Jonathan Lovitz, running for State Rep - House District 182
Hello, 5th Square! I'm Jonathan Lovitz: a union member, experienced bipartisan lawmaker, trusted equality champion, and the pro-economy, pro-equity, pro-choice, pro-solutions candidate this moment needs. After nearly three years of uncertainty in the pandemic, Philadelphia needs someone it can trust, someone with experience, and someone who will lead with competence, empathy, and gravitas. The 182nd is one of the most critical districts in the Commonwealth that can demonstrate that smart urbanist policies, coupled with community engagement and support, can deliver big social and economic wins for everyone. My passion for public service is rooted in a belief that when we all do better, we all do better. I'm fighting for the safety and success of all workers, and supporting the importance of unions; affordable and inclusive healthcare and housing; essential services for our seniors and veterans; gun-free, fully-funded schools; supporting our arts and culture institutions; preserving our environment; and protecting Philadelphians’ vote. I won't need on-the-job training when I get to Harrisburg; I've been doing the work of a public servant for nearly a decade. In the last five years I have been responsible for writing and passing more than twenty-five state and local laws, including right here in Pennsylvania, opening up billions of dollars in contracts and economic development to small business owners, including minorities, veterans, those with disabilities, and LGBTQ-owned entrepreneurs. I have helped institutions, from the largest corporation to the smallest local government, spend their money more efficiently, equitably, and with greater direct impact on our communities than ever before. The slogan of my campaign is "Let's make a difference." Not "let me" or "only I can do it" -- but let US, together, have a safer, more successful tomorrow. I know we can.
1 (a). Some of Philadelphia’s most dangerous streets for pedestrians and cyclists based on injury statistics are PennDOT-owned arterials, many of which are major downtown streets and commercial corridors running through densely-populated parts of Philadelphia. Would you use your position to support safer urban arterials by pushing PennDOT to adopt Vision Zero and complete streets policies? (https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/commentary/philadelphia-traffic-fatalities-penndot-20190208.html)
You know I will, because you've seen me stand with you from the beginning on fighting for safer streets throughout the city. With smart, transparent planning we can have safety AND business accessibility — protecting kids and seniors in the 182nd is always the right answer. There’s no “what about” when lives are at stake. And as a small business policy expert, helping articulate why these changes are not just morally right for safety, but fiscally smart for our city and its entrepreneurs is an asset at the table.
1b. What types of legislative and policy changes are needed to correct this problem at PennDOT?
As President Biden said in his 2022 State of the Union: “We are done talking about infrastructure weeks; we’re talking about an infrastructure decade.” With billions coming to PA for new infrastructure development -- with an emphasis on roads and bridges -- we must ensure that public tax dollars follow the science. That science says that getting away from a car-centric planning model and emphasizing public transit and pedestrian/biker options will not only save lives, but save billions in, (among other costs) wasted repair and accident recovery funds.
2 (a). Will you co-sponsor the ‘Vulnerable Road User’ Bill which increases fines for causing death, serious and bodily injury of vulnerable roadway users by careless and reckless driving? (https://bicyclecoalition.org/vulnerable-road-user-bill-introduced-in-pa-state-house/)
Yes. In 2006 I was run off the road by a carless driver texting on a major highway. Despite having a license plate number for the police to intervene, I was told there was no real crime committed since I wasn't injured beyond my damaged car. Cars, like guns, are dangerous in the hands of users who don't operate them correctly -- and need to be treated the same way.
2 (b). Parking-protected bike lanes have a row of street parking between vehicle traffic and the bike lane. These kinds of lanes are allowed now on city streets, but not state roads, which are among the busiest and most dangerous for bicyclists. Will you co-sponsor the parking protected bike lane bill? (https://www.inquirer.com/transportation/parking-protected-bike-lane-cycling-philadelphia-pennsylvania-legislation-20190430.html)
High-injury streets can become high-impact streets if we make them safe for citizens to travel and shop locally knowing they are protected from traffic. This needs to be a legislative focus area for state roads, and likely a great opportunity for public-private partnership dollars to be used since so many PA corporations utilize these major roads.
