My Promise for a Thriving Philadelphia
Long before I ever had an important title, I was a tough Philly mom that refused to accept broken systems. As a teacher, community leader, and later, a City Councilmember, I repeatedly saw those in power throw their hands up and walk away at the first sight of hard problems. But I’ve never been one to give up on people.
When schools were being closed, libraries were being shuttered, children were being hurt, workers were being treated unfairly, and families were being displaced, I did what I’ve always done: worked hand-in-hand with communities to forge strong coalitions, identify smart solutions, and improve people’s lives.
It’s how I guaranteed that there would be safe drinking water, nurses, and counselors in all our public schools. It’s how I led efforts to launch the city’s first mobile crisis units to treat community members in mental health emergencies. It’s how I cut the number of evictions in the city by almost 70%. And it’s how I expanded rights for workers on the job, voters at the ballot box, and LGBTQ youth in the city.
These wins didn’t come out of nowhere. They were the result of hard work, a powerful vision, and the belief that no one is willing to fight harder for Philadelphia than Philadelphians themselves. On every street in every single neighborhood there are people who love this city but feel let down because it doesn’t love them back. As Mayor, I’m ready to work with communities to deliver the things that every Philadelphian wants and deserves – safety at home, dignity at work, and a good education for their children.
We can and will take action on the gun violence crisis, fully-fund our public schools, clean our streets, build a strong economy, and so much more. But to do so, we need to throw out the old road maps that got us here. N o more paying lip service to do-nothing plans. Philadelphia needs a mayor with a real vision to empower our youth, lift up our neighborhoods, and get results.
I promise to you is this: As Mayor, I will deliver the safe, vibrant, thriving Philadelphia that every person in this city deserves — a Philadelphia that loves you back, and leaves no one behind.
As Mayor, Helen’s top priority will be to ensure everyone in Philadelphia is safe and feels safe. Her community safety agenda will not only swiftly and effectively respond to violence when it occurs, but stop violence from happening in the first place. Through convening all City and community partners around a shared vision, utilizing evidence-based strategies driven by data, engaging directly with the neighborhoods most impacted by violence, and focusing on outcomes, a Gym Administration will work with communities to invest in the solutions that work and reclaim neighborhoods for neighbors.
Read Helen’s comprehensive community safety plan to restore the village to Philadelphia.
Declare a State of Emergency on Gun Violence
As Mayor, Helen will deliver on a deeply coordinated, multi-agency plan to end the gun violence crisis by bringing everyone to the table, particularly those most impacted by violence in their communities. Helen knows that our city can’t solve the problems that it doesn’t identify or prioritize. That is why on her first day as Mayor, she will enact a State of Emergency on gun violence and begin convening all City agencies and key external partners weekly in an effort to:
- Get illegal guns off our streets;
- Solve homicides and shootings, closing cases and ensuring accountability;
- Reduce 911 response times;
- Provide interventions to stop those in the path of violence; and
- Support victims and survivors of violence in their path to recovery.
As a Councilmember, Helen Gym helped launch the first non-police mental health mobile crisis units to improve services to residents in need and allow police officers to focus on violent crime and urgent situations requiring their expertise. As Mayor, Helen will ensure that crisis response units are deployed to cover areas of mental health, homelessness, addiction and domestic violence.
Protect, Uplift, and Empower Philadelphia’s Young People
Philadelphia’s gun violence is traumatizing a generation of young people. These devastating losses shatter school communities, devastate parents, and ripple out to the entire neighborhood. What’s more is that far too many shootings happen near schools. Any comprehensive strategy to stop gun violence and strengthen our neighborhoods must start with young people and young adults. Helen believes that our city must support the young people it has turned its back on by delivering a ‘morning to night’ plan that engages and supports children and youth all year round. By providing them with the structure, programming, and job opportunities, youth and young adults in Philadelphia will not only stay out of the path of violence, they will be equipped with the skills to prepare them for bright, vibrant, successful futures.
As Mayor, Helen will ensure visible, safe routes to and from schools so no parent has to fear that their child could be harmed by simply going to and from the classroom. She will guarantee youth employment and robust summer programming as well as year-round supports outside of schools. Helen’s administration will ensure that the important neighborhood spaces that young people rely on for sports, arts, and enrichment, such as recreation centers and libraries are fully staffed, safe, and open on nights and weekends. Lastly, Helen will ensure that culturally adept and skilled community mediators are available wherever young people learn and play, so that arguments do not escalate into violence. Helen’s youth-powered anti-violence strategy will rely on and invest in a number of strong community partnerships that not only provide high-quality programming, mentorship, and education to children of all ages, but also provide good jobs for community members.
