Broke in Philly

Opinion: Hey Philly candidates: How are you going to address economic mobility?

Potential leaders are ignoring our questions about fixing poverty. That’s not cool.

Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital

Billy Penn is one of more than 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on economic justice. Read more at or follow at @brokeinphilly.

Updated May 5

Philadelphia has one of the largest fields of City Council candidates in history this year, with a diversity of age, socioeconomic status, gender, and experience that truly represents our community. With all 17 seats up for grabs, the power to direct our city’s future is ripe for the taking — and with so many candidates, spots could be decided by a few thousand votes or less. There’s also a mayoral race that’s actually heating up in the final weeks before the May 21 primary.

Do you know how these candidates plan to combat what is arguably our city’s most central challenge: the epidemic of economic insecurity and lack of economic mobility for Philly residents?

We’re trying to find out — but we’re getting ignored.

The partners of the Resolve Reporting Collaborative — the 20 media outlets across the city who produce Broke in Philly, including Billy Penn, WHYY and The Inquirer — spent the last month collecting suggestions from Philadelphians. Out of this we created a candidate questionnaire: Eight questions (listed below) that get at issues at the heart of economic mobility in our city.

We see this is a logical addition to our work over the last year aimed at ensuring that solutions to poverty and economic justice are a steady part of your daily news diet.

The survey was compiled by asking readers to submit questions about poverty and economic security that they wanted to ask of candidates. Broke in Philly received more than 300 suggestions, which we divided into categories like jobs, taxes, and education. Reporting partners then published polls asking readers to choose their favorite. Combining feedback from the public and editorial input from the collaborative partners, Broke in Philly finalized a list of questions to distribute.

We have since built a simple and accessible database that lets you — the voters! — see where every mayoral and City Council candidate stands on every question. You can sort by question or by each race (district and at-large Council, or mayoral) or by zip code. And we are working on getting a Spanish version of the site up ASAP.

But here’s the problem: We sent the survey to every campaign three weeks ago…and then we sent it again. Both times: few responses.

As of this article’s writing, all but 10 of the candidates we contacted had not responded.

Those handful of potential leaders want you to know where they stand on these central questions. Does anyone else?

Well, candidates, you’ve got three more days: until Wednesday May 8 at 5 p.m. After that, we’re going to spend our energy making sure voters use this database, rather than chasing answers from candidates.

We hope that this op-ed, letting Philadelphians know about the status of the survey you helped create, might spur more of the candidates who are asking for our trust and our votes to share their plans for the city’s future in writing, and transparently.

If you see a candidate over the next few days, or if you reach out to their campaigns, please ask them — on behalf of all of us — to respond.

The Broke in Philly Candidate Questionnaire

  • If you received a $10 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?
  • How will you increase access to public transportation in Philly?
  • What do you plan to do to make Philadelphia more attractive for small business owners?
  • What are three specific steps you will take to expand jobs in sections of the city where the majority of residents experience severe economic hardship?
  • Do you plan to help people go directly from high school into the workforce? If so, how? If not, why not?
  • Do you think the current minimum wage is adequate for decent housing and healthy nutrition? If not, how will you address this?
  • How will you address disparities in Philadelphia’s public education system?
  • Would you change the city’s wage tax structure? If so, why and how would you do it?

Want some more? Explore other Broke in Philly stories.

Mornings are for coffee and local news

Billy Penn’s free morning newsletter gives you a daily roundup of the top Philly stories you need to start your day.

You finished another Billy Penn article — keep it up!

We hope you found it useful, fun, or maybe even both. If you want more stories like this, will you join us as a member today?

Nice to see you (instead of a paywall)

Billy Penn’s mission is to provide free, quality information to Philadelphians through our articles and daily newsletter. If you believe local journalism is key to a healthy community, join us!

Your donation brought this story to life

Billy Penn only exists because of supporters like you. If you find our work valuable, consider making a sustaining donation today.

Being informed looks good on you

Thanks for reading another article, made possible by members like you. Want to share BP with a friend?