3 (a). State lawmakers like Nikil Saval and Brian Sims endorsed the Safer Washington Ave campaign’s demands and played a helpful role in showing support from elected leaders. Will you join these other elected officials in publicly endorsing Safer Washington Ave and future road safety campaigns? (https://whyy.org/articles/city-facing-criticism-says-washington-ave-pivot-was-a-matter-of-equity/)
I hope you know the answer to this by now! (Especially if there's more opportunities to advance public safety AND eat pizza with adorable kids)
3 (b). How would you listen and respond to constituents who oppose road safety measures out of fears of traffic congestion and gentrification?
They told me I couldn't pass an LGBTQ bill in Texas. I did. They told me I couldn't pass that same bill in Tennessee. I did. They told me I couldn't pass a disability rights bill in Massachusetts. I did. Why? Because I listened to every concern, and worked with the opposition point-by-point to ease fears and explain how there is a "win" to be had by all parties. Businesses and neighborhoods thrive when their roads are not known for killing neighbors; and we can show the numbers to back that up. Gentrification is a buzz word used to paint those with modern city planning ideas as "out of towners" looking to destroy precedent -- when in reality we're talking about using modern technology, planning tools, and data to help the most people achieve economic and social mobility.
4. Pennsylvania passed legislation enabling automated speed enforcement on Roosevelt Blvd and highway work zones. Do you support the expansion of automated speed enforcement to School Zones and on other High Injury Network streets throughout Philadelphia? (https://whyy.org/articles/roosevelt-boulevard-speed-cameras-represent-rare-bipartisan-win/)
Yes! Slower speeds = lower risks. Higher enforcement of traffic laws = higher compliance with public safety. This issue has bipartisan support and makes sense on every level.
5. Do you support state-enabling legislation for congestion pricing, permitting municipalities and regions to institute tolls on cars entering into the most congested areas, and using the funds for improvements to transit, and for infrastructure for walking and bicycling? (https://www.inquirer.com/transportation/congestion-pricing-new-york-philadelphia-traffic-20190402.html)
Yes-- but with thoughtful study to cities of similar size and congestion issues
I lived in NYC during the time this was initially being explored, and I am generally in favor of policies that help reduce automotive dependence and congestion. However we must be cognizant of this present moment in time with so many people in financial flux due to the pandemic's effects. We don't want to punish workers who have limited public transportation options, nor do we want to give companies/employers excuses to push business out of the city. I think exploring ways to target congestion pricing on larger corporate delivery trucks, etc that clog roadways during critical hours is one way to split the difference.
6. Transportation is the third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Pennsylvania. While many elected officials are relying on people adopting electric vehicles, we would like to see the commonwealth play a more active role in reducing car dependence. What do you see as the solution to combat these emissions, enhancing mobility and improving safety in your district and Pennsylvania more broadly?(https://www.dep.pa.gov/Citizens/climate/Pages/GHG-Inventory.aspx)
In addition to moving all city/state vehicles to electric as a means to curb emissions, fundamentally changing our reliance on vehicles is critical. As we invest in public transportation, rail lines, etc we need to include plans to utilize them to better move goods and workers economically and efficiently. Tax credits and incentives for employers (and employees) to make their workplaces more accessible to those who can walk/bike is one of the many ways we can generate public support for moving us away from cars and to a greener way of life in PA's cities.
7. Would you support prioritizing the East Coast Greenway multi-use trail system by accelerating the completion of gaps in its network, improving safe walking and biking connections to underserved neighborhoods, and creating a dedicated maintenance funding source to upgrade existing trails in need of repairs? (https://www.greenway.org/faqs)
8 (a). State gas tax revenue has been decreasing due to improvements in fuel economy and a switch to electric vehicles. Of the options in Gov. Wolf's Transportation Revenue Options Commission Report, which recommendations do you support the most? (https://www.penndot.pa.gov/about-us/funding/Pages/Gap.aspx)
Each of the options has merit, but I am most in favor of the flexibility that "Managed Lanes" gives us to modify use to benefit the most people during a specific timeframe. It also allows for options for those at all income levels to continue utilizing infrastructure.
8 (b). Should our commonwealth continue to fund highway expansion projects as a means to combat congestion?
Yes -- but it will take some time. It's a big state with a diverse array of socioeconomic needs, so we need to step down and phase out the massive funding that goes to road expansion to achieve the cleaner, more economically sound transportation policies being promoted.