Community-Driven Interventions and Effective Policing
As Mayor, Helen will prioritize the services that Philadelphia residents need in their communities to feel safe. She will reduce 911 response times so that families know that any emergency is a top priority for our city, invest in forensics and modern policing tools so that homicides are solved and grieving families receive closure, and reconnect police officers with the communities they serve by deploying every available officer on foot and bike patrols. By placing a specific emphasis on community-oriented policing, Helen’s administration will ensure police officers are responsive to the needs of the residents they serve.
Helen led efforts to establish the city’s first mobile crisis units to support community members in need of emergency mental health services — so that police officers can focus on solving high-priority crimes. As Mayor, she will expand this program citywide and invest in a wide range of community-based services in order to reorient the police department to focus on high priority detective work and violent crime. Helen’s approach will rely on modern, research-backed tactics to reduce violence and return safety to our neighborhoods — without resorting to the failed policies of the past or rolling back the clock on civil rights.
Reduce Violence with Clean and Green Neighborhoods
Research shows that investing in neighborhood spaces has a direct and measurable impact on reducing gun violence. A Helen Gym Administration will immediately increase trash pick-ups and make physical improvements to neighborhoods across Philadelphia, with a focus on the blocks and surrounding areas where concentrated violence takes place. Helen will end inequitable and unacceptable neighborhood conditions that have plagued Black and Brown communities for too long and invest in the services that research has shown to significantly reduce violence: Improving street lighting, towing abandoned cars, increasing trash removal, preventing illegal dumping, sealing vacant buildings, and cleaning and greening vacant lots. These quality-of-life improvements will not just stem gun violence but make communities feel more cared for, beautiful, and cleaner than ever.
- Establish a separate Department of Sanitation and Waste Management
- Increase trash pick-ups and street lighting in neighborhoods most impacted by violence and dumping
- Seal 50% of vacant homes and tow 10,000 abandoned cars in first year
Provide Real Support for Victims of Violent Crime and their Families
Providing resources and supports to victims of gun violence, their families, and the neighborhoods where shootings take place is critical to preventing future violent incidents. Too often, our city is failing to provide survivors of violence — too many of them children, teens, and parents — with the resources, mental health support, conflict mediation, and attention that they deserve. Providing communities with comprehensive supports and interventions after a shooting is essential not only to healing from the traumas of violence and recovering from the damage that has been wrought — it’s also a key strategy in preventing further violence from occurring. Research shows that shooting victims are a high risk group for becoming shooters themselves. If a shooting takes place under Helen’s administration, the people involved and the surrounding community will immediately receive wrap-around services and an all-hands-on-deck approach to preventing the recurrence of violence.
Helen knows that an effective approach to community safety means investing in evidence-based, place-based intervention strategies, providing targeted interventions to youth in the path of violence, and providing a full range of services to support individuals and communities that have experienced violence. As Mayor, she will seize every opportunity to prevent violence before it occurs through investments in education, human services, affordable housing, and workforce development.
Helen has spent her life fighting for public schools, because she knows that public education is the single biggest investment we can make in our children, our city, and in each other. As a Philly mom, parent advocate, public school teacher, and later as a City Councilmember, Helen tackled unsafe school conditions, school closures, an unresponsive state-controlled school district — and won. She guaranteed safe drinking water, nurses, and social workers in all public schools; championed new requirements for public schools to provide free school breakfast in the classroom; secured a $15 million investment in schools from the Philadelphia Parking Authority, and more. But her work isn’t over. As Mayor, Helen will lead an education-first agenda that recognizes the future of our city relies on the health and wellbeing of our young people.
Helen’s administration will build off her 30 year track record of delivering results for students, staff, and parents and guarantee every young person access to the kind of quality education that will allow them to succeed in life. She will lead a real, actionable strategy to rid our school buildings of the toxic conditions that have plagued them for decades so that every child can learn in a safe, modern building that will be an anchor for every community. And Helen will continue to be a leading voice for the needs and rights of teachers, educators and school administrators in the city. She knows that the health and growth of our city depends on its school system and is the only candidate who has a real plan for children and youth.
Read Helen’s comprehensive schools-first agenda to support Philadelphia children and families here.
