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In order to hold our council members accountable, we have to know what’s happening at City Hall.

To get up-to-date info, context around recent bills and general Council news, listen to Inside PHL Council — City Council’s podcast. You can see how Council operations play out from your laptop; watch stated meetings, committee meetings, budget hearings, and member spotlights on Council members City Council’s YouTube channel.

If you’ve got time, or you want to advocate for a particular bill or issue, go to a Council meeting; they’re open to the public, and there’s a public comment period at every meeting, right before Council votes on resolutions and bills. Check out the calendar and meeting agendas to find out when Council will be voting on legislation you care about. Call the Chief Clerk’s office (215-686-3410 or 215-686-3411) to sign up to speak; if you haven’t signed up by 5pm on Wednesday before the meeting, go to Room 400 City Hall before the Council session starts to add your name to the list. You can also show up day of and you’ll have the opportunity to speak after all citizens who signed up. You get three minutes, so make them count.

Remember, our Councilmembers’ jobs are to make sure Philadelphia is working better for us —stop into a council members office (see room numbers here) and talk to their staff, or reach out using the contact info listed in our guide.

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About how City Council works

Philadelphia’s City Council enacts laws and resolutions, holds hearings, and approves the city’s operating budget and members of city boards and commissions.

At-Large councilmembers are elected by citywide popular vote and no political party can have more than five at-large seats.

Our City Council has 25 standing committees, including Labor and Civil Service, Ethics, Children and Youth, and Aging.

All committee meetings are open to the public. Find out when they’re happening here.

Want to know more about how City Council works? Check out the Committee of Seventy’s guide.

 

Who’s On Philadelphia City Council?

Meet Philadelphia City Council's district and at-large members.

MAfter a relatively tumultuous City Council race in 2019, a new Council took office on January 6, 2020. Council’s class of 2020 included 13 incumbents and four new members — including a couple of upsets: Jamie Gauthier, who unseated Jannie Blackwell in the 3rd District, and Working Families Party candidate Kendra Brooks, the first third-party member of Council.

Our list also takes into account resignations. In the second half of 2022, members began to resign in order to run to be Philly’s 100th mayor. So far, prospective candidates for the big job include Derek Green, Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, Cherelle Parker, Allan Domb, and presumably Helen Gym, who resigned but did not immediately declare.

Also missing from the winners of the 2019 election: former Councilmember Bobby Henon, who resigned in February 2022 after a federal jury convicted him of bribery and conspiracy. He was replaced by State Rep. Mike Driscoll in a decision made by local ward leaders.

Who are these people representing us for the next four years? We reached out to all of them to find out more about what they plan to do for Philadelphians. Some — minority leader Brian O’Neill; and Council President Darrell Clarke — declined to talk with us.

The rest offered analysis of the barriers to making change on Philly’s biggest problems and a smattering of policy goals ranging from the vague — neither Helen Gym, Cindy Bass, Kendra Brooks nor Mark Squilla detailed planned legislation; to pie-in-the-sky — Bass’s contention that the state might need one single school district; to the practical — Allan Domb, Isaiah Thomas and Maria Quiñones-Sánchez all plan to address business taxes.

We took a look at the good and not-so-good in incumbents’ track records, and we asked the newcomers about their political heroes to see whose influence they’ll be bringing with them into office.

Check out what our electeds say they stand for, and how to contact them — and let’s hold them accountable for keeping their promises to Philadelphians.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Kendra Brooks | Katherine Gilmore Richardson | Helen Gym** | Jim Harrity * | David Oh |  | Isaiah Thomas | Sharon Vaughn * | Mark Squilla | Kenyatta Johnson | Jamie Gauthier | Curtis Jones | Darrell Clarke | Mike Driscoll | Quetcy Lozada *| Cindy Bass | Anthony Phillips * | Brian O’Neill

*Joined Council November 28, 2022.
**Resigned, leaving seat vacant.

At-Large Council Members

KENDRA BROOKS, 1ST TERM

At-Large Philadelphia City Councilmember Kendra Brooks

Brooks is an activist, community organizer and teacher who ran programs for special needs children for 17 years in the five-county area before traveling nationally to teach restorative justice. She’s organized around women’s rights, disability rights, homelessness and neighborhood schools — she’s known for successfully fighting Mastery Charter’s attempted takeover of Steel Elementary School (which was on the District’s turnaround list again three years later). She’s a member of the Working Families Party, the first third-party candidate to win a seat on Council since 1980. “During my campaign, I think so many folks in Philadelphia didn’t think that their vote counted or didn’t matter,” she says. “I think that me winning this election proved that every vote counts. And I think that was a contribution that I needed to give to my community.”

What are Philly’s most pressing issues? “Poverty and the related issues of gun violence and homelessness.”

What are the biggest barriers to making progress on these issues? “The bureaucracy behind city state federal communication; I think that hinders some of the progress. Also political will and money — I think all of those things are tied up in the bureaucracy. Funding comes at multiple levels and, depending on which level, the political will might not be there.”

What legislation are you hoping to pass in the first two years of your first term? “Policies for alleviating poverty, gun violence and homelessness.”