9. What are some of your own ideas for enhancing mobility and improving road safety in your district and Philadelphia more broadly?
As we saw during the pandemic with the massive excitement around streeteries, the public wants to be outside, enjoying their local neighborhood, and support businesses nearby. That means we, as a city and Commonwealth, need to direct funds to public safety (both physical and law enforcement), sidewalk repair and ADA compliance, and incentivizing small businesses and associations to be stronger partners in the work of increasing mobility/safety. I have been working with the Avenue of the Arts Association (among others, for example) to find ways to encourage bundling show tickets with local dinner discounts with public transit reimbursements-- proving we don't have to change how people live, just how they feel being a part of living better. There are micro examples (like that) and macro examples (like major investments in public transit and road safety lanes, etc) that will help the other create safer, more successful cities.
10 (a). Do you support the Transit For All PA funding platform to generate $1.65 billion dollars/year to replace Act 89's funding for transit? (https://www.transitforallpa.org/platform/)
10 (b). Do you support legislation enabling local governments to implement new transit funding mechanisms, while ensuring that local funds are supplemental and not used to replace a shortfall from the state? (https://www.transitforallpa.org/platform/)
10 (c). How would you propose raising the necessary funds for Pennsylvania's public transit going forward?
My years of working at the intersection of small businesses and large corporate and government contracts, especially those focused on sustainability, have affirmed that “going green” and growing our workforce and economy need not be mutually exclusive. In fact, transit development work can be a catalyst for exponentially more union infrastructure and cleanup projects. PA's public transportation data says that the vast majority of riders are going to/from work, and so industry plays a role in helping fund critical infrastructure investment. I was– and continue to be– a vocal supporter of Senator Costa’s 2017 SB555, the “Fair Share Tax.” Closing budget and public investment deficits, especially those painful cuts to programs that support minority communities, without increasing taxes on working people and the middle class is not only possible– but already happening in several states. We must educate the public on the urgent need for an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution allowing us to finally enact a fair, graduated tax system. Simultaneously we must address the staggering corporate tax break loopholes that have stripped PA of essential funding for transportation, as well as education, healthcare, and social services. To make PA attractive to new business investment and job-creation we need to accelerate plans to lower PA’s 9.9% corporate tax rate (the second highest in America) but that MUST come with legislation to reduce a company’s ability to game the system and cheat the public of essential funds. We, the taxpayers, offset their tax burdens but do not see nearly enough fair repayment into the system from which these corporations benefit, especially as it comes to transportation.
11 (a). SEPTA is undergoing several projects to reform the way it currently operates including redesigning its bus network, improving its wayfinding, reimagining regional rail, and modernizing its trolley system. Do you support these efforts? (https://planning.septa.org/projects/)
11 (b). If so, how would your district benefit, and what will you do (or have done) to ensure that SEPTA can advance these changes? If not, how should SEPTA spend its capital budget instead?
SEPTA HQ is in the heart of my District, and I've spent considerable time talking with their leadership and union workers about what is needed to grow transit ridership and confidence in the 21st century. We need safety and modernity above all! We need to invest heavily in the information infrastructure that helps riders access transit, but also invest in the stations, bus shelters, etc to make them safe, well lit, and inviting. We should be considering ways to expand transit revenue generation by increasing advertising spaces (and prices) as they have done in NYC and Boston transit, as well as considering options for retail etc in major stations to increase the flow of people and reduce the chances for crime to occur in empty spaces.
12. Do you support dedicated bus and trolley lanes and legislation enabling automated enforcement cameras to deter other vehicles from using these lanes? (https://mobilitylab.org/2018/09/17/automated-bus-lane-enforcement-is-more-effective-than-police-among-other-findings/)
Yes! And the data on the ROI from such a measure should help everyone realize how beneficial this is to safety, congestion, and tax revenues: every "$1 invested returning nearly $8 in “travel time savings and fleet saving benefits,” according to the report. Few government initiatives have such return margins.
13. What are some of your own ideas for solutions to improve the quality (frequency, speed, and accessibility) of transit service in your district and Philadelphia more broadly?
