Read At-Large Republican candidate Matt Wolfe'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: Matt Wolfe
I believe that Philadelphia’s best days are ahead of it. Economic indicators are all positive. People are moving in. We are seeing sustained job growth. The problem is that we are moving much more slowly than other cities.
We are by many measures the poorest big city in America. How can that be? We have some of the best universities and hospitals in the world here.
We have a public transportation infrastructure that could not be replicated today. We are midway between Washington and New York. We have an international airport and a port. The only reason for our poverty is decisions made over decades in City Hall that drive jobs, businesses and taxpayers out of the city and limit opportunities here, especially for those poorest among us.
We need to stop making Philadelphia less competitive. We need to think about the impact of legislation before we pass it to pander to some group that City Council members think will help them get reelected. I have been active in my community and have advocated for increased density when dealing with new construction. I do believe that historic preservation is important making neighborhoods more livable, but I choose to live in West Philadelphia rather than the suburbs and the population density is what sets it apart. There is an energy that you can feel and it is because of the people. I can and do walk and take public transportation. I lived for about six years without any car at all and a bike was my only personal transportation vehicle.
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?
Bump outs where appropriate and protected bike lanes may alleviate the problem, but it seems to me to be an enforcement problem first of all. While that is in the mayor's power and the PPA, City Council can certainly influence enforcement and directly allocates money for that purpose.
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?
It is going too slowly. Street infrastructure, which is a big part of Vision Zero, is a core municipal responsibility and money should be reprioritized from other programatic uses to infrastructure.
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: https://www.streetfilms.org/daylighting-make-your-crosswalks-safer/
I think that you have it right as to priorities. We should certainly move quickly towards implementation, but setting a specific number is not relevant. There is certainly some consideration to cost and resources. I would be in favor of devoting greater resources to this project, but not without consideration of cost and the overall budget.
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. Sanitation is a core municipal responsibility.
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?
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?
I believe that subsidizing transportation is an important function of government. I do not think that health and welfare is the proper role of municipal government. That funding should be coming from the state or federal government. Much of it already does and is performed by the city, which is appropriate. We should reprioritize general fund money dedicated to health and welfare into spending like transportation. I will not take a no-tax pledge, as has been popular with Republicans lately, but generally I think that tax increases are counter-productive for growth.
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 No
- Free transfers between buses, trolleys, and subways, funded by the City No
- 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
Probably, but I would like to see the cost of the program.
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 No
- 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 No
- Employer permits for commercial corridor workers near residential permit zones No
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?
While Council members should give input as the general public does, the final decisions should rest in the hands of the transportation professional at SEPTA, who also has to carry the cost.
7. Do you support Council President Darrell Clarke's Charter change proposal to create a new class of unarmed officers to enforce traffic violations?
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?
No. There is certainly some subjectivity in coming at the "right" number, but increasing the areas permitting multifamily housing will lower the cost of housing for those who need it. Don't have a "right" number as a percentage and would need more information. I would like to see what professionals in housing and economics might think.
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?
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?
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?
Not a fan of Counsel's affordable housing programs. I would like to see greater density permitted in more places which is a better market solution to affordable housing, increasing the supply. We need to advocate for more federal dollars into the PHA for their programs.