A Green New Deal for Schools: Fully Modernized Buildings for 21st Century Learning
Every child and teacher has the right to spend their days in a safe, modern building that is truly equipped for them to learn. The average age of our school buildings is 70 years, with many built over 100 years ago. Decades of neglecting preventative maintenance have resulted in unsafe conditions and repeated building closures — with schools unable to open for learning on hot days. Renovating and remediating our school buildings requires more than a series of last-minute contingency plans and cobbled together quick-fixes as crises unfold, but rather a real, transformative vision to fully modernize our schools for this generation and generations to come — a vision that sees school communities not just as recipients of plans but as valuable partners in that process.
With new infrastructure funding opportunities on the horizon, and with a commitment of new Philadelphia capital funds itself, Helen will kick off a Green New Deal for Philadelphia schools. In doing so, Philadelphia will transform our school facilities in an era of climate change, place Philadelphia students into a pipeline of family-sustaining, union jobs, engage the entire city in a real facilities planning process to revitalize neighborhood schools instead of closing them, and most of all, provide children and educators the facilities they deserve.
To do this, Helen will bring together City leaders, the School District, community stakeholders, organized labor, and families to chart a plan to immediately address dangerous school conditions in the short-term while embarking on an ambitious 10-year plan to modernize all public schools. Through existing revenue streams, new federal and state funding opportunities, and a major new capital budget initiative, this coalition will ensure Philadelphia has a real plan to achieve sustainable facilities improvements to finally bring our school facilities into the 21st Century.
Wrap-Around Safety and Enrichment for Philadelphia Youth
As Mayor, Helen will not only ensure that every student feels safe inside of school, but guarantee their safety on the routes they travel to and from school. This means investing in additional crossing guards and community safety monitors, providing free access to public transportation for all students so that they are not forced to walk through unsafe corridors just because they live within a mile of their school, and ensuring law enforcement is fully coordinating with both our District and charter schools to ensure the safety of students and staff.
Helen will prioritize making schools the sanctuaries our students need. Too often, our schools replicate the unsafe conditions that surround them, further traumatizing young people and staff and leading to students disengaging from school or families leaving the District. As Mayor, Helen will appoint a leadership position singularly dedicated to school safety, as well as implement a comprehensive model for trauma-centered schools and improve the support provided to school communities when responding to crises and violence. She will invest in the climate staffing needed to achieve the promise of restorative disciplinary practices, and increase training for young people in conflict resolution and mediation. She will additionally ensure there are social work teams in every school, reverse planned cuts to counseling staff, and provide support to school staff who are themselves experiencing profound impacts from trauma and violence.
Helen’s administration will also lead a ‘year round, morning to night’ strategy to invest in and expand programming for youth so that all students have access to the safe, supportive enrichment, employment, and recreation opportunities they need to thrive. Helen’s plan for youth and young adults includes not only expanded school-based programming but serious investments in neighborhood assets like public libraries and recreation centers, so they have the resources they need to offer robust programming to students on evenings, weekends, and throughout the summer months. Providing every child, teen, and young adult access to high quality care, programming, job training, and structure from morning to night will not only keep young people out of the path of violence but give parents and families critical support to live full, healthy lives.
Fully-Funded Schools and Expanded Educational Opportunities
As Mayor, Helen Gym will fulfill the promise of public education by funding schools, building new modern facilities, and making sure every child has access to safe learning and enrichment opportunities year round. Helen will expand universal pre-K, provide greater support to expand Community College affordability. She will also ensure that every school has robust afterschool and summer programming so children can learn, find employment and internships, and have access to teen wellness programs that create a whole child approach to development, health, and success. Under Helen’s leadership, and in partnership with the many Philadelphians who have led a fair funding fight for decades, she will lead the charge for increased funding in Harrisburg fighting for funds for school modernization and to ensure that we grow our educator and school staff pipeline.
- Establish a 60-40 split on property taxes to improve school funding
- Lead a regional delegation to Harrisburg for school modernization, universal pre-K, and education workforce development grants
- Provide every school community with programs from 7-9 a.m. and 3-6 p.m.
- Free SEPTA passes regardless of distance for all children in designated impact neighborhoods to ensure safe passages to and from school
- Expand universal pre-K, establish summer school programming and employment opportunities in every neighborhood, make Community College affordable
Preparing Every Student for Success and Providing Joy in Every Classroom
Philadelphia students are as capable, and as worthy of a quality education, as their peers in wealthier suburbs. It is unacceptable that countless students graduate from our school system without the skills and knowledge they deserve. As Mayor, Helen will prioritize ensuring every young person can graduate truly prepared to succeed, whether in college or directly in a career, and also increase the quality and availability of career and technical training programs that set students up for good jobs and bright futures.
