Marylouise Isaacson, running for State Representative, 175th District
I have represented the 175th District as state representative since 2019, and prior to that, for 12 years as staff. I am humbled by the work required to ensure that every constituent is able to work and live a quality day-to-day life with dignity and access to the resources they need. This pandemic has laid bare the lack of a social safety net and the dysfunction of the systems and departments our constituents need the most when we are in a state of emergency. These past two years have transformed me as an elected official and the way I think about governing. In 2022, we need to come together and reimagine what the government can and should do not only in our most vulnerable moments, but in order to create a society in which we are not fighting each other for basic resources like food and toilet paper or access to vital needs like vaccines and testing. Education funding, raising the minimum wage, and transitioning Pennsylvania to a green economy have been legislative priorities of mine since I was elected in 2018. However, in the immediate future, I will be continuing to fight for the passage of the non-discrimination act and advocating for the release of the rainy days funds that the Republicans have appropriated into our reserves when they should have been appropriated into funding workers and initiatives across the state that were already struggling before the pandemic. These are both issues that need to be urgently addressed due to the current environment of the legislature.
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)
1b. What types of legislative and policy changes are needed to correct this problem at PennDOT?
As we look at all of the state's aging infrastructure as well as a series of tragedies that have happened to roadway users due to unsafe conditions and collapses, I believe it is important to re-center PennDOT's vision to be less automobile-driven and more transit and road-user focused. Further, all current and future planning must take into account our climate crisis goals and shifting to greener and cleaner ways of moving people. As a state and as a legislature, we need to be focused on creating more jobs in walkable and transit-friendly locations, encouraging work structures and commutes that reduce carbon footprints, and making our roadways safer with alternatives to driving. Pennsylvania must stop trying to fit more drivers on the road and start implementing systems and infrastructure that makes that a possibility to more Pennsylvanians. I am in strong support of more mass transit in PA that serves Pennsylvania’s diverse needs as our geographic regions and transit systems differ; is funded by closing tax loopholes and ensuring corporations and the incredibly rich pay their fair share ; has sustainable, long-term funding ; and is created with transit riders and transit workers the table. An expansion of mass transit and transit in PA must include investment in state funding, legislation enabling local governments to implement transit funding mechanisms, publicly-owned and operated infrastructure, the use of union labor, a transition to a green economy, bike and pedestrian infrastructure investments, a dedicated low-income fare program, the creation of transit-oriented communities and affordable housing, and continuous rider input and governance. Mass transit in our state must also be safe, accessible, affordable, and sustainable.
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/)
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)
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/)
3 (b). How would you listen and respond to constituents who oppose road safety measures out of fears of traffic congestion and gentrification?
I believe that transit and planning must always be equitable, affordable, accessible, sustainable, and safe. In conducting community feedback, it is imperative that all voices are at the table, and if they are not present, that you are reaching out to affected communities in the manner and medium in which they use and can be properly informed and engaged. When addressing fears of congestion and gentrification, elected officials must not be dismissive, but we must also use facts, studies, and results from pilot programs to compare to these concerns. It is also important to stress the fact that planning can change how current users interact within their own neighborhoods with some users changing habits due to the new design and infrastructure. In coming to terms on an agreement, compromise should never be in the area of public safety and access. Compromise should be in adding additional amenities and requests that do not impact the original intent of the project or outcome.
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/)
Automated speed enforcement cameras have been proven to slow traffic, reduce crashes and accidents, and save lives while on the road. They also increase accountability and transform driver behavior.
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, I support congestion pricing as I truly believe that these types of models do transform motorist behavior and would encourage more people to use public transportation. I am interested in seeing some models implemented first as well as a public information campaign to inform everyone of the new pricing and tolls as well as solicit feedback for the areas impacted.
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)
The early months of the pandemic has actually shown us the possibilities of decreasing car dependence, and therefore, reducing greenhouse gas emissions when everyone was working from home to reduce the spread. We saw in the short-term what that could look like and how that could positively affect our climate change goals. Legislatively, I have introduced a Green Driver Incentive Package at the state level, but I believe that these types of incentives need to be in coordination with reducing care dependence. I am supportive of increasing state funding, publicly-owned and operated infrastructure, a transition to a green economy, bike and pedestrian infrastructure investments, a dedicated low-income fare program, the creation of transit-oriented communities and affordable housing.
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)
I am in support of funding for mass transit through a combination of corporate and individual wealth taxes, congestion pricing and road user fees, and progressive vehicle ownership taxes.
8 (b). Should our commonwealth continue to fund highway expansion projects as a means to combat congestion?
9. What are some of your own ideas for enhancing mobility and improving road safety in your district and Philadelphia more broadly?
As my District grows in density and more commercial corridors, recreation areas and attractions are added, many of the streetscapes and original planning need to be updated and improved. In many neighborhoods in the District, certain intersections were constructed before many of the current structures existed, making the area unsafe for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists due to increased congestion, poor engineering, and lack of signage and signals. Further, additional protected bike lanes, speed bumps, and other traffic calming measures need to be added not only where they are requested and desired, but in areas in which safety is of concern.
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?
I am in support of funding for mass transit through a combination of corporate and individual wealth taxes, road user fees, and progressive vehicle ownership taxes.
