In just her first term in Philadelphia City Council, Councilwoman Helen Gym has helped lead a progressive agenda focused on working families and the city’s youth. She is the vice chair of Local Progress, a national network of municipal officials bringing a progressive agenda of racial and economic justice to the forefront. Her work has garnered national attention and the 2017 Rising Star Award from EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest supporter of women in office.
A QUALITY PUBLIC SCHOOL FOR ALL
Championing new resources for schools
- Won $10 million in new school funding from the Parking Authority, after they decreased their support for public education.
- Put a full-time nurse and counselor back in every public school.
- Helped double the number of social workers in schools.
- Won a legal complaint that brought tutoring and support services to special education students at schools suffering from teacher vacancies.
- Led a campaign for the first investments in bilingual school services since 2011, including new ESOL teachers, bilingual staff and psychologists, and training.
- New requirements for all public schools to provide free school breakfast in the classroom.
Investing in quality teaching
- Championed a new contract for Philadelphia school teachers and staff after a years-long standoff.
- Worked to improve the handling of teacher vacancies, recruitment, and diversity hires, including leading an investigatory hearing.
- Reduced the number of teachers forced out of turnaround schools.
Improving school facilities
- Partnered with student activists to win new modern water hydration stations in every school to ensure that all students have safe, clean, and cool drinking water at school.
- Passed new legislation requiring that every school have functioning water fountains and established a ratio of one fountain for every 100 students.
Ending the school to prison pipeline
- Helped lead a campaign to end K-2 suspensions and reform disciplinary practices to better serve students and families.
- Held school budget town halls, drawing 2000+ Philadelphians who advocated and helped win improvements in their school communities.
- Held “Fair Funding” rally and advocacy day in support of a Supreme Court case challenging Pennsylvania’s inadequate and inequitable school funding laws.
- Won a moratorium on the conversion of public schools to charters and a reassessment of District turnaround strategies.
- Drafted a report revealing poor academics and spending by a proposed charter school led by out-of-state hedge fund managers, leading to their withdrawal from the District.
A HEALTHY AND SAFE CHILDHOOD
Protecting against lead poisoning:
- With Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown and Councilwoman Cindy Bass, passed a series of lead and water safety bills, which imposed new rigorous standards for lead testing in all school buildings and child care centers in the city, and required disclosure of lead service lines for tenants.
- Served on the Philadelphia Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Advisory Group, which led to increased spending on enforcement of dangerous and substandard rentals and homes.
Defending our most vulnerable youth
- Won $2 million in new city funding to address youth homelessness, with Council members Jannie Blackwell and Allan Domb.
- Called to end city contracts with agencies with a documented history of abuse (i.e. Wordsworth) and won closer monitoring of residential placements for foster youth.
- Held the first ever hearings on the issue of youth homelessness, highlighting the voices and experiences of youth alongside experts.
HOUSING AS A HUMAN RIGHT
- Won a historic investment of $500,000 a year in legal aid for low-income renters facing eviction, a first for the City of Philadelphia, and winning national attention as a major step towards insuring right to counsel.
- Convened hearings and forums on Philadelphia’s eviction crisis, with Councilwoman Quiñones-Sánchez, bringing together national experts and a diverse advocacy coalition.
- Held a community town hall in Germantown, the neighborhood with the highest rate of eviction in the city, to hear from community members about the challenges they face and pave a path forward to secure housing as a human right for every Philadelphian.
QUALITY JOBS AND CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY
- Passed legislation expanding the prevailing wage for more than 2,000 building service workers such as janitors and security guards across Philadelphia.
- Passed historic legislation to require businesses that receive city subsidies to report data about economic value and job quality.
Closing tax loopholes
- Co-sponsored legislation closing a loophole for transfer tax payments.
MOBILITY AND TRANSIT EQUITY
- Helped lead citywide plan to reduce traffic deaths and injuries by installing speed controls and other neighborhood improvements, and to increase safety for families with children commuting to school.
- Passed new legislation requiring stricter standards for pedestrian and sidewalk safety around construction sites. The new requirements limit the ability to shut down sidewalks without alternatives.
- Spearheaded the establishment of a citywide planning process to ensure our transportation infrastructure equitably serves the needs of all Philadelphians, including immigrants, people with disabilities, seniors, and low-income people.
CIVIL RIGHTS, RACIAL JUSTICE, AND COMMUNITY ACTION
Immigrant Rights and ending Anti-Muslim bigotry
- Led the first protest against the Muslim Travel Ban and helped free detained families at the airport.
- Co-sponsored municipal ID legislation to ensure all Philadelphians have access to key services (introduced).
- Defended Sanctuary City status and expanded access to legal assistance for kids facing deportation.
- Passed an anti-Islamophobia resolution.
- Distributed posters supporting diversity and inclusion and decrying hate throughout the city.
- Passed a resolution denouncing Trump’s assault on civil and human rights.
Expanding our civil rights and liberties
- Passed the first-ever official recognition of Trans Day of Visibility in Philadelphia and hosted a celebration in City Council to honor the day.
- Passed a resolution affirming a human right to earn a living and to a safe and dignified workplace, regardless of immigration status.
- Advocated to protect students and faculty from racial discrimination at a religious college, resulting in a supportive amicus brief from the City of Philadelphia.
- Hosted a reading of the Stanford Survivor’s letter in City Hall, bringing together government officials and advocates for survivors of rape and sexual assault.
- Co-sponsored legislation requiring all city buildings/facilities have diaper changing stations (passed).
- Introduced legislation to require insurance for City employees to cover in vitro fertilization and egg freezing.
Honoring our ancestors and history
- Passed a historic city apology to Jackie Robinson for racism he suffered while playing in Philadelphia.
- Passed a resolution declaring that Philadelphia recognizes May Day to honor workers and the labor movement, in perpetuity.
- Honored Korematsu Day and Fred Korematsu’s legacy of defending civil liberties.
- Organized a Community Action Meeting at which more than 600 community members pledged over $15,000 for local organizing, and made more than 1000 organizing commitments.
- Fought to protect the Affordable Care Act, with a resolution, phone banking, protests, and mobilizations.
- Spearheaded the PA fight against the confirmation of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, helping lead tens of thousands of calls to Senate offices.