City elections can signal a new chapter in the story of the city. While that’s not true of the somewhat sleepy mayor’s race, it certainly is of the race for seven at-large City Council seats. The highly-qualified field of 35 is notable for its youth, diversity, and direction, leaning decidedly progressive. That made our endorsements all the more difficult; for our final selections, we strove for a balance of voices, backgrounds, and experience. To choose seven, we reluctantly eliminated a number of impressive candidates, including Justin DiBerardinis and Adriàn Rivera-Reyes. Both are young, smart, and have much to offer.
In order to endorse the tide of new energy and new ideas, we also made the difficult elimination of incumbent Allan Domb from our endorsements. Domb, a real estate magnate, remains independent from the usual machine alliances and serves as a pebble in the shoe of Council, challenging the body on term limits and stricter financial accountability.
The Editorial Board invited all candidates to answer a questionnaire and be interviewed. All seven Republicans and 21 out of 28 Democrats complied.
The child of Paraguayan immigrants, Erika Almirón, 42, is a veteran social justice advocate. She served as executive director of Juntos, a human rights organization, for eight years, and as assistant director of the Philadelphia Student Union. Almirón says she learned how to build coalitions while working on criminal justice reform and other issues important to historically marginalized communities citywide. Her deep knowledge and street credibility should serve her well on Council.
Lifelong city resident Katherine Gilmore Richardson, 35, of Wynnefield, says she has mastered the complexities of the legislative process and of constituent services — not just because of her master’s degree in public administration, but as an 11-year staff member for retiring councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown. She’s worried about the future of the city’s so-called “middle” neighborhoods and the fact that the redeveloping city is “leaving some people behind." Her work ethic suggests she would remain focused on finding solutions.
Before being elected to Council, Helen Gym, 51, had established a strong public profile as an education advocate. She has expanded that profile as a savvy, passionate, and progressive leader on workers rights, education, and housing. As a rookie legislator, Gym played an instrumental role in the push to regain local control of the school district, and in drafting and passing Fair Workweek legislation. She also succeeded in securing funding for legal representation for low-income tenants facing eviction. One testament to Gym’s effectiveness is the number of first-time candidates citing her as their model to emulate.
City Council needs members able to navigate the small details of bureaucracy as well as the big-picture vision for moving the city forward. Eryn Santamoor, 39, can do both. Through her experience as Mayor Michael Nutter’s deputy managing director, and through her consulting work with other cities, Santamoor knows what it takes to implement policies. She has a detailed action plan to address the major challenges the city is facing, including funding mobile response units to stem the harm of the opioid crisis, reforming the zoning code to incentivize affordable housing, and establishing a “productivity bank” to track savings by City departments.
Fernando Treviño, 42, was born in Mexico, became a lawyer, and came to Philadelphia about two decades ago through a job in the Mexican consulate. If elected, he’d be the first immigrant to serve on City Council, bringing a global perspective that our increasingly diverse city needs. He served as the first deputy director of the Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs in Nutter’s administration. Treviño’s first legislative priority is good government reform that includes term limits for City Council, curtails Councilmanic prerogative, and moves Philadelphia to public-funded elections.
Drew Murray, 46, is a centrist who registered Republican mere months ago. As Logan Square Neighborhood Association’s president, he worked on development, transportation, and civic issues in collaboration with its representative, Council President Darrell L. Clarke, as well as with public agencies and neighbors. That experience leaves him prepared to work effectively on Council; he understands the retail politics required to be a leader and listener citywide.