But our students are more than their test scores or their roles as future workers, they are individuals who deserve the chance to explore their diverse interests and to have fun while doing so. Philadelphia is fortunate that caring staff work every day to instill love in Philadelphia’s public schools and make them places of discovery and growth. However, budget cuts and large classes too often rob students of the experiences that create lifelong love of learning and encourage students to walk in the door each morning. From arts and music, to athletics and after-school and extracurricular programs, schools must be a place of joy. Helen led the charge to return music and arts programming to our schools and as Mayor, will deliver on the promise of public schools that don’t just improve test scores — but inspire, motivate, and engage children.
Helen sees education as the key to violence prevention, neighborhood stability, economic mobility, and building a bright future for our city. As Mayor, she will deliver the public school system that Philadelphia deserves: a system that is vibrant, nurturing, and rigorous and ensures every child, in every neighborhood, receives a high quality education. As a former teacher, public school parent, and community leader she will be a Mayor who values the adults who care for and educate our children and who treats parents, neighborhoods, and the city as a whole as partners.
It is time for Philadelphia to overcome its ranking as the poorest big city in the country. The next Mayor of Philadelphia must be dedicated to growing an economy that is fair, inclusive, innovative, and vibrant. Helen Gym will be that Mayor.
Helen’s approach to growing the economy and strengthening Philadelphia’s workforce is grounded in three central beliefs. First, that it is necessary to be both pro-business and pro-worker to build an economy that works for all of us, and that we cannot move this city forward by focusing on one and not the other. Second, Philadelphia’s tax structure must be re-examined and updated, and the services and supports it provides to small and local businesses must be improved. And third, that a city that works for its citizens is one that will grow. By cultivating a place where people want to be, with clean streets, reliable public transportation, affordable housing, good schools, and accessible libraries and parks and recreation, Philadelphia can create and attract high-quality jobs and community-oriented employers.
Expand Jobs and Support Small, Local, Black, and Brown Businesses
In uncertain times, Helen Gym will deliver a bold rescue plan for Philadelphia’s economy, rooted in growing small, local Black and Brown businesses which have long been under-resourced, making local government responsive and modern, and expanding on important fields such as affordable housing, manufacturing and life sciences. Helen supports establishing a city-led entity to bring together city funding, lending institutions, minority banks, CDFI’s and private and public institutions to dramatically expand access to capital, including opportunity and equity funds and city procurement contracts. A Gym Administration will establish one-stop neighborhood business service hubs to help businesses open and resolve conflicts, whether it’s around permitting or fees. As Mayor, Helen will work regionally and statewide to bring capital opportunities, new partnerships and stronger investments to Philadelphia.
- Ensure City procurement contracts grow Black and Brown businesses across the board, especially as prime contractors;
- Establish one-stop business service hubs in neighborhoods to resolve issues among multiple agencies and receive business counseling assistance;
- Establish opportunity and equity funds to expand capital access to double the number of new Black and Brown led and owned businesses;
- Partner with Black economic development agencies such as The Enterprise Center and Innovate Capital Growth fund as well as business incubators to lead the effort.
- Partner with key stakeholders, including regional, state and federal partners, to identify areas of partnership, growth and investment for affordable housing, life sciences and manufacturing fields.
- Establish a new Tax Commission for Growth and Equity to review the city tax structure and make recommendations to streamline taxes, address inequities and ensure revenue growth and sustainability.
- Ensure all work includes partnerships with the School District of Philadelphia and the Office of ReEntry to prioritize youth, Philadelphia residents and returning citizens.
Making Philadelphia a Desirable Place to Live, Work, and Raise a Family
The Covid-19 pandemic and the rise of remote work has demonstrated that workers and businesses want to be located in the places that are the most livable — and it’s the next Mayor’s job to make Philadelphia a more desirable place to live for everyone. Helen has worked at the center of movements that have been critical to the city’s growth — making our immigrant communities feel safe and welcomed, building an education system that centers the idea that schools are critical neighborhood institutions, improving public safety in our communities so Philadelphians feel safe in their homes, increasing access to transit, and making our streets and neighborhoods cleaner and greener. As Mayor, Helen will place a relentless focus on livability, safety, and neighborhood revitalization. Helen wants to make Philadelphia the world class city that we all know that it can be a — a place where workers will want to live, and businesses will feel encouraged to set up shop to attract those workers.
