by Pete Mazzaccaro
The Local had the opportunity to ask the Democratic and Republican candidates for the 200th District Pennsylvania House seat a series of questions important to voters in Philadelphia. Democrat Chris Rabb and Republican Latryse McDowell answered five questions via email.
QUESTION: The most important issue for Philadelphia voters has been shown to be schools. Parents of school-age children in Philadelphia feel there is a lot of room for city schools to improve. What steps would you take to support change for Philadelphia Schools?
Chris Rabb: We need to end Harrisburg’s colonization of our city, starting with liberating our schools from the School Reform Commission. We need true local control which necessitates a much broader array of stakeholders inclusive of teachers and parents on whatever replaces the SRC.
Latryse McDowell: My first step is to focus on legislation that returns the schools to local control by means of an elected school board. Philadelphia is the only county in the state that does not have one in place.
Q: Poverty and a lack of employment opportunities, particularly for non-college educated Philadelphians, is a big issue. Only 26.4 percent of city residents have a bachelor’s degree or better. What can be done to better employ city residents?
LM: We must invest in technical training and vocational programs in our high schools. We need to create more opportunities for our innovative and creative sectors infused by tax breaks and grants for small businesses. I would like to see Germantown Ave become Philadelphia’s new creative and innovative corridor.
CR: Education is the key. If we can improve our schools, including our vocational institutions, we can give our citizens the knowledge and skills to compete in a 21st century economy and end the cycle of under- and unemployment in our communities. The city and state should be providing low- and no-cost retraining programs to help make our citizens more competitive and employable.
Q: While crime rates are low compared to decades past, it’s still a concern many Philadelphia voters identify as important to them. In NW Philadelphia, property crime – thefts and burglaries – are an ever-present concern. Is there anything you can do as a state rep to address crime?
CR: Quality education, good jobs, better funded mental health and addiction services and programs that effectively promote social inclusion are what will reduce the kinds of crime that still plague our district.
We need to stop the endless cycle of recidivism fueled by the prison-industrial complex. Our culture of punishment and poor reintegration services leave many former prisoners feeling like they have no options. I will work hard to establish a robust system for reentry into our communities and fight for more programs in our prisons to give returning citizens options for legitimate employment upon their return.
LM: Yes, we need to improve the lighting and provide more police cameras throughout our district.
Q: Finally, taxes. No one likes to pay more taxes. Gov. Wolf’s proposals on taxes would see state taxes rise with the hope of reducing local property taxes, assuming state revenue goes back to local education. Do you support that position? Is there any other aspect of state taxes you’d like to address?
LM: The Governor’s proposed legislation will never pass the State Legislature or Senate. I will not vote for any new taxes. Between municipal and federal taxes Philadelphians and Pennsylvanians cannot afford another new tax.
CR: Tying school funding to property taxes only furthers structural inequality. Once we replace this funding approach with a more equitable one, full and fair funding will finally be more than hollow rhetoric.
Q: Is there any issue you hope to address if elected?
CR: Improving on and expanding incentives for local, community-centered enterprises to create more living wage jobs for residents. This means helping businesses and other organizations that promote community wealth by helping sustain our neighborhoods, not prey on them.
LM: As a Republican working within the Republican-controlled legislature, I will have a clear advantage over my opponent, who would most likely go to Harrisburg without the clout to actually pass legislation that can make a difference in the lives of the citizens in the 200th District
Pete Mazzaccaro can be reached at 215-248-8802 or firstname.lastname@example.org