I will fight for every infrastructure dollar possible. Among the reasons the Laborers' District Council was my earliest labor endorsement was my commitment to fighting for improved mass transportation projects in the Philly-area, as well as across the Commonwealth– resulting in good union jobs in construction, followed by good union jobs in management and execution. From wage increases and career mobility for millions to immediate environmental impact we must invest in mass public transit across PA. Having worked in minority-owned business procurement in infrastructure, I know what a tremendous win this would be for the PA labor force and our statewide economy. We need to enact legislation to tie new parking and residential development with required investments into city/state funds for improved rail, busses, and subways. Additionally we need to improve existing mass transit to make it attractive to riders– focusing on public safety and health, affordability, and connections to locations with the greatest need and highest rates of inequitable access.
14. The price of a typical home in Philadelphia was increasing at a faster rate than the ability of a typical Philadelphian to pay for it. Do you see a major component of this problem as constrained housing supply due to restrictive zoning laws? (https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/commentary/housing-affordability-philadelphia-covid-20211206.html)
As so many 5th Square posts have demonstrated, one of our biggest impediments to affordable and safe housing development in Philly is our antiquated (and often impossible to adjust) zoning laws.
15. Would you support state-based efforts to preempt local zoning and land use controls to encourage housing development particularly in affluent and transit-rich areas? (https://www.planetizen.com/definition/state-preemption)
I DO favor any policy that encourages the use of single-family zoned lots etc for larger, denser development.
My concern with supporting preemption laws in this context is the slippery slope it creates on other issues. The last thing we want is conservatives in Harrisburg to say "if Philly is fine with us regulating local buildings, they should be just fine with us continuing to regulate gun laws" (for example). I'd like to explore greater tax and community grant incentives for developers etc using their clout and capital to come to bat for communities seeking to increasing housing options and affordability, taking the cost and pressure off community groups and legislators who can often be painted as 'anti-growth' only because their hands are tied by rule making outside their control
16. If elected, what will you do to make housing, both market-rate and subsidized, more affordable?
Housing-related expenses including rents, mortgages, and repairs are by far the most burdensome to working families trying to make ends meet and improve outcomes for their children. I look forward to working with both public and private sector leaders to enact essential reforms to zoning, taxes, and subsidies so we can put people into safe, secure housing and help them start building a financially stable future. As in most social services, reaching those in most need of housing support can be the most difficult step. Just as we invested in Navigators for the Affordable Care Act, I hope to help develop mobile “street teams” across PA that bring housing resources, information, and sign-up forms to those in need on the most helpful physical/digital platforms and in the languages most needed. Major PA corporations and development agencies have the largest role to play in helping fund affordable housing initiatives as they will see immediate increases in available workforce participants and loyal consumers with disposable income. Every step taken to ease the burden of paying for a home allows a PA resident to invest in their work, their child’s education, and in the economy of their community.
17 (a). An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is a self-contained home with its own kitchen, bathroom and sleeping area on the same lot as the main house. They can be used to keep multi-generational families together, to give homeowners the option to rent part of their property, and to give seniors more options for aging in place. Do you see permitting ADU construction as an important element in increasing housing supply? (https://local.aarp.org/news/adus-provide-unique-housing-solution-to-todays-challenges-pa-2021-06-17.html)
17 (b). What efforts will your office take to ensure seniors can age in place?
I served on AARP's DEI Advisory Council and increasing affordable, accessible intergenerational housing options that keep families together is critical to minority communities. Attacks on ADUs by the for-profit using home industry are often a straw man to protect their revenues. As supporters of unionized at-home care (a major workforce sector in Philly) we will promote ADUs as a way to keep seniors at home and save them money to be able to afford greater quality care where they live. Additional, ADUs are often places where small businesses start. I will fight for them to be permitted, and often incentivized (where appropriate) to help keep neighborhoods strong and supporting the growth of hyperlocal neighborhood economies.
18 (a). Philadelphia is currently experiencing over 1,000 overdose deaths annually, a significant public health crisis. Do you see supervised injection sites as an important element in the battle against addiction deaths? (https://whyy.org/articles/time-for-safehouse-to-ask-forgiveness-not-permission-on-philly-supervised-injection-site-experts-say/)
18 (b). Why or why not?