Supporting Fair Pay and Dignified Working Conditions
Helen’s legislative agenda while on City Council prioritized supporting workers and improving their quality of life with new rights and improved working conditions. She established a permanent City Department of Labor dedicated to enforcing worker protection laws; passed the most expansive Fair Workweek law in the country, guaranteeing stable schedules, predictability pay, and a path to full-time hours for 130,000 hourly workers in the retail, restaurant, and hospitality industries; and wrote and passed the Black Workers Matter Economic Justice package, ensuring 12,000 hospitality workers in hotels, entertainment venues, and the Philadelphia International Airport were given first right of return to jobs they held prior to the pandemic.
As many well-paying manufacturing jobs have been replaced by service industry and gig economy jobs over the past few decades, Helen’s administration will also work hard to attract higher-paying employers, upskill Philadelphia’s workforce, and hold current employers accountable to provide fair pay and safe working conditions in the low-wage industries that are driving our city’s unacceptable poverty rate. Helen has led the city in strengthening the rights of Philadelphia workers, and she will continue to lead in this area as Mayor.
Helen’s promise is that she will continue to stand with organized labor and with workers to ensure that growing our economy doesn’t mean just increasing profits for those at the very top of the economic ladder, but creating good jobs, fair benefits, family-sustaining wages, and dignified working conditions for residents in every sector.
Expanding Workforce Development Opportunities
Helen knows that in order for our residents to qualify for careers with opportunities for growth that provide family-sustaining wages, Philadelphia must do a better job of workforce development and job training. There is currently a large gap between the skills that city businesses need to grow and thrive, and the workforce development pipeline that empowers Philadelphians to build their skills to meet modern employment opportunities.
As Mayor, Helen will increase and improve apprenticeship and job-training partnership programs between unions and the School District of Philadelphia in order to build a comprehensive pipeline between high school students and good jobs after high school or their post-secondary education. Helen also plans to utilize the city’s numerous post-secondary educational institutions like the Community College of Philadelphia to provide workforce development opportunities for adults looking to grow their skills and/or switch industries.
Investing in Philadelphia’s Arts and Creative Economy
The arts and creative economy in Philadelphia is not only one of our strongest assets but also plays a key role in supporting anti-violence, healing, and restorative practices in schools, with young people, and across diverse communities. Helen’s administration will establish a citywide Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative to drive funding and programs for the arts to ensure that Philadelphians, especially young people, have full access to creative outlets and cultural expression, expanded fellowships, and artists-in-residence programs across the city. Helen’s administration will also incentivize development and adaptive reuse of buildings to provide affordable rentals and creative spaces to local and diverse artists and organizations.
Helen’s vision is to create a strong economy where businesses can flourish, workers are supported, and Philadelphia improves its reputation as a dynamic, joyous place to live and do business in.
Helen’s legislative agenda while on City Council set a gold standard for how the City of Philadelphia can expand worker protections, stand with labor, and grow businesses. She will continue this work as Mayor by investing in anti-poverty initiatives, streamlining city services to support local businesses, creating an environment that fosters economic growth, and supporting workforce development partnerships.
For years, Helen has partnered with climate justice groups and environmental experts to champion policies that moved Philadelphia away from its reliance on fossil fuels and toward a more sustainable, greener, and livable future. As Mayor, Helen won’t wait to act on the climate crisis that is already wreaking havoc on our most vulnerable community members — from the flooding in Eastwick to the extreme temperatures that communities with low tree coverage face on hot summer days. She will lead a municipal Green New Deal agenda that makes our economy and our society fairer, more inclusive, and more sustainable. Helen will approach the climate crisis and its harmful manifestations not as a side project, but as an integral part of addressing decades of disinvestment and systemic inequality in our city. And Helen will ensure that our city government actually meets its commitment to a net-zero energy footprint, and will bring our private sector along too.
Helen knows that we can’t wait for action at the state and federal levels on the climate crisis, and that cities like Philadelphia must lead the way on building a green, healthy, and livable environment for this generation and generations to come. As Mayor, she will lead a bold, climate agenda by re-envisioning the future of our public gas utility, modernizing public transit, stabilizing and retrofitting aging homes, and greening and cooling neighborhoods that have been left behind for too long.
