Op-ed: Pennsylvania has to stay on top of necessary fixes

A 177th district Democrat praises Rep. John Taylor’s legacy, and calls for his replacement to take ac.

Her representative: Rep. John Taylor is retiring at the end of the year, and Maranda Duignan hopes he is replaced by a person of action. TIMES FILE PHOTO

By Maranda Duignan

My name is Maranda Duignan and I am a Democrat in the 177th Legislative District. I would like to take this time to discuss a few of the many bills that Republican state Rep. John Taylor has supported and/or passed. I think all issues should best reflect the interests and prosperity of the people of Philadelphia and the state. Taylor has been in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for a number of years and is deemed as “Philly’s most powerful Republican.” I am sorry to hear that he is now retiring, but he leaves behind a legacy of change.

Gerrymandering is a big issue for Pennsylvania and especially in Philadelphia. My district, the 177th, is one of those districts clearly drawn to maintain Republican representation. I think drawing new boundary lines is important so that representation is fairly chosen by the people, where Democratic voters and Republican voters are both represented. Taylor is a co-sponsor for a bill that many of the city’s House delegation Democrats support to create an independent citizens commission that would draw new legislative boundary lines. I hope that he will continue to push that bill and push for individuals of both parties to think of the citizens and not make corrupt deals in order to keep a seat. After all, what good is a seat if it is not being used for the good of the people?

As for education, it is a widely debated issue of how to go about funding schools, but everyone can agree that education is important. It is notable that Taylor introduced legislation that was passed into law to create a pilot program to expand recovery high schools so that high school students can attend classes without being near their former drug dealers. In a vast city like Philadelphia, drugs can be a big problem, but they should not get in the way of students being able to attend school.

He was also recently in support of the School District of Philadelphia, which my school is under, becoming locally controlled and ending state control. Taylor agreed with Mayor Jim Kenney that the School Reform Commission should dissolve now so that the schools can be locally funded and controlled for the 2018–2019 year. But how will he ensure that city residents will be able to support the mayor’s plan to make up the school district’s deficit? If taxes are raised to support the schools, there needs to be legislation to make sure that the money is being properly used in the schools. This includes continued support of our teachers in their contracts and proper raises in the coming years. This also includes finding a way to fund schools so that all students can receive the same quality of education.

Taylor is chairman of the House Transportation Committee, which provides oversight of the state’s mass transit systems and transportation infrastructure, including roads, bridges and highways. I think it is important to provide further funding for our city’s public transportation, SEPTA. SEPTA is essential to Philadelphians, and we need to see more of it in the outer areas of Philadelphia. In an area such as North Philadelphia and the Northeast, where I live, there needs to be more buses and other route options so that people are able to get to other areas of the city in a more convenient and timely manner. These outer areas are more spread out, and so it becomes more difficult to travel.

On a final issue, John Taylor has sponsored many bills pertaining to crime and offenses. A bill on littering is one that he sponsored to increase fines in order to give municipalities more resources to clean up their communities. I think that is a great idea, as litter is a big problem in urban Philadelphia. However, only one-third of the money is being directed back to that community where the offense occurred. I think that either a greater percentage should go back to the community, or there needs to be legislation on how the other two-thirds will be spent to improve the cleanliness of that community and all other communities.

Change is constant, and it is important for our city to continue to change for the needs of the people. ••

Maranda Duignan is a senior at Julia R. Masterman High School. Members of the senior class have been assigned to write about their state representatives.