Why and how should Philadelphians pay attention to local politics? “We have so many issues right here locally that we need to deal with. I come out of the social justice movement, so I encourage people to connect to a community-based organization that’s doing work that you’re interested in. There’s a local coalition on gun violence here in the city; there’s 215 People’s Alliance doing things on housing issues; Philadelphia Tenants Union working on rent control. In order for us to see immediate or quicker responses to our social problems here in Philly, we have to build power, and building power means getting involved and engaged around the issues that you care about the most.”

Who’s your political hero? “Ella Baker. I love her quote, “Strong people don’t need strong leaders.” It sounds strange, me being a politician and feeling that, but I still believe in the power of empowering people to really bring about change; my job is just to write the policy to make it happen, but the voices of the people is where the power comes from.”

How to Contact Kendra Brooks

KATHERINE GILMORE RICHARDSON, 1ST TERM

This photo of Katherine Gilmore Richardson accompanies a guide to who's on Philadelphia City Council right nowVice president of the Young Philly Democrats and former chief of staff to Councilmember Blondell Reynolds Brown, Katherine Gilmore Richardson has an insider’s knowledge about how Council works. She’s proud of a number of accomplishments in her 11 years serving as a legislative aid in City Council: “Working with the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability to pass legislation measuring the energy consumption in commercial buildings; making sure the Commission for Women was a permanent part of city government; and, during the last economic downturn, working on a bill that provided for an extra $30 million for the school district.”

What are Philly’s most pressing issues? “Poverty, education and public safety.”

What are the biggest barriers to making progress on these issues? “I have to give kudos to what Council is doing right now in terms of the special committee on poverty because it’s one of the first real acknowledgments from a legislative perspective that if we collectively work together and look to solutions that we can implement — whether they be legislative or programmatic — then it really helps to move the needle on reducing poverty in our city. I think a lot of the barriers are not having concerted effort, dogged determination, the overall political capital and political will to actually get everything done.”

What legislation are you hoping to pass in the first two years of your first term?

  • Instituting a civil service preference for graduates of career and technical education schools who apply for city jobs, similar to what the city encourages corporate partners and nonprofits to do.
  • Enabling child care for jury service, as a way to increase participation and diversity in jury pools.
  • Introducing a resolution to ensure the City is preparing for any economic downturn, so it becomes part of this year’s budget hearings.

Why and how should Philadelphians pay attention to local politics? “Locally we’re selecting judges for our criminal justice system, we’re electing state officials who are representing us in Harrisburg who will ultimately have a say in the funds we receive for the education system. It’s volunteering, getting involved with your local civic association or your registered community organization. Particularly this year, voter registration and voter education will be important. I also think people don’t realize the small difference people can make just on their local block. You can find out who your block captain is and volunteer with them; if you don’t have a block captain become one. People should get more involved in our partisan and non-partisan organizations, so that they are ultimately involved in some organization that represents the issues and the values that [they] care about.”

Who’s your political hero? “I began working in Blondell Reynolds Brown’s office full time 11 years ago and I have served in every position in her office except for communications. To learn so much about helping people and putting people first and how you get things done and navigating city government — I learned a lot of that from Blondell Reynolds Brown.”

How to Contact Katherine Gilmore Richardson

 

HELEN GYM, 2ND TERM (resigned/seat vacant)

This photo of Helen Gym accompanies a guide to who's on Philadelphia City Council right nowResigned in November 2022.

 

 

 

 JIM HARRITY, 1ST TERM

A native of Southwest Philadelphia, Jim Harrity received his GED from the Community College of Philadelphia, operated the Famous Cookie stall at the Bellevue, was an investigator under City Controller Jonathan Saidel, worked union construction, and struggled with alcoholism. After getting sober, he became the executive director of the Office of State Senator Sharif Street and political director of the Philadelphia Democratic Party — right-hand to Party Chairman and former Congressman Bob Brady. Harrity also recently became the political director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party under Party Chairman Senator Sharif Street. He serves on the board of One Day at a Time, an addiction nonprofit, and believes in educational equity’s power to create social mobility. During a 2022 special election, voters chose Harrity to take Allan Domb‘s seat on City Council.

1. What are Philly’s most pressing issues?

The gun violence epidemic and the lack of support for resources for education and job training. These two issues go hand-in-hand, with the increase in gun violence connected to a lack of social mobility from underfunded schools and training programs. Ideally, Council should prioritize building new school buildings or fund the repair of aging school buildings with asbestos and lead paint.

2. What are the biggest barriers to making progress on these issues?

The legal inability for Philadelphia to pass its own gun laws and crack down on straw purchases and ghost guns — and the reliance on state-level politicians to fund our School District. Council can, however, prioritize funding in its budget to increase funding for educational and community programming which includes conflict resolution, job training, and other evidence-based community centered programs.

3. What legislation are you hoping to pass in the first two years of your first term?

My first priority is to expand the amount of Real Time Crime Center cameras in high crime areas to ensure that law enforcement are able to arrest and prosecute violent offenders. I am also focused on legislation which would address education, employment, and homelessness.

