By State Reps. Jared G. Solomon, Kevin J. Boyle, Michael J. Driscoll, Joe Hohenstein, and Ed Neilson
On Jan. 16, the Philadelphia delegation to the PA House of Representatives unveiled the Philadelphia Platform. For many, this sentence probably prompts three questions: What is the Philadelphia delegation, what is the Philadelphia Platform and what does it mean for my family and my community in Northeast Philadelphia?
The Philadelphia delegation is a group of Democratic representatives in Harrisburg whose districts are, either in full or in part, located in Philadelphia. We come together in Philadelphia to learn from stakeholders about issues of citywide importance, and in Harrisburg we meet regularly to discuss bills before the House. By rallying together as a bloc, we can have important influence on legislation, budgetary decisions and agency regulations, particularly when it pertains to the commonwealth’s biggest city.
The Philadelphia Platform is a new and noteworthy statement outlining a series of 23 policy proposals, under four so-called “planks” aimed at reducing poverty in Philadelphia. It enumerates what we aim to accomplish in the next two years in Harrisburg, specifically in the areas of workforce development, commercial corridors, criminal justice and infrastructure. It is noteworthy because it is the first time in at least a decade the delegation has put forward such a clear, unified legislative agenda.
So what are the implications for Northeast Philly, a portion of which we each represent? First, we must acknowledge that poverty in the Northeast is growing. Almost every portion of Northeast Philadelphia has seen median household income fall in the past 10 years, and in some cases, the poverty rate has increased substantially. For example, in Lawncrest, the poverty rate went from 17 percent to 30 percent; in Mayfair, from 12 percent to 18 percent; in Rhawnhurst, from 13 percent to 18 percent. (Source: philly.com/philly/news/poverty-new-census-figures-philadelphia-neighborhoods-whites-opioids-20181206.html) We see this in each of our district offices every day – people come in looking for help getting a job, fighting homelessness or putting food on the table. It is these people specifically and our city in general that this Platform aims to help. This Philadelphia Platform indeed aims to create a rising tide that lifts all ships.
It starts with building up our workforce – providing career pathways for young people, adult learners and immigrants alike. The plan also connects our education needs with job creation by focusing on increasing supports for Career and Technical Education (CTE) designed to prepare young people for family-sustaining jobs in the trades. It continues by bolstering our commercial corridors, places like Bustleton, Torresdale or Castor avenues, where people open their first business, hire their first employees or get their first job. It tackles structural inequalities in our criminal justice system that wrenches families apart and treats people with serious mental illnesses by putting them behind bars instead of with doctors. And it targets regional investments in our infrastructure that helps businesses grow, attracts companies and, importantly, ensures our kids learn in safe, state-of-the-art classrooms.
There is no panacea for poverty, but this Platform is an important start. And if we in the Philadelphia delegation are able to get some (or, God willing, all) of these policies enacted, it will improve opportunities for Northeast families and help put people to work. ••