Paul Prescod, running for State Senate (8th District)
I'm a Philly public school social studies teacher and a union activist. My father, also a teacher, emigrated from Barbados and taught him the importance of education and equality. My goal has always been to help win power and dignity for working people. As a student at Temple University, I stood in solidarity with Temple Hospital nurses and other union workers. As a teacher in Philadelphia’s public schools, I've been on the front lines fighting for the schools our students deserve. In 2020, I worked with local labor unions to pass the Essential Worker Protection Act, which prevents employers from retaliating against workers who report violations of COVID-19 safety guidelines. Before and during the pandemic, I've been committed to mobilizing community support for essential workers like UPS drivers, sanitation workers, and postal workers. As an employee in Philadelphia’s public schools, and a longtime resident of West Philadelphia, I've witnessed firsthand the deep inequality that affects our state and cities. Young students, families, and educators are facing the highest burdens of unfair policies while wealthy corporations benefit the most, and it’s time for that to change. Working people need more, and I'm running for PA State Senate to fight for the future we deserve.
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?
We need to build our infrastructure in a way that encourages and allows for more people to travel by biking, walking, and public transit.
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 would make sure that there is clear communication and buy-in from these constituents from the beginning. Often zoning meetings where these decisions get made are inaccessible to average working people. Elected officials should make sure these proposals are discussed in other forums like block captain meetings, ward meetings and community meetings. Elected officials should even go door-to-door to explain these proposals and listen to feedback. Highlighting how this proposal would make it easier for people to travel without using a car could help alleviate fears of congestion. If long-time residents are included and bought-in from the beginning, fears of gentrification are more likely to be addressed.
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/)
As a former public school teacher, I've seen the danger of not having speed enforcement in school zones. Anecdotally, reckless driving has increased since the beginning of COVID-19. We need to try automated speed enforcement in the interests of public safety.
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)
I support congestion pricing but only as long as the proceeds go towards investment in lower-income areas.
I support congestion pricing but only as long as the proceeds go towards investment in lower-income areas.
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)
We need to vastly improve and expand public transportation in this state, and there are a slew of specific policies that would do this. Trolley modernization, construction of high-speed rail, restoring previous cuts to bus service routes, redesign the bus network to cut down on commute times, etc. Public transit improves the quality of life, significantly cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions, and creates more quality union jobs.
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)
Bridge tolling, managed lanes, and congestion pricing.
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?
Road safety is a growing problem in the 8th District. We need to encourage alternatives to car transportation as much as possible. We need to fund SEPTA more to enhance the quality and frequency of trolley and bus service, and make access to the SEPTA key easier. Parking-protected bike lands should be used as much as possible. Existing roads should be repaired and maintained properly, as the high frequency of potholes makes driving even more unsafe.
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?
We should use funding mechanisms that do not place the burden on ordinary working-class people, who are often in a situation where they need to use cars due to the lack of reliable public transit. In Pennsylvania, we have a huge issue with tax fairness. Many of our wealthiest corporations, like Marcellus Shale natural gas, get away with paying little or no taxes. Others hide their wealth away in the Delaware tax loophole. We need to raise taxes on wealthy corporations in this state, and use this revenue for investment in things like public transit.
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?
My district would benefit in many ways from these changes. Trolleys are already frequently used in the 8th district by a diverse array of people, and modernization will only increase the confidence residents have in the trolley system over time. Improvements in bus and regional services will be crucial for working people who need reliable transport to their jobs. It has become increasingly dangerous to drive in the 8th district, and these SEPTA reforms will simply get more cars off the street. I will fiercely advocate for these changes in the legislature, but I will also mobilize and educate my constituents in order to advance these changes. The more my constituents are also putting pressure on elected officials to pass these reforms, the better chance we have.
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/)
Dedicated bus and trolley lanes would improve the transit experience for both drivers and public transit users. When drivers use these dedicated lanes they put lives at risk.
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?
We to increase SEPTA funding so we can implement: more bus routes, increase the frequency of bus/rail/subway service, trolley modernization, easier access to the SEPTA key, etc.
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)
16. If elected, what will you do to make housing, both market-rate and subsidized, more affordable?
There have been a variety of innovative measures proposed to address the housing problems that we (and other areas) face, and many are worthy of consideration. However, one that particularly appeals to me is the government-owned urban wealth fund. Our cities, instead of selling precious land at pennies on the dollar to real estate moguls who will flip it at a huge profit, could (and should) hold on to it and manage it in the public interest. It could be developed for subsidized housing, or commercially, as the city sees fit—and the proceeds would flow back into the people’s pockets rather than developers’, thereby boosting local budgets as well. Our state legislature should reward cities that keep public wealth public.
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?
We need to make sure we can have development that doesn't result in dramatic rises in housing prices so seniors can stay in their home. Expanding Social Security and Medicare also decreases the need for assisted living facilities.
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?
The opioid crisis is a health crisis. There are many short term measures I support, including promoting needle exchanges and ensuring funding for first responders to carry naloxone. But more broadly, we need to expand our state’s medical infrastructure to build affordable rehabilitation centers. We also need to greatly expand access to health insurance so that those suffering from addiction are able to afford treatment.
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)
While I understand the concerns of building trades unions about the effects of RGGI, there are vast opportunities to create tens of thousands of good union jobs in the transition to clean energy. I support the funding of the PA Office of a Just Transition to further develop proposals to make sure workers are not left behind in this process.
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 am someone that can build broad, diverse coalitions to help advance urbanist politics in this state. My background and relationships in the labor movement make me well-positioned to bring in other allies to the urbanist movement. As an organizer and activists, I understand the work it takes to achieve real buy-in from diverse constituencies and how to frame these issues in a way that emphasize our common interests.