At Large: Beth Finn Response to 5th Square Questionnaire

Read At-Large Democratic candidate Beth Finn's responses to the 5th Square 2019 City Council Candidate Questionnaire. Visit our 2019 City Council Campaign page for more candidate questionnaire responses.

Candidate Name: Beth Finn

Candidate Introduction

The single motivation that drives me to do all that I do is this: My voice is powerful. So is yours. And together we can create real change. I’m a grassroots organizer, a healthcare advocate, and a technologist. My values are based in equality and equity, and I use data to help inform my policy solutions. For years, I convinced myself that using my day job as a technologist to fund my evening and weekend activism was enough. But I’ve learned I could do more, and I must do more. I’m running because I want to help the people of Philadelphia by dismantling the disparity in our city. Fifteen years ago, I was diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumor. My treatment worked; my outcome was incredibly good. That’s a rarity among brain tumor patients. I felt a responsibility to make my time count. I volunteered with the National Brain Tumor Society and began lobbying Congress for increased funding for brain tumor research. In 2016, then-candidate Trump talked about registering Muslims. As a Jewish woman, “Never again” means taking action. So I knocked on nearly 2,000 doors for Hillary. Days after the election was over, I organized with women in the city and co-founded what would become the Women’s March on Philadelphia. It has been a powerful, life-changing experience showing me the beautiful diversity and heart-breaking inequality in our city. Philadelphia must be a city that is walkable, accessible, and affordable to all people, regardless of socioeconomic backgrounds.


The below questions are related to policies that reflect use of the streets are used by all Philadelphians including pedestrians, as well as bicycle, bus, car riders and drivers. A priority of 5th Square is placing front-and-center the concerns of the elderly, children, and residents utilizing mobility assistance.

1. Many curb cuts and sidewalks in the city are blocked by parked cars, resulting in inadequate and unsafe crossings for seniors, residents utilizing mobility assistance, and parents with small children. In your view, what should City Council do about this problem?

City Council must utilize a dual-pronged approach: an educational initiative and increased enforcement. The educational initiative needs to be an awareness campaign that educates drivers on federal law (ADA Title II states that cities are required to have accessible crossings). The campaign must also highlight personal responsibility that illustrate the unseen hardships drivers create for fellow residents that need special access designs. The increased parking enforcement will disincentivize drivers choosing to block accessible crossings. Allowing this problem to persist may result in lawsuits, potentially costing the city far more than simply enforcing current law. This is about enforcement of federal law designed to advocate and protect all residents.

2. What is your opinion of the Kenney administration's progress on their Vision Zero street safety initiative? Is the current pace of progress acceptable to you? If not, what would you do differently? How would you use your Council position to accomplish this?

Mayor Kenney’s Vision Zero initiative is the right thing to do to protect the lives of residents. There are causes for celebration and for concern. Unfortunately, the current pace of implementing Vision Zero is too slow to reduce traffic fatalities to zero by 2030. Pedestrian-related deaths account for almost 50% of the fatalities in our city. Considering that walking in the city is the cheapest way to reduce carbon emissions and traffic congestion, we must do more to protect pedestrians.

The good: There’s been an almost 20% decrease in traffic fatalities; we've invested in new infrastructure projects like bus plazas on Roosevelt Boulevard and the Chestnut Street protected bike lane; trash trucks have side guards and 360 degree cameras; and we've implemented a city-wide 25 MPH speed limit in neighborhoods.

If elected, I would focus on three things:

1. Prioritize city legislation. I would work with City Council and the Mayor’s office to draft legislation that prioritizes safety improvements by modifying street configuration, road signage, and markings.

2. Get PennDot as a Vision Zero partner. We can only achieve Vision Zero when we work with state officials. Philadelphians are six times more likely to be killed or severely injured on a PennDot street. More than half of Philadelphia’s high-injury streets are operated by PennDot. We must work together.