4. Why and how should Philadelphians pay attention to local politics?

Local politics have the most impact on a city’s quality of life. How a city becomes a desirable place to live is tied to a local government’s policy initiatives, and politicians will only care about these initiatives if informed Philadelphians participate in the local political process.

5. Who’s your political hero?

My political hero is former Councilmember Jannie Blackwell because of her dedication to standing up for all those in need, especially the homeless community.

How to contact Jim Harrity

DAVID OH, 3RD TERM

This photo of David Oh accompanies a guide to who's on Philadelphia City Council right nowGlobal Opportunities and Creative Innovative Economy Committee chair

Republican David Oh graduated from Rutgers University Law School and worked as an Assistant to the Philadelphia District Attorney before resigning to join the Army. He was the first Asian-American member of City Council when he was elected in 2012 as one of two Republicans on the body. Oh served in the Army, and although he’s passionate about issues related to vets and first responders, he also lied about his service, saying he’d served as officer in an Army Special Forces Unit and served as a Green Beret. In 2017,  he was robbed and stabbed outside his Southwest Philly home. The man he accused was acquitted in 2018.

The good: Oh created a veterans tax credit for employers who hire returning veterans, authored a bill to increase women’s breastfeeding rights in the workplace, and helped wrangle more money for firefighters.

The not-so-good: Oh does not have a stellar record for getting legislation passed, as in the last session, when his most significant bills — local control of the Philadelphia Parking Authority, School Board elections and tax reform — all languished without a vote from the whole body.

He has been accused at times of commandeering Council for hearings related to issues he himself is facing — as when he put the city’s child welfare system under inspection after he was falsely accused of child abuse when his son was injured in a martial arts lesson.

Not to forget, as a candidate for Council, Oh lied about his military record, claiming he was a Green Beret. He was not.

What are Philly’s most pressing issues? “The immediate issue is crime. In the long term, we get into public education with job training and the economy in terms of jobs and opportunities.”

What are the biggest barriers to making progress on these issues?

Crime: “You’re not having bystanders being shot in Chestnut Hill; you rarely have that in Center City. So what you’re talking about is certain sections of the city: Southwest Philadelphia, North Philadelphia. What government person lives in these neighborhoods? I think there’s a huge disconnect between the government and the people. If people don’t have an understanding of the subject matter, then it’s very hard for them to solve this problem. The idea that we’re going to solve a problem by recognizing that the results of many of the issues that we’re dealing with are rooted in slavery? Um, okay? There’s value in that. But maybe they’re rooted in the fact that for decades and decades and decades, this neighborhood has had crap schools.”

Education: “Equity in education is critically important; every neighborhood public school has got to be the same. Why is it not that? It’s because of politics and contracts and unions and vendors; it’s not like we don’t know that.”

What legislation are you hoping to pass in the first two years of your next term?

  • Reintroducing a bill for an independent audit to review property assessments and refund property owners who are overtaxed by faulty assessments.
  • Reintroducing a transfer ordinance to fund community college $19 million, and a bill to separate community college governance from the mayor.
  • Better technology for law enforcement, like drones.

Why and how should Philadelphians pay attention to local politics? “Everything that we have talked about is local. None of these issues have anything to do with the President: not community college, not the crappy school in people’s neighborhood, not inequity in career training, or issues about what you get at your library. There’s a lot of misinformation out there. The media needs to better inform, the city needs to better inform, someone needs to better inform. Social media is a starting point [for people to inform themselves].”

How to Contact David Oh

ISAIAH THOMAS, 1ST TERM

This photo of Isaiah Thomas accompanies a guide to who's on Philadelphia City Council right nowIsaiah Thomas, who secured his seat on Council after his third race running for Council, is the executive director of Philadelphia Freedom Schools and was formerly President of the Coaches Association for Public League Boys Basketball and the Director of Community Affairs for the City Controller’s Office. He’s most proud of the work he’s done for children across Philadelphia: “I’ve taught everything from undergrad at Lincoln University down to kindergarten. I co-founded the Thomas & Woods Foundation; we do a free camp every year for 125 children the week before school starts. We give them a book bag, school supplies, and other support systems that they need to transition into school the following week.”

What are Philly’s most pressing issues? “Poverty, affordable housing, gun violence and public education.”

What are the biggest barriers to making progress on said issues? “A lot of folks in the city don’t have the opportunity to earn a quality living for themselves and their families, so we’ve got to get rid of the poor people versus the business community dialogue and find a way to attract businesses, specifically businesses that will be able to offer high quality jobs for low skilled workers.”

What legislation are you hoping to pass in the first two years of your first term?

    • Legislation around education reform
    • Legislation to address the city’s tax structure particularly as it affects the business community.
    • Legislation to make Election Day a holiday.

Who’s your political hero? “Henry Nicholas [National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees president] has done everything from supporting Nelson Mandela, to Dr. Martin Luther King, to being one of the first to endorse Barack Obama. When you look at the progressive movement in Philadelphia, he should get a lot of credit for it. A lot of the progressive things that we’re seeing right now [in Philadelphia], these are seeds that he was planting more than a decade ago.”

