In a “small-big city” like Philadelphia, we are not strangers to diversity, poverty or flaws in our education system. No community is perfect. These are concerns that plague the minds of many Philadelphia citizens, and I applaud state Rep. Jared Solomon, of the 202nd Legislative District, for his efforts in combating these core societal flaws. If there is one thing I can confidently say appears very little in politics, it is Solomon’s central message of unity and cooperation that persists not only within and between communities, but across party lines, an admirable message that is not frequently seen in today’s oftentimes hostile political climate.
It is refreshing to have someone in office who is truly working for the good of the community as a whole, someone who views education, poverty, the environment and other aspects of our society not as partisan issues, but as human issues. This is an area in which many politicians fall short.
Growing up, I didn’t have parents who knew which schools were “good” or where to take me to play outside of the confines of our neighborhood. Despite my fond memories of elementary school and neighborhood recreation centers, they certainly did not receive the best funding, and my playmates and I recognized that we got the short end of the stick, even at a young age. Solomon’s efforts to improve our community through increased funding and a well-rounded education help to ensure that children after me will be able to experience these facilities in the manner that they — and all children — deserve. He has already taken a handful of steps in the right direction, enriching student minds by sponsoring bills providing for sex-ed, anti-bullying and mental health education while also protecting their physical well being by sponsoring House Bill 1448, requiring lead testing in school water systems.
Not only has he sought increased funding for many underprivileged schools, his efforts to reduce gun violence help foster a feeling of care and safety within our neighborhood and beyond. For many students, the first sight they see upon entering the school building is that of intimidating metal detectors put in place as a precaution. Many walk the halls, wondering whether the moment they chose to use the bathroom would be their last. As an advocate of stricter gun regulations, Solomon helped to secure $2.5 million in funding for the Philadelphia gun violence task force and persistently opposes the NRA and widespread gun use, once again facilitating the creation of an environment in which the education of future children will not be obfuscated by fear of death and violence.
Many Philadelphia residents, however, could be less than thrilled at the idea of a beverage tax. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a sugary beverage at lower cost? Solomon believes otherwise. He sees the beverage tax as a method through which we can “transform our recreation centers, expand high-quality pre-K education and increase the number and quality of community schools in Northeast Philadelphia and the city as a whole.” While the prospect of a tax on our favorite sugary drinks does not sound appealing on the surface level, Solomon cannot be blamed for attempting to direct more money toward bettering communal facilities and increasing the range and quality of primary education.
Generally, Solomon works toward the idea of increased jobs and wages to aid the economy, but more specifically, he aims to tackle the issue of poverty. His efforts shine brightest in this issue through Philadelphia Platform and the generous grant toward the Homelessness Prevention Program or Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network he presented this early November. After all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link and the same concept applies to our economy. Solomon’s work thus far as District 202’s state representative is worthy of admiration, however, there are a few topics that have been left partially in the dark. While many of us may understand prejudice and hardship, our situations — believe it or not — pale in comparison to the agony of families being detained and separated as you read these words. Currently, my school is fundraising to help support a family over the holidays that has been torn apart by ICE as a result of recent immigration policy disputes. My heart is warmed by the thought of our small community helping out fellow Philadelphians, however, it saddens me that we must raise money for this charity at all. Solomon has done a fantastic job tackling inequity and preaching solidification of our community thus far, but I hope he shifts a larger portion of his focus onto the more pressing issue of immigration in the upcoming year. Perhaps more can be done to expand the definition of a “legal” immigrant or to put, at the very least, a temporary pause on detention camps so that families are no longer torn apart in this savage manner.
Nevertheless, the belief that communal success cannot be achieved without education, cooperation, diversity and unity is one that I believe needs to be further promoted in politics and I thank Solomon for being the one to voice those ideas. ••
Katie Huynh is a student at Julia R. Masterman High School.