3. Update the Philadelphia Streets Department standards. This is a no-brainer: this department is responsible for our city streets and sidewalks and it must have a pedestrian-first approach in its standard practices.

3. Will you support “daylighting” intersections to restore clear lines of sight near crossings for drivers and pedestrians through the use of plastic bollards and curb bumpouts, with prioritization for school zones, intersections with high pedestrian volume, and high crash intersections? How many intersections should be "daylighted" each year?

Further reading on daylighting:

Yes. My goal is 50 per year. Daylighting an intersection is quick, cheap, and highly effective. This is also an opportunity to add more green spaces to our neighborhoods.

4. Philadelphia has some of the lowest per-capita spending among our peer cities on basic street maintenance, slowing down the rollout of life-saving design changes that are part of Mayor Kenney's Vision Zero initiative. If elected, will you advocate for a larger Streets Department repaving budget?


5. Will you support a Mayoral initiative to create a municipal street sweeping program, even if it means motorists will need to move their vehicles a few times a month?

Yes, this is an important preventative initiative to help stop blockages and remove pollutants from entering our sewers. Even Los Angeles, the center of car culture, has weekly street cleaning services. This is a necessary and overdue measure for Philadelphia.

6. Will you vote to repeal Council's 2012 legislation requiring a Council ordinance to remove travel or parking lanes, and once again empower Streets Department safety professionals to make these decisions administratively?

Further reading:



Our goal is to shift the city's overall transportation mode share radically toward transit and active mobility, and away from single occupancy vehicles, for the benefit of public health as well as the environment.

1. Philadelphia currently only funds around 11 percent of SEPTA's budget, with the state and federal governments funding the majority of the operating and capital budgets. This is one of the lowest local contributions in the country, per-capita. If elected, will you advocate for increasing dedicated local transit funding? If so, what revenue source is best?

Yes, I will advocate for increasing dedicated local transit funding. I believe public transportation would function best as a public utility, as it is in much of Europe and Asia. The benefits of public transportation extend far beyond the riders using the service. Public transportation helps the greater good; benefiting employers and businesses, reducing carbon emissions and improving our quality of life. There’s not one single revenue source that works best. To increase revenue, we could consider expanding market-based pricing for parking during peak hours, adding a few cents/gallon to the gas tax, implementing a special income tax for transit, or charging an additional fee for vehicles registered in the region.

2. The City Bus system works to improve air quality as well as reduce traffic congestion. Unfortunately, city bus ridership has fallen dramatically over the past few years, and route performance has become increasingly unreliable. Which of the following measures would you be willing to advocate for to increase bus ridership?

  • Bus-only lanes on more major streets Yes
  • Automated photo enforcement of bus-only lanes and bus/trolley stopping zones Yes
  • All-door boarding with off-board fare payment Yes
  • Free transfers between buses, trolleys, and subways, funded by the City Yes
  • Stop consolidation to speed up buses Yes


3. Will you support funding a City pilot program to provide free SEPTA transit to all children under 12 years of age?

The current cut-off is 4-years-old, after which children are required to pay the full fare


4. Over 30,000 Philadelphia public school students are currently ineligible for subsidized TransPasses, because the School District does not provide passes to students living within 1.5 miles of their local school. Do you support universalizing student TransPasses so all students can use them?


5. Residential permit parking needs an overhaul. The current cost for an annual parking permit for car owners to store their private vehicles on public streets is just $35, and many streets do not require a permit. Which reforms to permit parking would you be willing to consider, if elected?

  • Capping permits at the number of available spaces in each parking district Yes
  • Neighborhood-wide opt-in for permit parking, as opposed to block-by-block petitions Yes
  • Blacklisting addresses of new buildings with no parking from eligibility for street permits I
  • Employer permits for commercial corridor workers near residential permit zones Yes

6. SEPTA and the City are exploring a bus network redesign that could greatly improve bus service frequency and usability at little additional cost. Improving service will involve some trade-offs, however, like more stop consolidation and transfers. How should Councilmembers be approaching this initiative?