How to Contact Isaiah Thomas

SHARON VAUGHN, 1ST TERM

Sharon Vaughn, a Feltonville resident, has been the Democratic leader of the 42nd Ward and the chief of staff of At-Large Councilmember Derek Green, who resigned to run for mayor — and whom Vaughn replaced on City Council in the 2022 special election. Over the course of her 30-year career in city government, she has worked for other former Councilmembers including Marian Tasco and the late Augusta “Gussie” Clark. Vaughn has said she would work to prevent gun violence by seeking those who’ve committed crimes and offering them “some type of resources to maybe prevent them from going out there and being violent criminals,” which she told the Inquirer.

1. What are Philly’s most pressing issues?

I would say Philadelphia’s most pressing issues, aside from economic pressures related to inflation and the pandemic, are gun violence and poverty.

2. What are the biggest barriers to making progress on these issues?

Our biggest barriers to making progress on these issues — particularly with respect to crime — is too much finger-pointing and too little problem-solving. So much more progress can be made by taking time to really hear from and engage with our youth (meeting them where they are in their lives), who oftentimes are the ones directly impacted by the levels of deep poverty in our city and lack of access to resources. With regard to poverty, the biggest challenge we have is providing equal opportunities for our small, minority-owned businesses to grow — which generates jobs, wealth, and nurtures our communities from within.

3. What legislation are you hoping to pass in the first two years of your first term?

While I have not yet narrowed down specific legislation I want to enact this upcoming year, I am interested in exploring our mail-in voting system a bit further to see how Philadelphia can better accommodate and uphold the voting rights of those under long-term care or hospitalized for extended periods of time, who may not have been able to participate in elections as a result.

4. Why and how should Philadelphians pay attention to local politics?

Philadelphians — particularly those approaching 18 — must give the same energy to local politics and voting as they do to the latest TikTok challenge or updating their stories and reels on Instagram. Those who are my age are voting to ensure the future looks bright for their generation and those who will follow them. From reproductive rights and equitable health care to a more sustainable environment and safe, higher-quality schools: These are issues that affect us all but especially the younger generations. If you’d rather not watch TV news, check to see what the news outlets are saying on your Facebook news feed before you update your status. Our people must stay engaged, informed, and empowered!

5. Who’s your political hero?

My political hero is the woman who gave me my start in city government, the late and honorable Councilmember Augusta “Gussie” Clark.

How to contact Sharon Vaughn

District Council Members

MARK SQUILLA, 1ST DISTRICT, 3RD TERM

This photo of Mark Squilla accompanies a guide to who's on Philadelphia City Council right nowStreets and Services Committee chair

After graduating from LaSalle University with a degree in computer science, Mark Squilla worked for 25 years as a systems analyst for the state auditor general’s office. He’s been a member of the Democratic City Committee since 1998 and started the Burke Community Fund to support Burke Playground in his neighborhood. He was elected president of his neighborhood Whitman Council before running for City Council in 2010. He’s known for his robust constituent services — including helping to start Friends Of groups and making generous contributions from campaign and discretionary funds to organizations in his district. Squilla touts his work on the controversial construction tax bill (which narrowly passed in Council and was withdrawn and renegotiated with Mayor Kenney).

The good: After about a decade of trying, Squilla’s plastic ban bill finally passed Council on the last day of the session, potentially saving the city as much as $12 million a year it now spends cleaning plastic bag waste from streets and sewers.

The not-so-good: Squilla has put up some head-scratching legislation over the years, including one putting restrictions on music venues (scrapped), and others that spot-rezoned land in his district, including banning curb cuts on 9th Street between Catherine and Federal streets.

What are Philly’s most pressing issues? “The opioid crisis; homelessness; trash and blight; and quality of life crimes.”

What are the biggest barriers to making progress on these issues?

Opioid Crisis: “The city put in a no-smoking policy for treatment; if you do smoke and you want to get treatment, you won’t be able to stay in those treatment facilities. We might want to reevaluate that. We have to evaluate how we work with the people who are caught selling drugs, the people who are actively using.”

Homelessness: “There should be a continuum of care where you initially get into our shelter system and then progress into low barrier housing, transitional housing and then housing. The day work programs that we’re putting in place and piloting seem to be working pretty well. We just need to grow that.”

Crime: “We used to have a community court program that got dissolved: say you got charged with underage drinking, graffiti, mischief, simple crimes — instead of bringing you in and going to court with the chance of going to jail, they would say 24 hours community service. It allows people to do community service instead of getting convicted of a minor crime which really doesn’t help them when they need to get a job or other things in the future.”

What legislation are you hoping to pass in the first two years of your next term? Legislation around environmental issues and reducing waste and trash.

Why should we Philadelphians pay attention to local politics; how can we be more engaged locally? “The people who really affect your everyday living are your local elected officials. People who you could reach out to, see at a meeting, are the ones you should really be concentrating on because they could really impact your lives. Join the “friends of” your park; if you don’t have one, create one. Join the RCOs [Registered Community Organizations] or just go to their meetings and find out what’s going on in your community. Your involvement makes things happen.”

