by Brendan Sample
Melissa Scott, a lifelong resident of West Oak Lane, is running against incumbent Chris Rabb for the 200th District seat.
Scott, 40, has a Bachelor’s Degree in business and finance from Howard University.
Scott has been involved in myriad community organizations. She was the President of Friends of Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation (OARC), a Democratic Committeeperson and a block captain.
As a professional, she founded the Young Entrepreneurs Striving for Success (Y.E.S.S), a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing business skills to young people. She has worked in management at Citigroup, Drexel University and was senior IT project manager for the City of Philadelphia’s Revenue Department.
She had a taste of 200th District work when she was the Community and Public Relations Director for former 200th District State Representative, now 9th District Councilperson, Cherelle Parker.
The Local recently sat down with Scott for an interview on what issues are important to her campaign and why she thinks she’d make a good State Rep. in the district.
Why are you running for state representative of the 200th district?
I believe that we need stronger advocacy in Harrisburg and a grassroots agenda. It’s important to have a legislative and a grassroots agenda, and I’m very familiar with that because I’ve worked locally in a community and volunteered my entire life as a committeeperson, Block Captain, president of a nonprofit organization, Friends of OARC [Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation] and having now started a nonprofit myself [Young Entrepreneurs Striving for Success]. Bringing the resources back to our district are extremely important as well, which I’m very familiar with, and I’m experienced and know that I can do better job advocating for our district.
When did you first realize that you wanted to run for this position?
I’ve always been involved, I’ve always been behind the scenes working on various campaigns. I never thought of actually running for the seat until I noticed that the advocacy wasn’t the way that I envisioned it. So I said, “Who better to do it other than myself?”
One of the positions that you’ve had amidst all your experience was when you were the Community and the Public Relations Director under Cherelle Parker when she was the 200th District representative. Since you got a chance to see the representative position up close, how did your time in that position affect your view of the representative position, if at all? Did you gain any new perspectives on the Chestnut Hill/Mt. Airy region during that time?
Yeah, it actually did. It really brought to light how effective a legislator could be in your community and how they can mobilize and bring the resources back from the state in order to see immediate results in the community, what by working with local CDCs [community development corporations] like Mt. Airy USA and Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation. I administered the projects where we revitalized the commercial corridor on Wadsworth Avenue and held various programs such as creating the Summer Youth Expo, where we helped youth find jobs during the summertime. So I saw exactly what a legislator can do as far as in Harrisburg, but then locally in touching it and helping the programs in our community, which I thought were impeccable.
You’ve had a lot of professional and volunteer experience that you’ve managed to accumulate over your career. Of everything you’ve been able to do, what do you think would be the most valuable as a state representative?
That’s a good question. I think my ability of relationship building will be the most advantageous because even when I’m able to go to Harrisburg and bring resources back, say I can bring a million dollars, if I’m not able to work closely with the city councilperson and our congressmen and other various elected officials which represent my same district, then my ability to mobilize is less versus if we all put money in the pot for something larger. A five million dollar project, you know, is more impactful than a one million dollar project. So I think all of my experiences in working with individuals in the public and private sector have all shown my ability to work closely with individuals and build relationships. Then of course in Harrisburg, you know, it’s extremely important, especially with us being in a minority, the ability to relate to one another outside of our committee hearings and understand what one another’s perspective is in regards to their different cities. So I think all of them; one doesn’t really overthrow the other, but the compilation of all of them and learning how to work with other individuals and relationships is, is I think is key.
Right now in this election you’re running against an incumbent, Chris Rabb, who is also a fellow Democrat. You’ve spoken to your own desires as to why you feel like you’re right for this position, but in terms of your opponent, what do you feel that Rabb has or hasn’t done that he needs to be replaced, especially considering that you’re both in the same party?
Well it’s the grassroots initiatives, specifically. I think he’s a great guy, but I think we need someone that understands how to mobilize the community and bring the resources back. For instance, being able to work with our community to help these individuals that need home repair, so if we bring resources back to help them with those initiatives, that’s great. Also, when we talk about the safety element, a lot of times we talk about gun legislation, which I am interested in and making sure that part of my platform includes a few legislation initiatives to get the guns up out of our street. But we also can bring resources back to put cameras on our commercial corridors.
I think the main thing that I’m going to do that no other legislator has done, not just Chris Rabb, is create an advisory council which comprises all the wards in the district. I will actually be the first legislator to bring all the wards together, from the 50th and 9th and the 22nd, because usually the town hall meetings are separate. Fiftieth meets with the 50th, 9th meets with the 9th, 22nd, etc. But we need to come together as one 200th legislative district, and we’re stronger together. The power of the people is greater than the people in power, and this advisory council will set the agenda of what we would like to see in the 200th legislative district, because this is the people’s seat and we need to make sure that the people have the power behind that. I’ll be held accountable for whatever the agenda is that we create. So that is the strength behind my campaign – mobilizing the people and bringing one another together within the grassroots and community-based initiative.
Getting into some of the specific issues, how would you just specifically look to reduce gun violence both on a city and state level?
So reporting your guns lost and stolen is actually something that has been legislated in our city, but the legislation, we don’t have that in the state. And in fact, they’re working on some legislation, the Republicans of course, to mandate that in any municipality within the state of Pennsylvania, it would be illegal to have your own reported guns lost and stolen. So it’s extremely important that we get this legislation passed to hold any other cities in our state that have reported guns lost and stolen accountable with a complementary legislation on a state legislature. So that’s my number one priority. There are currently 11 states within the United States that have this legislation. Why can’t Pennsylvania be the twelfth?
Focusing on the schools, what would be your plans to help out schools in the area, particularly in regards to funding?
So currently the Marcellus Shale companies who are fracking within the state of Pennsylvania, they have not been levied to a severance tax, and we’re the only state in the nation that has not levied this tax. It’s a billion dollar industry, and because of this, we’re missing out on millions of dollars each year, around $200 million and so forth. It’s important that we tax these shell companies, and this funding could be used to fund our school system and our infrastructures and different things of that nature. But my main focus is obviously for our schools and if we’re able to levy this text, it will be an income that we can count on continuously to help fund the school district.
Where do you stand on the issue of redistricting, especially considering all the attention it’s gotten in the past few months?
Well it should be fair and equal. That is part of my platform is that we have a just, fair and equal process, and whenever the redistricting is leaning towards one particular party over the other and is redistricting for that purpose, we have to be cognizant of it and then fight to make sure that it’s fair. So I am advocating to make sure that not only just the redistricting is fair, but any legislation that we create in Harrisburg is just and fair and equal for all the people within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Looking ahead to the future, not just with this election but even to the long term future, do you have any plans that go beyond this position either in the short or long term, or are you just focused on this spot right now?
I’m really focused on this. I’m focused on the state legislature and the 200th legislative district, which I where I’ve been for 40 years, and I’m just really interested in making sure that we don’t only preserve what we have, but we improve on what we have so that generations to come can enjoy the same type of life and quality of life for years to come.