What office are you seeking?
In 2006, I challenged 10-term incumbent Babette Josephs in the Democratic primary for the 182nd District in the State House, losing by just 237 votes.
In 2008, following the retirement of Vince Fumo, I ran for the Pennsylvania Senate in the 1st District, against union leader Johnny Dougherty and community activist Anne Dicker. This time I won the election with 43%, receiving 30,879 votes. In that year, I faced Republican Republican businessman Jack Morley, who I beat by a margin of 81%-19%. And have proudly served as the State Senator for the first district for the past decade.
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. So far, PennDOT has been indifferent to calls from safety advocates for the kinds of engineering changes to these roads that would calm traffic. Would you use your position to support advocates' calls for safer urban arterials? What types of legislative and policy changes are needed to correct this problem at PennDOT? (https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/commentary/philadelphia-traffic-fatalities-penndot-20190208.html)
The key to getting more of these measures passed is for advocates to meet with state legislators, the City Streets Department, and PennDOT to define what is needed, how we can fund it, and what we need to do to implement it.
Pennsylvania recently passed legislation enabling automated speed enforcement on Roosevelt Blvd and highway work zones. Do you support the expansion of automated speed enforcement cameras to School Zones and on other High Injury Network streets throughout Philadelphia? (https://whyy.org/articles/roosevelt-boulevard-speed-cameras-represent-rare-bipartisan-win/)
Pennsylvania is the only state in the U.S. that bans local law enforcement from using radar for vehicle speed enforcement. Do you support lifting this ban? (https://www.pennlive.com/news/2019/06/is-2019-the-year-local-cops-in-pa-will-get-radar.html)
Do you support state enabling legislation to allow Philadelphia and other cities to use cameras for congestion-related enforcement? Areas that should be enforced by camera include bus zones, travel lanes, corner clearances, crosswalks, delivery zones, and non-curb pickups and drop-offs by ride-hailing drivers. Currently, the law allows for enforcement only upon the observation of an officer. Cameras allow a more cost-efficient alternative and are less subject to human and systemic biases. (https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/commentary/traffic-congestion-philadelphia-parking-tickets-ppa-20191211.html)
Act 89 transportation funds have historically been diverted to pay the state police budget, reducing the funds available to pay for public transit and road projects. What is the best way to safeguard this revenue to ensure that Commonwealth residents see all the transportation improvements they were promised when state lawmakers raised the gas tax? (https://www.penncapital-star.com/government-politics/can-you-pay-for-infrastructure-repairs-without-raising-state-taxes-in-new-plan-house-gop-says-yes/)
What are some of your own ideas for enhancing mobility and improving road safety in your district and Philadelphia more broadly?
Act 44, which transfers $450 million a year from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to public transit agencies, is set to expire in 2022. What is your plan to safeguard and expand the state revenue dedicated to public transit after this law expires? (https://wskg.org/news/pa-turnpike-escapes-catastrophic-lawsuit-but-remains-heavily-in-debt/)
Other issues that we should consider and are supported by mass transit agencies include:
We could monetize the SB 778 revenue to create bonds to fund more mass transit capital projects.
We could put a fee on TNC rides to create more money for mass transit. A .50 cent or $1 surcharge would create hundreds of millions for mass transit.
We need to look at statewide zoning laws to consider putting housing near public transit sites. This will encourage people to take public transit, boosting ridership, and revenues for transit agencies.
Do you support dedicated transit lanes and legislation enabling “Automated Transit Lane Enforcement” cameras mounted on transit vehicles and on roadsides 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/)
Do you support state enabling legislation for congestion pricing, permitting municipalities and regions to institute tolls on automobiles 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)
SEPTA has the capability to expand its rapid transit service by simply running its commuter rail lines more frequently and integrating its fares with subways and buses. But to do so, the agency will need to prioritize certain capital improvements and implement some operational reforms. Do you support such an expansion for our city's train service? (https://whyy.org/articles/analysis-how-septa-can-turn-regional-rail-in-philly-into-high-frequency-rapid-transit/)
As a legislator, how would you use the power of your office to advance those changes, instead of retaining the current structure which caters more to professional-class suburban commuters?
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?
California’s legislature recently introduced a pro-housing bill SB 50, which would preempt local zoning restrictions on dense housing construction near high-quality transit, and in high-opportunity areas with large concentrations of jobs or in-demand school districts. Similar bills have also been introduced by progressive lawmakers in Oregon, Washington, Maryland, and Virginia to preempt local exclusionary zoning policies like apartment bans, parking quotas, and minimum lot size rules from the state level. Do you support amending Pennsylvania’s Municipal Planning Code to preempt local exclusionary zoning policies in this way, with the goal of allowing transit-oriented housing near state-funded transit and commuter rail stations? (https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/01/sb50-california/604786/)
The century-old Separations Act requires multiple bids for all different parts of public construction projects in Pennsylvania, which some state officials believe makes public works projects unnecessarily expensive and inefficient, and precluding Design-Build firms from bidding on public construction projects. Will you support and advocate for repeal of the Separations Act? (https://www.yorkdispatch.com/story/opinion/contributors/2017/03/07/oped-s-time-repeal-separations-act-pa/98857412/)
Governor Tom Wolf has announced his intentions for Pennsylvania to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative—a regional cap and trade program that could push PA to cut emissions more aggressively, while generating revenue for public transit, clean energy, and other priorities. Joining RGGI would likely require an act of the state legislature, and 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 legislation to join RGGI?(https://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2019/10/03/gov-wolf-pennsylvania-regional-greenhouse-gas-initiative/)
I have co-sponsored Pennsylvania’s version of the Green New Deal - Senate Bill 630 - to move Pennsylvania energy production to 100% renewable energy by 2050. This is the major goal of the Green New Deal.
I have also co-sponsored Senate Bill 600 that would require 30% of all energy produced in PA to come from renewable sources by 2030.
By moving away from fossil fuels and into large scale renewable energy production, we can help to address climate change in a substantial way. I also recently voted against HB 1100 that would provide a $450 million tax credit for the building of a cracker plant in Northeastern PA. We do not need to build or provide state money to build more cracker plants.
We can get cars off the road and their associated greenhouse gas pollution by adopting forward-thinking transportation bills. The Senate transportation committee also recently passed my bill to create parking-protected bike lanes. When this bill is passed by the General Assembly, it will ensure that city’s can use state funding to create parking-protected bike lanes, which will create more safe spaces for cyclists and encourage people to get rid of their cars and to use bicycles.
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 am confident that I can build support for pro-urbanism policies in the same way I helped build statewide coalitions for parking-protected bike lanes. I will work with advocates, cities, and state governments like I did to build support with my colleagues for the pro-urbanism parking-protected bike lane bill. For that bill, I worked with a broad and diverse coalition of groups and folks including the greater Philadelphia bicycle coalition, Bike Pittsburgh, the cities of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Altoona, Harrisburg, and York, and government agencies like PennDOT and Philadelphia’s Streets Department to build support among legislators for this bill. The parking-protected bike lane bill has a bipartisan and broad geographic list of cosponsors.