Read At-Large Democratic candidate Kendra Brooks' responses to the 5th Square 2019 City Council Candidate Questionnaire. Visit our 2019 City Council Campaign page for more candidate questionnaire responses.
The candidate's responses are Italicized.
Candidate Name: Kendra Brooks
Photo Credit: Sahar Coston-Hardy
I am running for City Council because after years of responding to policy, it’s time for our movements and our neighborhoods to have a real seat in City Hall and write policy. There are too few City Councilpeople who come for working class neighborhoods, and who understand the struggles of poverty -- whether it be housing insecurity, fighting for school funding or gun violence. For too long, the Party of Trump has been allowed the two ‘minority party’ seats in City Hall. There is no reason that these seats should be going to the Republicans. I’m proud to be running as a Working Families Party candidate so that we can have a Republican-free City Council once and for all.
Housing affordability is personal to me. I paid off the mortgage of the house I was raised in. But in 2014, after being laid off of my job of 17 years, I fell behind on my taxes. My house was taken from me by sheriff sale, and I now pay rent to live in the house that I owned. We need a comprehensive housing, land use and transit agenda that focuses on affordability, equity and sustainability. I approach these issues as someone who spent 17 years working and advocating with communities with disabilities around accessibility issues, as someone who uses public transportation daily and lives without a car, and as a mother and grandmother who cares about my children's ability to have good lives here in Philadelphia as they grow up.
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.
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?
Curb cuts and sidewalks are there for a reason. While our city’s parking practices are often something we joke about, it is actually unacceptable that our sidewalks and streets are so difficult to traverse, especially for communities with disabilities and seniors. We need to increase daylighting and enforce regulations on parking, so cars can’t park near crosswalks. We also need to enforce regulation on construction and increase funding for sidewalk maintenance which both often contribute to blocked sidewalks.
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?
While we have seen some progress on Vision Zero, it is unacceptable that Philadelphia remains the major city with the highest rate of car crashes -- and that so many people die yearly on bikes or while crossing streets walking. It is vital that we continue to invest in Vision Zero and continue to solicit community engagement in the process as changes are being made in neighborhoods. Everywhere across this city, in North Philly, West Philly, or South Philly, there are neighbors of all backgrounds who rely on bikes for transportation. We need more investment in bike infrastructure in neighborhoods across the City, and we need decisions around bike lanes to be made from an engineering and safety perspective. I would also like to see the City's Vision Zero safety improvements focus first around schools, playgrounds, rec centers, and libraries, so that we are making sure to protect our young people.
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: https://www.streetfilms.org/daylighting-make-your-crosswalks-safer/
Yes, I support an increase in daylighting. I would work with the Streets Department to understand how we could make sure all intersections around schools in particular are daylighted. I would also support making sure that when there is construction on a sidewalk planned, the closest intersections are daylighted.
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?
Check Box: Yes
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. Having clean neighborhoods contributes to increased mental health. I believe street cleaning is an essential city service that the city should fund. We shouldn’t be dependent on special funding districts for street cleaning.
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: https://bicyclecoalition.org/lawsuit-takes-on-city-council-bike-lane-ordinance/
Check Box: Yes
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.
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?
SEPTA is an essential city service for all Philadelphians, and particularly poor and working class Philadelphians. It provides affordable access to jobs, education, health care, shopping, and friends and family. Jobs at SEPTA itself can be a pathway out of poverty. We should increase our local funding for transit, while also continuing to pressure the state and federal governments to increase their funding. I am open to exploring a portion of the parking tax going to SEPTA and encouraging suburban municipalities where people use SEPTA daily to pay their fair share into the system.
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
Other: I believe we should look at all programs to increase bus ridership and engage in community input sessions to understand further what measures would be most effective.
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
As the mother of children who have been impacted by this policy, YES!
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?
Check Box: Yes
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 Yes
- Employer permits for commercial corridor workers near residential permit zones Yes
Other: I am opening to considering all options, with neighborhood input from communities most impacted by parking shortages.
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: http://planphilly.com/articles/2018/06/21/overhauling-its-bus-network-may-be-on-septa-s-schedule-soon
As a frequent bus rider, I am in favor of updating our bus network. This update must center around how we increase the quality of transit for all Philadelphians, and especially Philadelphians who rely on buses as their primary means of transportation. To me, this would include a focus on getting our students to school quickly, making sure people can get to their jobs on time, and ensuring that our communities with disabilities and seniors can access the services they might need. If there is the potential to increase transfers, we need to eliminate the transfer fee. I believe SEPTA needs to engage in a true community engagement process around changes to bus routes to understand what Philadelphians care about most.
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: http://www2.philly.com/philly/business/transportation/philadelphia-traffic-pedestrian-bicycle-safety-police-darrell-clarke-20180920.html
Check Box: Yes
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.
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?
I believe that the guiding force for our housing policy in the city is the belief that housing is a human right, that every person, no matter their income, deserves a decent place to live. There are many tools to help us get there, including inclusionary zoning and mixed-income multifamily housing. We need to expand the amount of land and neighborhoods that are eligible for the mixed-income housing program. Let us not forget that while many houses might be zoned as single-family, there are many homes where 2-3 families are crowded together due to housing instability in our city. These neighborhoods should certainly have access to affordable, integrated and accessible housing.
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? Further reading: https://www.vox.com/videos/2017/7/19/15993936/high-cost-of-free-parking
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? Further reading: https://www.sightline.org/2018/08/15/adus-backyard-cottages-affordable-housing/
I am open to ADUs and could see them as a helpful tool in providing more housing, especially for extended families, communities with disabilities, and people aging-in-place. ADUs would need to be mapped out on a neighborhood by neighborhood level since ADUs in a West Philly backyard look very different than in Kensington for example. I believe neighborhoods should help guide this decision.
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? Further reading: http://planphilly.com/articles/2017/02/24/council-proposes-zoning-changes-to-drive-transit-oriented-development
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?
As someone who has faced homelessness after losing my childhood home to sheriff sale, I am incredibly aware of how housing contributes to poverty, instability and stress. I believe that keeping Philadelphia affordable will be the task for City Council over the next 4 years, especially around housing, while also encouraging development in neighborhoods like mine that haven’t seen investment in decades.
I believe that affordability must operate on many levels. This includes policies that aim to increase wages and job opportunities in the city so that people have more income. On housing, I believe we must address issues around both renters and homeowners. I support a right to counsel for those racing evictions, the expansion of good cause legislation and exploration of rent stabilization policies. For homeowners, we must work to keep people in their homes by ending sheriff sales and tackling uneven spiking housing taxes. I support inclusionary zoning and building of more affordable and accessible housing units by finding permanent sources of funding for the Housing Trust Fund, not just temporary 5-year sums. I also believe we need to explore options for sustained affordability (like community land trusts) so that we ensure our valuable city dollars support affordability for the long term.