YES. According to the PA Attorney General’s office one in four Pennsylvanians is/knows someone directly affected by the opioid crisis. It affects every community and every demographic; so this is truly a Commonwealth-wide issue of critical importance. I hope to be part of a bipartisan legislative push for exponentially increased funding for access to Nalaxone, as well as “Drug Deactivation Pouches” at every point of sale in PA. The largest organization of physicians in the state, The Pennsylvania Medical Society, endorses plans for safe, monitored injection sites. And yet, courts and local governments refuse to allow even small-scale experiments to help save lives in their communities. The status quo is not working, so any attempt to alleviate suffering and help users find a path to recovery is worth our exploration.
19. Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania DEP are moving to participate in a program that would limit harmful carbon pollution from power plants in Pennsylvania. This program is called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), and it would have power companies pay for the pollution they generate while setting caps on future pollution. Different interest groups within the Democratic Party have taken different positions on this, with some building trades unions on one side and environmental groups on the other. If elected, would you support joining RGGI? (https://www.inquirer.com/science/pennsylvania-house-rggi-climate-change-gov-wolf-20211216.html)
Unless we fundamentally tackle climate change, all other social and economic policies we work on are just bandaids on a broken planet. Ensuring our Commonwealth is doing its part to address these issues is a moral and economic imperative. With each passing month that the legislature does not enact green development incentives, green job training, and sustainable sourcing practices on public procurement contracts, we lose precious time– and money. That means joining the RIGGI coalition with thoughtful and deliberate participation from labor, from government, and from the public. As I mentioned, my years of working at the intersection of small businesses and large corporate and government contracts, especially those focused on sustainability, have affirmed that “going green” and growing our workforce and economy need not be mutually exclusive. In fact, green jobs can be a catalyst for exponentially more union infrastructure and cleanup projects. Natural gas, agriculture, and manufacturing are bedrocks of the Pennsylvania economy, and it’s time state government followed the lead of progressive corporations and enterprising municipalities that are investing heavily in cleaner production and pragmatic transitions to energy and waste alternatives. By acting now we can limit increases in the frequency and intensity of flooding, heatwaves, wildfires and other extreme weather events that cost PA taxpayers billions each year. Each step taken to curb emissions and rectify our impact in PA results in countless new private and public sector jobs– many of them union.
20. Tell us more about what you bring to the table as an ally for urbanist politics in Harrisburg. What makes you the right person to advance the urbanist movement's goals politically or substantively at the state level? How would you build support for pro-urbanist policies among your colleagues from outside our region?
I've lived in the bustling downtowns of major cities my entire adult life (DC, NYC, and Philadelphia). I love the opportunities it affords people of all classes and communities, and want to see the ideals of the urbanism movement grow across PA. Urbanism is a belief that density, diversity, and equity are fundamental to a successful, progressive city. And as someone who has passed legislation affecting large cities and the smallest rural areas, helping folks understand how these ideas scale and fit their locality is key to why I'll be a successful urbanism champion and influencer in Harrisburg. As one of my favorite moments in my favorite TV show of all time, ‘The West Wing,’ says: “There is a connection between progress of a society and progress in the arts. The age of Pericles was also the age of Phidias. The age of Lorenzo de Medici was also the age of Leonardo Da Vinci. The age of Elizabeth was the age of Shakespeare.” It only makes sense that the age of Gritty is the age of Philadelphia’s biggest investment yet in the arts and the creative economy. I love how directly urbanism is connected to support for the arts and culture of our communities. When you zoom out beyond the cultural institutions and businesses that support them (especially in the bustling heart of the 182nd Center City District), you also have dozens of industries — from marketing firms to catering companies to framing shops — that thrive because of their creative industry clients throughout the city. This isn’t an example of “trickle down economics” actually working (hint: it doesn’t). It is the embodiment of perhaps the best sentiment uttered by Dolly Levi, the titular Hello, Dolly!, “Money is like manure, it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around encouraging young things to grow.” Lastly, these issues of building strong, functioning cities coupled with sustainable and eco-friendly policies are deeply personal to me. As you may know, my husband and I returned to Philadelphia so he could become NBC10 Philadelphia’s climate and environmental policy specialist on their weather team. I’m also very proud to have the personal support and guidance on my campaign from my close friend and colleague, Shawn LaTourette, Commissioner of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection. Shawn is a major champion for urbanist policies and shattering the myth that green/safe policies are bad for business.