How to Contact Mark Squilla

KENYATTA JOHNSON, 2ND DISTRICT, 3RD TERM

This photo of Kenyatta Johnson accompanies a guide to who's on Philadelphia City Council right nowLegislative Oversight Committee chair, Transportation and Public Utilities Committee chair

Kenyatta Johnson, is a former PA senate staffer, state representative and the founder of (controversial) anti-violence group Peace Not Guns. He graduated from Penn with a masters in government administration, volunteered with AmeriCorps and was a founding staff member of City Year. Raised in Point Breeze, Johnson has represented the 2nd District since 2012. Johnson is facing a federal corruption trial in 2022.

The good: Johnson pushed through the Longtime Owner Occupants Program, which allows tax relief for residents who have lived in their homes for more than 10 years, and was integral in pushing for higher wages for airport workers.

The not-so-good: Johnson has faced criticism — and legal battles — over vacant land sales in his district. He and his wife Dawn Chavous were the subjects of a three-year ongoing FBI investigation and subsequent bribery trial about the below-market land sales and the work Chavous did on behalf of Universal Companies on a development project in his district. Both Johnson and Chavous were acquitted.

What are Philly’s most pressing issues? “Gun violence, affordable/workforce housing, and addressing our ailing schools.”

What are the biggest barriers to making progress on these issues? “For all three, having all the stakeholders taking a collaborative approach and working together. I don’t think we take advantage of getting everyone to the table. Collaboration and people working together is the key to addressing these issues differently than what has been done before. I think the federal government needs to have a greater role in working with us around the issue of gun violence, affordable workforce housing, as well as our schools.”

What legislation are you hoping to pass in the first two years of your next term?

  • Looking at property assessments, to make sure the CIty is not overtaxing residents.
  • Incentives around affordable and workforce housing.

Why and how should Philadelphians pay attention to local politics? “We make decisions that have a direct impact on the quality of lives of the people here in the city of Philadelphia — from getting potholes filled, to making sure that people’s taxes aren’t pricing people out of their homes, to making sure our young people are getting a good education.

First and foremost I encourage everyone to vote. But also become a block captain, a local committee person, chair your local election board, join a local social activist organization like The Working Families Group or Reclaim, your local neighborhood association. Or I encourage people to run for office, get involved in civics and politics and make sure they have a say in what takes place in their neighborhood and in their city. Come down and visit City Council to observe the legislative process or provide input during a public comment. People’s voices matter.”

How to Contact Kenyatta Johnson

JAMIE GAUTHIER, 3RD DISTRICT, 1ST TERM

This photo of Jamie Gauthier accompanies a guide to who's on Philadelphia City Council right nowAfter graduating with a masters in City & Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania, Jamie Gauthier joined the Philadelphia Local Initiatives Support Coalition where she was an advocate for affordable housing. More recently she served as the executive director of the Sustainable Business Network and the Fairmount Park Conservancy. “I feel incredibly fortunate in terms of the experience I’ve been able to participate in,” she says. “I got to put critical grant dollars towards affordable housing at their earliest stages; I got to advocate for policy that would help locally-owned businesses; I got to build a park! I see my whole career as having been about helping residents shape their neighborhoods and their city.”

What are Philly’s most pressing issues? “Poverty, and related issues — affordable housing, public education, and crime.”

What are the biggest barriers to making progress on those issues? “I think we have not quite figured out how to change our systems in a way that will help people move up the ladder. We certainly haven’t gotten there in terms of how much people are able to make on the job and the benefits that they get. We’ve not gotten there from a public education perspective. Why? I think the people who most need that change don’t have the political power or the resources to change those systems. So they’re stuck with being served in a very fragmented way, in a way that hasn’t delivered the impact they really need.”

What types of legislation are you hoping to pass in the first two years of your next term?

  • Inclusive development
  • Supporting local, minority-owned businesses and bringing more local jobs to the district
  • Zoning and remapping; stronger inclusionary ordinance

Why and how should Philadelphians pay attention to local politics? “What happens locally defines most of the things you experience in your everyday life, from the conditions of your streets to your rec center — whether you have parks, the condition of your school, your access to jobs. In Philly we’ve had an apathy around engaging in our local elections and I’m hoping to see that change. There are a million ways you can engage towards changing your community on a day to day basis.”

Who’s your political hero? “Elizabeth Warren. I have long admired her (since her role in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) as a champion for working families. I find her to be smart, capable, and thoughtful, and I’m rooting for her success in 2020!”

How to Contact Jamie Gauthier:

CURTIS JONES, 4TH DISTRICT, 3RD TERM

This photo of Curtis Jones accompanies a guide to who's on Philadelphia City Council right nowMajority whip, Commerce and Economic Development Committee chair, Public Safety Committee chair

Curtis Jones represents parts of West and Northwest Philadelphia, where he grew up. He has a degree in accounting and a Master’s certificate in contract compliance. Jones, who is Muslim, introduced legislation that pushed the city and School District to acknowledge Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha as official municipal holidays. He serves on the Pennsylvania Crime & Delinquency Commission and Criminal Justice Advisory Board and has focused on criminal justice reform in his work on Council.