Further reading:

As Councilmembers, we need to start by asking ourselves, “What’s best for our constituents?” People hate sitting in traffic and living near traffic. People want to get to their destination quickly and conveniently. Quality of life and the health of our economy need to be our top priorities. So if buses were cheaper, quicker, and more convenient than driving, more people would grab a seat on the bus. Yes, I might feel nostalgic about losing the Girard Ave. trolley, but I’d rather be moving on a bus than be sitting in my car. We also need to do away with the $1 transfer fee. We must communicate with our constituents: hold public meetings, get community input, manage expectations, and be transparent on the process and implementation.

7. Do you support Council President Darrell Clarke's Charter change proposal to create a new class of unarmed officers to enforce traffic violations?

Further reading:


Land Use and Zoning

Our goal is to promote the most efficient use of land in our city, fostering accessible, walkable communities in which all Philadelphians can reside, regardless of economic status. We believe in building more housing, reducing costs, increasing the vitality of our commercial corridors, and facilitating transit-oriented development. Philadelphia made great strides toward this vision with the 2012 Zoning Reform package, and the next City Council should defend and expand on that progress.

1. Only 13% of land in Philadelphia is covered by the multifamily zoning categories eligible for City Council’s new Mixed-Income Housing program. Do you believe 13% is the appropriate percentage? If not, what is the right number?

My target percentage for Mixed-Income Housing is 30%, or at least double the current number. For comparison, Boston is at 38% and Hoboken is at 32%. I believe cities are meant to have tall buildings with high density built near reliable public transit hubs. We must increase our mixed-income housing ratio, which has many benefits that extend beyond the homes themselves. The improved quality of the environment changes the behavior of the residents, reducing crime and unemployment, breaking the cycle of poverty and creating upward mobility, and strengthening local businesses. To make this type of building a reality, we must also improve our public transit options and accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists. Higher population concentration also reduces our carbon footprints.


2. In 2012, City Council voted to eliminate or reduce minimum parking requirements for many zoning districts, because parking minimums increase housing prices, driving, and traffic congestion. Will you vote to eliminate the last of the minimum parking requirements still remaining in the zoning code, which would mainly affect Center City, University City, and areas near the subways?


3. The same 2012 zoning reform bill contained language legalizing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), which allow property owners to have an additional rental unit on their property. City Council unfortunately never finished the job, and didn't write in which zoning districts should permit ADUs. Where would you allow ADUs?

I don’t think there should be restrictions on which zoning districts allow ADUs, though we should give consideration to making sure lots where they are being built have enough space to reasonably accommodate the new structure and that the new ADUs meet building codes pertaining to safety and privacy.

4. In 2017, City Council revamped the Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Overlay ordinance, which would allow greater density and less parking within 500 feet of designated transit stations. Will you support a citywide bill designating TOD overlays for all city transit and regional rail stations?

Yes, and I agree with making the TODs opt-out rather than opt-in as they are now.

5. What should be Philadelphia's strategy for keeping neighborhoods affordable as they see more growth and development? Is City policy striking the right balance now, following City Council's recent affordable housing package? If not, what is left to do, in your opinion?

The package passed by City Council last Fall is a start, but there is still more to do to make sure housing in Philadelphia remains affordable for all Philadelphians. It is critical that the supply of housing stock keep up with demand across the City. The currently optional Inclusionary Zoning provisions should be made mandatory. When we are looking at improving neighborhoods, we must consider and engage the people who already live there first rather than as an afterthought. The Affordable Housing Trust Fund must be focused on building homes for families earning 80% of AMI and lower. All Philadelphians deserve the opportunity to live close to where they work. When our neighborhoods have diversity of race, socioeconomic status, and culture, they are sustainable and unique places to live, work, and visit.