In Council News, Kendra Brooks, News by admin

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Philadelphia, PA — Councilmember Kendra Brooks (At-Large) issued the following statement ahead of City Council’s final passage of the fiscal year 2023 budget.

“The budget for fiscal year 2023 includes significant victories for our movement but ultimately falls short of delivering the relief and support that Philadelphians deserve. By prioritizing the bottom lines of big businesses and the ultra-rich over working people and failing to insulate our public schools from future funding shortages, our city is promoting an inequitable vision of growth—one where the wealthy are protected while those struggling to make ends meet are forced to make do with less and less.

“To address the widespread disparities across our city, I fought hard for the programs that keep our community members safe, housed, and protected, and the services that keep our young people engaged. I’m glad to see that the budget includes significant funding increases in the following areas:

  • Restores funding to Parks & Recreation to pre-pandemic levels – $8M increase;
  • Increases Rental Assistance – $15M;
  • Increases Public Defender budget to achieve pay parity among administrative, social work, and legal
    staff – $5.8M;
  • Increases funding for mobile crisis units, which provide non-police responses to mental health crises
    – $7.3M increase;
  • Increases funding for Philadelphia Eviction Prevention Project and expands Right to Counsel
    -$1.04M; and
  • Increases funding for the Urban Agriculture Plan – $300K.

“Our Restore Community Land campaign to protect lots encumbered by U.S. Bank liens from being sold off at sheriff sale is ongoing. We’ve identified active community gardens, potential sites for affordable housing, and maintained sideyards to prioritize, and after holding a public hearing, partnering with grassroots organizations, and sending a letter to U.S. Bank signed by fourteen of my colleagues, we’re making significant progress on finding a permanent solution. My office recently met with the Revenue Department and Office of Finance and learned that the Administration has been meeting with US Bank representatives to identify what it would take to recover these parcels. I have requested that sheriff sales be paused while these discussions are happening. If we move with urgency, we have an opportunity to restore ownership of land to communities that have been plagued by decades of gentrification, disinvestment, and racist housing policies.

“This budget also includes many shortcomings. Increasing the Homestead Exemption to $80,000 is a hugely important step in alleviating the unequal burden of rising property assessments for homeowners who live in gentrifying neighborhoods. However, failing to protect the School District of Philadelphia from the budget shortfalls that this will cause in 2-3 years when federal relief funding runs out is a mistake that could have been avoided. Until we have the political courage to make CEOs and ultra-rich institutions pay what they owe our city, we will continue to be forced to make false choices between providing needed relief for low-income families and funding public goods.

“That’s why I voted against the tax cuts proposed this year that will result in the City losing $35M in annual revenue. We’ve seen what austerity budgets do to our city, and we can’t go back to the shuttered schools, neglected neighborhoods, and broken infrastructure of decades past that haunt our communities to this day. With wage cuts amounting to $12.41 in annual savings to a home healthcare worker but providing $5,876 annually to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, we have to ask ourselves—who benefits? Certainly not the average Philadelphian. Certainly not the young people who could have seen that money go toward local sports programming, summer jobs, or nurses and librarians in public schools.

“After years of pandemic-related hardships, decades of disinvestment, and an unprecedented gun violence crisis, people living paycheck to paycheck deserved more than another status-quo budget. Wealth doesn’t trickle down, it consolidates. Failing to provide robust, targeted supports to young people and residents living in the handful of neighborhoods where most shootings take place and instead focusing on tax cuts that will benefit the wealthy is a political choice that will have material consequences.

“I am voting for the budget to recognize the numerous improvements that it contains, which will undoubtedly improve our city’s ability to support residents. Still, to meet this pivotal moment, the Administration and our City Council body must do more to put forward a real vision for recovery, safety, and stability. To build a city that leaves no one behind – one where housing is accessible and affordable, our public schools are world-class learning institutions, and our neighborhoods are safe, green places to grow and play—we need to have everyone pay their fair share. I vow to continue fighting alongside my colleagues in City Council and with our social movements to make that vision a reality.”

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