The good: Jones has done a lot of work in criminal justice reform, including helping to establish day reporting centers and diversion programs, and other efforts that led to the closing of the city’s House of Corrections.

The not-so-good: Jones used his Councilmanic Prerogative last year to ban marijuana dispensaries from eight commercial corridors in his West Philly district — a piecemeal approach to planning and development that benefits the few over the many.

What are Philly’s most pressing issues? “Public safety, economic parity, and smart growth in the City of Philadelphia that does not displace long term residents.”

What are the biggest barriers to making progress on these issues? “Education is the big equalizer. When you believe you have a future, you don’t want to risk your future with foolishness such as violence. And it’s the way to adjust poverty without just transferring it. You have trade schools right in Philadelphia that, if you don’t have a qualified workforce, you can grow one. We have to start thinking differently.”

What legislation are you hoping to pass in the first two years of your next term?

  • Digging down on affordable housing.
  • Addressing the school to prison pipeline, particularly in the 11 zip codes that produce 90 percent of the city’s inmates in state prison.
  • Authorizing in the city budget that for every dollar a department saves, 25 cents of that goes back to the department for further investment.

Why and how should Philadelphians pay attention to local politics? “So we failed as elected officials in this respect. We have not created a compelling argument to show that when people vote, they benefit. There’s a detachment between younger voters and them understanding — particularly millennials — that this process affects them directly. So we’ve got to do a better job of political education. You are 24/7 connected; you can share information, you can fact check, [you can] attend rallies.”

How to Contact Curtis Jones

DARRELL CLARKE, 5TH DISTRICT, 5TH TERM

This photo of Darrell Clarke accompanies a guide to who's on Philadelphia City Council right nowCouncil President, Ethics Committee chair, Fiscal Stability and Intergovernmental Cooperation Committee chair

Darrell Clarke has represented a district that encompasses some of Philadelphia’s poorest neighborhoods, in North Philadelphia, and some of its richest, in Center City, since 1999, when John Street became mayor. As Council President since 2012, he rivals the Mayor as the most powerful politician in the city, and has not had a challenger since 2011. As the year ended, Clarke vowed to tackle the city’s poverty rate, bringing it down from 25 percent to 20 percent — around 100,000 people — over the next four years.

The good: Clarke has pushed for housing reforms to help low-income residents, including the Philly First Home program, which helped nearly 900 families buy their first home in its first six months. He was also critical in establishing the Land Bank and the Philadelphia Energy Authority, and has at times curbed Mayor Kenney’s propensity for raising taxes.

The not-so-good: Clarke has the ability to stand in the way of change, as when he refused to schedule hearings in 2015 on the possible sale of Philadelphia Gas Works, which could have brought $1.8 billion to the city. Clarke is among the Councilmembers who contends every development project in his district should go through him, and last year he came under scrutiny for his role in ensuring land near Temple University was sold — below market rate — to real estate developer Shawn Bullard.

Clarke declined to speak to The Citizen for this piece.

How to Contact Darrell Clarke

MIKE DRISCOLL, 6TH DISTRICT, 1ST TERM

Democrat Michael Driscoll, a Pennsylvania congressman representing the Northeast, was chosen by Philadelphia ward leaders to replace Councilmember Bobby Henon, who resigned in February 2022 after a federal jury convicted him federal corruption charges.

Rep. Driscoll has served in the statehouse since 2014. He is a graduate of Cardinal Doughtery High School and LaSalle University. He has a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Driscoll comes into this position after many years working in government. Before serving as a state representative, he was deputy secretary of the Department of General Services under Governor Bob Casey.

Mike Driscoll, 6th District, 1st TERM

Michael Driscoll, a former State Representative, was chosen by Philadelphia ward leaders to replace Councilmember Bobby Henon, who resigned in February 2022 after a federal jury convicted him of federal corruption charges.

Councilmember Driscoll had served in the statehouse since 2014. He is a graduate of Cardinal Dougherty High School and LaSalle University. He has a Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Driscoll came into this position after many years working in government. Before serving as a state representative, he was deputy secretary of the Department of General Services under Governor Bob Casey.

What are Philly’s most pressing issues?  

In my view, there are two primary issues facing the city. The first is crime and gun violence. We have reached a point where people are afraid to leave their homes without being robbed, attacked, or shot. This is unacceptable. The second issue relates to the quality of life issues my community members call my office about. This ranges from abandoned cars, short dumping, illegal truck parking, and beyond.

What are the biggest barriers to making progress on these issues?

One of the biggest barriers to tackling the gun violence problem in the city has been the inability to keep a coordinated coalition of stakeholders together to tackle this problem. From City Council and the Administration to city agencies, community groups, religious groups, and beyond, all must work together to effectively tackle the issue. Beyond this, my experience in the State Legislature has shown me firsthand the impact that state legislation has on Philadelphia. We must work within the confines of our authority as a city council to address these critical issues.

