, in spite of a recession, is moving in the right direction. Although the relationship sometimes between the Mayor’s office and City Council has been stormy, at the end of the day we’ve done good work and continue to move this city forward. Particularly for me as an individual, I take this job very seriously and I will continue to be value-added to the process.”
What’s the most interesting non-political thing about you? What one thing would you like voters to know?
“I’m intergenerational. I’m every bit as comfortable sitting at a senior citizen adult daycare center as I am sitting with middle school young people talking about some of their problems. I try to be relevant in both environments. I’m fairly easily able to understand the concerns of the Baby Boomers as they move into their fourth quarter of life. What is exemplified in my public policy stance is that I’m moving on a conference in April for aging in place, which deals with “New Age Aging,” that seniors are more vibrant. So I’ve been working with that population to do that. But also I introduced the Intern Tax Credit that impacts young people. So I try to be relevant in each generation both in my interests and in my legislation.”
Written responses from the candidates are posted verbatim. Profiles compiled following telephone interviews are sent to the candidates for verification of their accuracy. The non-partisan Committee of Seventy does not endorse or oppose any candidate and is providing this information as an educational public service. Seventy reserves the right to edit candidate responses for length, clarity, and style.
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