Mayoral Q&A: Poverty
Philadelphia voters will go to the polls to select the major-party candidates for mayor May 19. With that in mind, the Inquirer Editorial Board posed seven questions on the issues that will face the city’s next mayor. Responses from candidates — except for Milton Street, whose campaign did not respond to invitations to participate — will be published daily through Friday, with the final one next Sunday.
What would you do to lower Philadelphia's dramatic 28 percent poverty rate?
Click on each candidate to see what they have to say.
Tap on each candidate to see what they have to say.
“I would lead an innovative and aggressive back-to-work program to focus on education, training, and business development for the hard-hit segments of our population.
“To reduce poverty, we need to create jobs in our city, and we do that by attracting employers. This can be done via fair, coherent, user-friendly, business tax reform. I have also pledged to appoint an experienced, full-time commerce director to work 24/7 to help attract businesses to Philadelphia.
Poverty can also be reduced by supporting the development of a well-educated workforce. We need a full revamping of our public school system, beginning with family services and pre-K to prepare all children for school. The school system needs to make sure our children are performing at grade level and developing the skills they need in the new economy: science, technology, engineering, art, and math. In short, our schools and our employers need to help future generations rise out of poverty.
I would lead an innovative and aggressive back-to-work program to focus on education, training, and business development for the hard-hit segments of our population.
I would also work to integrate the formerly incarcerated into our workforce. My office of reintegration services will make that a primary goal.
I am a supporter of an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Income disparity has gotten out of hand in this nation and needs to be addressed. Low wages are causing significant pressures on our middle class, and it is a major cause of poverty.”
“In order to dramatically lower the poverty rate, Philadelphia and the state must fully fund Philadelphia’s public school system and prepare every child in every neighborhood for college, a career, or both.
“Philadelphia must aggressively attract and retain businesses that provide living-wage jobs for those with barriers to employment. There are 300,000 Philadelphians with a criminal record who cannot find a job, and more than 85 percent of people with mental and intellectual disabilities are unemployed. As mayor, I will establish City Hall as a model employer for returning citizens and those with mental and intellectual disabilities, and will urge the private sector to hire them.
In order to dramatically lower the poverty rate, Philadelphia and the state must fully fund Philadelphia’s public school system and prepare every child in every neighborhood for college, a career, or both. The creation of a city-owned bank that provides capital to small businesses to grow is an innovative tool to increase hiring in neighborhoods that have experienced economic stagnation for decades.
The city must also provide support for those who are eligible for it. There are 180,000 eligible peole who are not enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or receive extra cash under the Earned Income Tax Credit. I will work to improve how agencies communicate their programs and services.
One idea I support is modeled on Single Stop USA’s Benefits Enrollment Network, a comprehensive database that assesses eligibility for untapped government services. Leveraging the BenePhilly centers across the city, I will explore the implementation of manned or unmanned city service kiosks in schools, libraries, and recreation centers to help citizens sign up for all benefits online.
Finally, I will expand the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity and continue its implementation and measurement of the city’s antipoverty plan, Shared Prosperity Philadelphia. The plan outlines a collective impact approach to eliminating poverty by aligning government agencies, philanthropic institutions, and community-based organizations to address the root causes of poverty.”
“In the long term, I would invest in education, paying particular attention to governance, funding, curriculum, and the home lives of Philadelphia's students.
“In the short term:
• I would invest in job training and development — specific to existing and expected jobs that would provide living wages. Specifically, I’d look at training unemployed and underemployed Philadelphians in a number of careers, including welding (pipeline and underground infrastructure improvements), technology (tech start-ups have a tremendous need for coders), and weatherization (many Philadelphia homes are dilapidated and need structural repair).
• I would leverage abundant natural gas resources to attract energy intensive manufacturing businesses to the city, bringing with them low-skill, high-wage jobs for Philadelphians.
• I would strengthen the city’s efforts to help people with skill sets to start their own businesses and provide them with the technical support to get those businesses off the ground and located in commercial corridors. The spirit of entrepreneurship would be encouraged and incentivized.
In the long term, I would invest in education, paying particular attention to governance, funding, curriculum, and the home lives of Philadelphia's students. Ultimately, quality education is the long-term solution to poverty.”
“Attacking poverty isn’t just good public policy: It’s a moral imperative for every Philadelphian.
“As someone who grew up in poverty and got out because I got an education, it pains me that so many people in our city are trapped in a cycle of poverty. Our sky-high poverty rate is an embarrassment. It’s an indictment of our political class and our willingness to accept a deeply dysfunctional status quo.
Attacking poverty isn’t just good public policy: It’s a moral imperative for every Philadelphian. Efforts to end poverty have to be focused on three main pillars: a good education, good jobs available in every neighborhood, and reduced crime and smarter policing.
I struggled in school for years because of behavioral and health issues. Once those were solved, I was able to learn. Many children face the same issues today, but they don’t have a support system to help them through. We must recognize that problems in the classroom often originate at home. That’s why our education system needs to employ the full range of social services and after-school programs to help kids with great potential who we can’t afford to lose.
Once our children graduate, there need to be good jobs available to them in every neighborhood. We need a renewed focus on broad-based economic growth that doesn’t just rely on one or two parts of Philadelphia, but instead helps revitalize every neighborhood and community. We have a template: What the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. did at the Navy Yard, combined with capital and the expertise to use it.
And we need criminal justice reform to end generations of cyclical arrests. We need community policing to prevent crime in the first place and restore community trust, and intervention programs and alternatives to incarceration for low-level and nonviolent offenders to put them back on the right track.”