What legislation are you hoping to pass in the first two years of your first term?

As Chair of the Committee on Licenses and Inspections, I hope to bolster the resources and effectiveness of the Department on Licenses and Inspections. So many activities in our city from opening a restaurant, renting an apartment, or building a building interface with L&I. By improving the department we can get Philadelphia up and running even faster.

Why and how should Philadelphians pay attention to local politics?

The age-old saying that all politics is local holds. From whether a “no truck parking” sign is installed, to whether the short dumping we see is addressed, that is influenced by a local political leader. So many of the quality of life issues we face as a city can only be addressed by the City and so we must ensure that we hold our local leaders accountable. One of the best ways to do so is to get involved with our local community and civic groups.

Who’s your political hero?

My political heroes are John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama. I was a very young boy when JFK was elected president. He was the first Irish Catholic President, and this made me feel represented in my government. Years later, when a young U.S. Senator from the state of Illinois ran for president, I supported him campaigning in Philadelphia. Again, I strongly believe that representation matters. These two men opened so many young people’s eyes to what they can accomplish. If anyone stops by my office in City Hall they are more than welcome to admire the memorabilia of these two men that is displayed.

How to Contact Mike Driscoll

QUETCY LOZADA, 7TH DISTRICT, 1ST TERM

Quetcy Lozada served from 2008 to 2018 as former 7th District Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sánchez’s chief of staff, whose seat Lozada assumed in the 2022 special election. She’s a Philadelphia native, Northwood resident, mother of two, and vice president of community engagement and organizing for the Hunting Park Christian service group Esperanza. She also served on the Pennsylvania Commission of Latino Affairs and worked for the Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations (Concilio) and the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau. Her community service includes collecting and distributing hundreds of Thanksgiving baskets for families in need, a LIHEAP drive to assist Spanish-speaking residents in completing applications for utility bill assistance, a citywide winter coat drive, and public clean-ups.

1. What are Philly’s most pressing issues?

Gun violence is one of Philly’s most pressing issues, but in the 7th Council District, we are also dealing with open-air narcotics wars and being the epicenter of the opioid crisis — all of which are deteriorating residents’ quality of life.

2. What are the biggest barriers to making progress on these issues?

Some of the barriers that prevent us from making progress on these issues are lack of investment in marginalized communities as well as government’s unwillingness to enforce and hold people accountable for unlawful behavior. Creating strategies that include community participation is one of government’s biggest challenges.

3. What legislation are you hoping to pass in the first two years of your first term?

In my first 14 months, I would like to work on legislation that would improve residents’ quality of life and end the blatant use of opioids in the 7th District without accountability.

4. Why and how should Philadelphians pay attention to local politics?

Local politics has a direct impact on quality of life; these are the elected offices they can walk directly into for support and change. So, in essence, they are the most important elections.

5. Who’s your political hero?

I was brought into Philly’s political environment by former Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sánchez. Everything I have learned about government, how it functions and how it impacts community residents, I learned from her.

How to contact Quetcy Lozada

 

CINDY BASS, 8TH DISTRICT, 3RD TERM

This photo of Cindy Bass accompanies a guide to who's on Philadelphia City Council right nowParks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Committee chair; Public Health and Human Services Committee chair

Cindy Bass has been involved in local politics since she became a committee person and the president of her East Mount Airy Neighbors association. She worked for State Senator Allyson Schwartz and was the senior policy advisor on urban and domestic policy to former Congressman Chaka Fattah. (In 2016, Fattah was convicted on 23 counts of racketeering, fraud and other corruption charges, and is now serving a 10 year sentence.) Bass is among the councilmembers expected to put her hat in the ring for mayor in 2023.

The good: Though controversial, Bass pushed through the Stop and Go Bill — a law that clarifies licensing requirements for neighborhood convenience stores that sell booze and other “get-high” products, as Bass calls them, like over-the-counter-medicines and “crack pipes.”

The not-so-good: In 2018, Bass tried to ban day cares from her district, an example of Councilmanic Prerogative run amok that critics say stands in the way of strong economic development in the Northwest.

What are Philly’s most pressing issues? “Crime; blight and trash; and education.”

What are the biggest barriers to making progress on these issues?

Crime: “All these things are interconnected: If you’re born into a poor neighborhood, you go to a poorly funded school; if you go to a poorly funded school you get a poor education; if you get a poor education you’re only able to get a poor paying job; you get a poor paying job you have to live in a poor neighborhood. The same people who are committing crimes are the same people who are being shot, are the same people who are doing the shooting, are the same people who are on parole. The way you take people out of it is with a good paying job.”

Blight and trash: “Philadelphia needs a two-day trash pick-up period; what we have now is just unacceptable. We also need a roving trash crew to go through neighborhoods that are chronically dumped. The city should invest more in the streets department — another opportunity for viable employment for folks.”

