Democratic mayoral candidates Jeff Brown and Maria Quinones Sanchez spoke at Monday’s Take Back Your Neighborhood meeting.
Brown, who once lived in Bustleton, owns 12 ShopRite and Fresh Grocer supermarkets. He lamented the rise of shoplifting, some of it caused by flash mobs, leading some Wawa and Starbucks stores to close. District Attorney Larry Krasner generally does not prosecute retail thefts of less than $500.
“Him and I don’t agree on that,” Brown said.
Brown favors hiring more police officers and filling the 5,000 vacant city jobs, contending that overtime and workers’ compensation cases are squeezing the budget.
He favors rebuilding public schools that have significant issues such as asbestos and leaky roofs. He believes the recent Commonwealth Court decision that determined the state has shortchanged city schools will lead to more funding. He opposes new taxes and said he’d seek grants to fund school and public safety initiatives. He wants more career and technical education, arguing that it would help lower the dropout rate, linking the high dropout rate to future poverty.
He’d hire a lawyer advocate for homeowners who believe their property taxes are too high. He’d also hire a housing czar, who’d be in charge of, among other things, the city’s 8,000 vacant properties.
“I’d like to sell all 8,000 properties,” he said.
Brown plans to hire public safety officers for non-violent cases, suggesting the first batch of them could come from police department applicants who have yet to be accepted into the academy. On a related note, he said he’s spoken to police officers who lack confidence in Commissioner Danielle Outlaw.
“I don’t like the decisions she makes,” he said.
Quinones Sanchez, who served 15 years in City Council, described herself as a “policy girl.”
In office, she worked with 36 registered community organizations in the 7th district, said she had close working relationships with police commanders, funded playground improvements, added public trash cans to streets and voted for affordable housing funding.
If elected, she wants every neighborhood to have a good public elementary school. She’d give juniors and seniors in underperforming schools the chance to study at Community College of Philadelphia. She’d create a School Building Authority that would, among other things, demolish some obsolete buildings. She is hopeful that new Gov. Josh Shapiro, from Montgomery County, will aid Philadelphia schools. She has a lofty goal of making Community College of Philadelphia tuition free.
“Why can’t Philadelphia be the model for free community college?” she asked.
Sanchez would create a Public Safety Dashboard that would list backlogged court cases and decisions by bail commissioners.
“I would share that Public Safety Dashboard,” she said of residents.
In office, she would implement zero-based budgeting to avoid waste in city departments. She’d try to improve basic services and promote transparency, better monitor 311 cases, open city-managed urgent care centers to ease emergency room crowding and create Project Management positions to make sure major construction projects are completed properly.
Since so many opioid abusers in Kensington are from the suburbs, she favors an inter-county task force to address the problem. She would empower outreach teams to identify abusers and connect them with their families. She faults Mayor Jim Kenney for the problem.
“He has tied the hands of police to not enforce anything,” she said.
Though not in Council anymore, she is looking forward to the city health center and supermarket coming to the Frankford Transportation Center area. There’s a six-month wait for Northeast residents, she said, to make an appointment at existing health centers.
Eleven Democrats, including four women, are running to be Philadelphia’s 100th mayor. The first 99 mayors have been men.
“It is time,” Sanchez said about electing a woman mayor.
In other news from the meeting:
• Capt. Marc Metellus, commander of the 2nd Police District, and community relations officer Mark Mroz were in attendance.
Mroz called for a moment of silence in memory of Bonnie Kaye, co-owner and director of the Northeast Learning Center. He mentioned that, in a recent two-week period in the 2nd district, there were 72 cars stolen, including 47 Hyundais and Kias. He also mentioned that an 11-year-old in a stolen car crashed the vehicle on Cottman Avenue.
The officer recommends that people sign up for the Civilian Police Academy, which meets Wednesday nights for nine weeks at the Philadelphia Police Academy, 2838 Woodhaven Road. The next class will begin on April 23. For more information, contact Cpl. Megan Fabrizio at 215-934-4147 or Megan.Fabrizio@phila.gov.
Metellus will hold a town hall meeting on Wednesday, March 15, from 6-7 p.m. at the Philadelphia Protestant Home, 6401 Martins Mill Road. He asked residents to be eyes and ears to help keep the community safe, as there are fewer officers on the street. ••