This year, we have one of the largest fields of City Council candidates in the city’s history and a diversity of age, socioeconomic status, gender, and experience that truly represents our community. With all 17 council seats up for grabs, the future of our city is up for grabs. With so many candidates, spots could be decided by a few thousand votes — or fewer. There’s also a mayoral race that’s heating up in the final weeks before the May 21 primary.
Here’s a question: Do you know how these candidates plan to combat what is arguably our city’s most central challenge — the epidemic of economic insecurity and lack of economic mobility for Philadelphia residents?
We’re trying to find out.
The partners of the Resolve Reporting Collaborative — the 20 media outlets across the city, including The Inquirer, who produce Broke in Philly — spent the last month collecting question suggestions from Philadelphians, to create the Broke in Philly Candidate Questionnaire: eight questions (listed below) that get at issues that lie at the heart of economic mobility in our city. We saw this is a logical addition to our work for the last year aimed at ensuring that solutions to poverty and economic justice stay a steady part of your daily news diet.
The questions were compiled by asking readers to submit questions about poverty and economic security that they wanted to ask of candidates. Broke in Philly received more than 300 suggestions, which we divided into categories like jobs, taxes, and education. Reporting partners then published polls asking readers to choose their favorite. Combining feedback from the public and editorial input from the Reporting Collaborative partners, Broke in Philly finalized a list of eight questions to distribute to candidates.
We have since built a simple and accessible database that lets you — the voters! — see where every mayoral and City Council candidate stands on every question, which we have just made live. You can sort by question or by each race (district and at-large council, or mayoral) or by zip code. And we are working on getting a Spanish version of the site up ASAP.
But here’s the problem: We sent the survey to every campaign three weeks ago...and then we sent it again. Both times: few responses.
As of this article’s writing, all but eight of the candidates we contacted had not responded. Thank you to those eight, who want you to know where they stand on these central questions. Does anyone else?
Well, candidates, you’ve got three more days: until Wednesday, May 8, at 5 p.m. After that, we’re going to spend our energy making sure voters use this database, rather than chasing answers from candidates. We’re also co-hosting a candidate forum on May 9. See below for details.
We hope this op-ed — letting Philadelphians know about the status of the survey you helped create — might spur more of the candidates who are asking for our trust and our votes to share their plans for the city’s future in writing, and transparently. If you see candidates over the next few days, or if you reach out to their campaigns, please ask them — on behalf of all of us — to respond.
The Broke in Philly candidate questionnaire:
If you received a $10 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why? • How will you increase access to public transportation in Philly? • What do you plan to do to make Philadelphia more attractive for small-business owners? • What are three specific steps you will take to expand jobs in sections of the city where the majority of residents experience severe economic hardship? • Do you plan to help people go directly from high school into the workforce? If so, how? If not, why not? • Do you think the current minimum wage is adequate for decent housing and healthy nutrition? If not, how will you address this? • How will you address disparities in Philadelphia’s public education system? • Would you change the city’s wage-tax structure? If so, why and how would you do it?
The MIC Center, the Broke In Philly journalist network, and the Media Mobilizing Project are hosting an at-large candidate forum. The focus will be on economic inequality, touching on housing, education, and criminal justice. Come hear how at at-large council candidates plan to tackle some of the tougher issues that face our city.
Date: May 9th, 2019 6-8 pm (Doors open and Refreshments served at 5:30)
Location: 17th floor of Terra Hall, University of the Arts, 211 South Broad st.19107
Cassie Haynes and Jean Friedman-Rudovsky are co-executive directors of Resolve Philadelphia.