Education: “Having 501 school districts [in Pennsylvania] is to me what the big problem is. We have used the excuse of breaking up the school district as a way to segregate children and to not properly educate them, and to educate some over others. It’s just not acceptable. I think next year as we go into electing our state legislators, we need to be asking them what do you think about having one school district and what can you do to make that happen. We can’t do it alone, we have to do it as one collective, in my opinion.”

What legislation are you hoping to pass in the first two years of your next term? “I don’t want to get into specifics — anything that we’re working on will be related to our committees, parks and rec and health and human services; and tax policy.”

Why and how should Philadelphians pay attention to local politics? “All politics is local. We can’t sit around and say, when is the city going to put flowers in; when is the city going to beautify this corridor? These are our neighborhoods, we need to own them. We can’t sit around at our rec centers and say when is the city going to paint that rusty piece on the rec center? We need to join our advisory council and be a part of that and say, when are we going to have a spruce up day ourselves? We have plenty of neighborhood block parties and events; when are we going to do some of the work that needs to be done, for our kids and for our neighborhoods? There’s plenty to do. If people need something to do they should just call us and we’ll put them to work.”

How to Contact Cindy Bass

ANTHONY PHILLIPS, 9TH DISTRICT, 1ST TERM

Anthony Phillips grew up in working-class Philadelphia and is the Vice Chair of the 50th Ward. Phillips is a Ph.D. student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, recipient of a Master’s from Yale University, and an undergraduate degree from Bates College. Before winning the 2022 special election seat vacated by Cherelle Parker, Phillips served as executive director and co-founder of Youth Action, a program connecting Philly’s middle and high school students to service opportunities to inspire socially responsible leadership. Phillips also directed precollege programs at TeenSHARP, an organization that opens doors for minority youth to achieve scholarships and gain admission to selective universities.

1. What are Philly’s most pressing issues?

Crime. Hope. And a spirit that says we can get this done. We have to restore hope at every level in this town. We have to stop acting like many of these problems are not chronic and bedeviling issues for generations. Hope compels us to clean streets and to have high expectations of ourselves and our neighbors. Hope encourages teachers to teach differently, parents to send their children to school prepared to learn and students ready to be in place and to suck up all that their education and life have to offer! We need hope and real solutions!

2. What are the biggest barriers to making progress on these issues?

The greatest barrier to what we want to accomplish is low expectations. Our challenges are great to fulfill the massive potential of Philadelphia. And if we don’t believe in ourselves or our innate capacity to accomplish these things, we will never get to where we belong. Philly needs a renewed sense of destiny.

3. What legislation are you hoping to pass in the first two years of your first term?

A budget that reflects our needs and reality. A disciplined, yet imaginative budget that speaks to strategic priorities of a post-pandemic, pre-renaissance Philly. Budgets matter. Priorities matter. And investments in what we know works will be hallmarks of my service to my district and the city.

4. Why and how should Philadelphians pay attention to local politics?

Elections have consequences. Democracy and elections are a temperature check on the health of our republic. Too few people vote in Philly. As elected officials, we need to do more to inspire people — our neighbors. Instead of winning elections solely, we have to start winning the hearts and minds of people. When we move their hearts, we will move their ballots. When our neighbors are engaged, they demand more systems. That will make us better. And eventually we will be a stronger city because of this!

5. Who’s your political hero?

David P. Richardson because he was accessible, created transformative initiatives, and understood that his chief title was not State Rep., instead, it was servant. Roxanne Jones because she cared about working-class families and created policies that mattered to working-class people. And former Councilmember Cherelle Parker, she taught me the importance of championing middle neighborhoods.

How to contact Anthony Phillips

BRIAN O’NEILL, 10TH DISTRICT, 11TH TERM

This photo of Brian O'Neill accompanies a guide to who's on Philadelphia City Council right nowTechnology and Information Services Committee chair, Minority Leader

Republican Brian O’Neill, until now the minority leader on Council, is more or less a lifer: He’s represented the Northeast neighborhoods of Bustleton, Somerton, Pennypack and Parkwood since 1979, and held off the first viable challenge this year from Democrat Judy Moore. He is known for his deep constituent services, with four offices scattered throughout his district. He is past president of the National League of Cities and the Pennsylvania Municipal League. Immediately following the election, the other Republican on Council, David Oh, said he would not vote for O’Neill for minority leader — which may leave the spot open.

O’Neill declined to speak with The Citizen for this piece.

The good: In an increasingly progressive one-party town, O’Neill is a stalwart Republican, representing the most Republican-heavy part of the city. He doesn’t have a lot of power as one of few alternate voices in local politics — but he does represent a bit of political diversity.

The not-so-good: O’Neill is chairman of the controversial Philadelphia Activities Fund, a discretionary fund that members can direct to community organizations in their districts — but that worked in secrecy and without its tax exempt status until media reports this year. And last term, he used Councilmanic Prerogative to push through a ban on food carts in his part of the far Northeast, and to ban roof decks in his district. (The Planning Commission forced a 45-day delay, which effectively killed the roof deck bill last term, though O’Neill could bring it back in 2020.)

How to Contact Brian O’Neill

Header photo courtesy Jared Piper / Philadelphia City Council

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