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?
While the region needs to succeed together in collaboration with PennDOT, the City, SEPTA, and users, I will continue to use my position to advocate for increased funding in infrastructure and fleet services as well as a transformation of current routes and accessibility. In some neighborhoods in the City, a person has to take three different forms of transportation with wait times in between to get to their destination which discourages them from using public transportation and those are the studies I am most interested in taking action on.
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/)
I believe that automated enforcement cameras will decrease illegal parking and stopping which will therefore improve the dangerous walking and biking conditions. Cameras are also a more cost-efficient alternative and are not subject to biases.
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?
My job is to respond to the needs and concerns of constituents throughout the District, using their feedback and experiences as a guide to both implement legislation and policy or reach out to a Department for a requested change or safety concern. In coordination with City departments and Councilmembers, I often put in requests for traffic studies and traffic calming measures as well as request meetings for future planning. Further, I have also been engaged in bringing home funding for road diet projects as well as reimagining areas of the district through the I95 Capping.
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)
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 am cautious about any legislation that weakens Philadelphia's Home Rule Charter which is constantly under attack in Harrisburg with a broad definition of what is germane to certain bills. However, it is imperative that we encourage density around transit stations if we are to truly encourage more people to take public transportation. The City has already started to push more towards transit-oriented districts.
16. If elected, what will you do to make housing, both market-rate and subsidized, more affordable?
The housing crisis came into full view for far too many people during this pandemic as we were all told to shelter in-place - to shelter in homes in which far too many people do not have or cannot afford. One of the first pieces of legislation I introduced during the first few weeks of the pandemic was a bill to halt evictions during a state of emergency and I was proud to co-author that bill with Rep. Summer Lee. I have been a proud supporter of affordable housing in my district through grants to build and manage affordable housing to organizations like NKCDC. I also have introduced and moved legislation to protect homeowners from unfair property tax increases under the “assessment process” in Philadelphia that often forces long-time homeowners and renters to move in areas that are rapidly gentrifying. Further, I have also introduced a bill to require all property assessors in Philadelphia to be certified so that a home or property is appropriately assessed by a trained professional that must follow certain requirements for increases. I am also the prime sponsor of legislation to stop predatory harassment for homeowners, primarily seniors, for being harassed into selling their homes. My bill is modeled after legislation that passed in Chicago to keep developers from preying upon the most vulnerable citizens with offers of cash payments and false promises. On a larger scale, I am supportive of increasing investments statewide in affordable housing units, implementing a rent control standard, revitalizing public housing through investment and renovation, and expanding eligibility programs to more households and families.
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?
Our office is proud to serve as a one-stop shop to our seniors in the district, never allowing our office to serve as a dead end or make our seniors travel to a different location with a need or complexity that we can help address in our office, via phone or virtually. We also take SEPTA Senior pass photos on-site in the office so that they do not need to travel downtown. We also offer mobile services and often will pick up documents or drop off resources when requested. However, that type of service and accessibility needs to be replicated in all areas when it comes to ensuring that our seniors can age in place at home. One of the primary reasons seniors cannot stay in their homes is lack of transportation and access to public transportation which is why creating transit-oriented communities is vital. Additionally, many of our seniors are on a fixed income and need financial support and assistance to help with cost-of-living expenses and needs which we are supportive of and help connect seniors with those programs.
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?
When it comes to addressing the crisis through policy and programs, I am supportive of safe injection sites. I also am in favor of looking at mobile units similar to what Philadelphia FIGHT has employed for other services in order to address neighborhood and quality of life concerns. I am also supportive of implementing harm reduction policies and gaining funding for these wraparound services. I have brought home grant funding to address harm reduction in the District. I also believe that we must fight for long-term substance use disorder treatments and increased education and awareness efforts. I also think that we need to focus more on protecting and providing services to our neighborhoods and communities affected by the crisis. I also think that we need to hold drugmakers responsible. I have put forth legislation that would create an opiate reparation and accountability fund from increasing manufacturer and distribution fees for companies that profit off of sales of opiates. It is my vision that this fund could make significant investments in communities that have been criminalized and provide further support to cities and neighborhoods that have been negatively affected for decades.
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)
As a member of the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, I have stood in support of RGGI at countless hearings and publicly pushed back against the misinformation campaign against joining RGGI. Green jobs are blue jobs, and many of the clean energy and transit initiatives that fall within this plan will actually add to the building trades unions with proper training and development.
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?
As a current House member, I have the opportunity to shape policy and push for overdue changes and reforms for all urban areas around the Commonwealth. My district is one of the economic engines of the Commonwealth and one of the most dense geographically. I bring a unique perspective to the discussion in Harrisburg and I am able to advocate for the issues we face that are different than those in more suburban or rural areas. I have formed strong relationships in committees and worked alongside members within my own delegation, but also across the aisle. I have also worked endlessly to bring home state funding to the district to enable many projects and renovations in support of 5th Square's core values and mission. Pro-urbanist policies are an urban affairs issue. Pro-urbanist policies are an environmental issue. Pro-urbanist policies are also a social justice and economic development issue. And I am committed to sustaining and growing a coalition that cares about all of these issues as well as the future of the Commonwealth.