Safe Streets and Reliable Public Transportation
Every Philadelphia resident and business depends on our transportation system every day. Helen’s administration will deliver the convenient, safe, reliable, and sustainable transportation options that Philadelphians deserve — from improving pedestrian and bicycle safety to reducing vehicle-related deaths and improving our public transportation system. Helen knows that residents succeed and businesses thrive when Philadelphia’s streets and sidewalks meet unique neighborhood needs and SEPTA works for riders. And she knows that the city can’t tackle climate change without taking steps to reduce transportation related emissions, which account for more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions.
The transportation leadership of a Gym administration will put people at the center of their work and ensure that transportation operations and investment unlock opportunities for employment, economic and housing development, education, good health, cleaner air, and even joy. By prioritizing road safety for travelers, reducing deadly speeding, and accelerating the city’s Vision Zero plan, Helen will ensure that residents aren’t risking their lives just by crossing the street or walking down the sidewalk. And by paying particular attention to clearing intersections and slowing speeds on routes to schools, parks, playgrounds, and institutions relied on by older Philadelphians, Helen will make our city safer for kids, seniors, and residents in wheelchairs.
Helen’s administration will urgently focus on improving safety and increasing SEPTA ridership, which has seen a significant decline during the previous administration, long before the start of COVID. While transit services have been restored to 89% of pre-pandemic levels, ridership has recovered to only 57%, which represent more than 550,000 daily riders. As a Councilmember, Helen helped launch efforts to work with employers to provide transit benefits to workers, and will significantly expand that effort as mayor, bringing resources and ridership back to our transit system. Even though the City doesn’t operate SEPTA, it can meaningfully influence SEPTA’s success. A Gym administration will start at the top, ensuring that City appointees to the SEPTA Board are SEPTA riders and transportation experts. Together with multiple city departments, Helen will deliver on a public transit system that is safe, clean, affordable, reliable, and accessible to all.
Read Helen’s comprehensive vision for a connected city with safe, affordable transportation.
Helen knows that the single most important factor to creating safe, healthy, financially stable communities is access to stable, affordable, long-term housing. On Council, Helen led a campaign to reject the narrative that evictions are inevitable and transform how we treat low-income renters in the city. When she learned that one in 14 renters in Philadelphia face court-ordered eviction each year, the majority of them Black women and their families, she led a campaign that slashed evictions by two-thirds. Helen also passed legislation to guarantee access to legal representation for low-income Philadelphians facing eviction, and requiring diversion to help mediate disputes, setting a basic standard to balance the scales between landlords and renters and ensure that more families could stay in their homes. This effort has not only worked to prevent poverty-based evictions — it also has been heralded as one of the most effective measures to prevent the burdensome financial and human costs that we face as a result of these evictions. Even more, Helen championed local rent subsidies in the City’s housing plans for the first time ever — among the most cost-effective ways to expand affordable housing. She also successfully advocated for the first budget line item for addressing youth homelessness, which particularly impacts LGBTQ+ teens.
As Mayor, Helen will continue to build on her track record of spearheading innovative solutions to the housing crisis and keeping our most vulnerable residents safe and housed. Her administration will further expand resources and strengthen protections for renters to end poverty-based evictions once and for all, expanding access to diversion and mediation, legal representation, and emergency rental assistance funds. She will ensure housing is safe and meets essential building standards by ensuring rentals are licensed and pass inspection, and increasing access to repair loans for landlords. She will also place a strong focus on supporting families in building generational wealth through expanding critical home repair programs and starting affirmative outreach and enrollment support for property tax assistance programs, and assisting residents on their path to homeownership with down payment assistance, credit support, and clearing of consumer and student debt.
Helen’s Administration will recognize that the city must build more affordable housing at all income levels and protect existing affordable housing in order to support its current population and attract new residents. A Gym Administration will prioritize the use of public land for permanent affordable housing and reshape the Housing Trust Fund so it can more effectively grow and preserve our stock of affordable housing. Helen will also aim to provide shallow rent subsidies to deepen affordability and reach those in deep poverty, increase accessible no-barrier housing options for those struggling with addiction or mental health issues, and expand secure housing for survivors of domestic violence. Helen will also ensure our city reverses the ongoing legacy of housing discrimination and residential segregation by robustly enforcing fair housing protections and defending renters and home purchasers against discriminatory practices. As Philadelphia faces an escalating crisis of affordable expiring housing contracts, Helen will commit city funding to more comprehensively preserve affordable housing, including exploring ambitious options to save projects with expiring affordability requirements.
Throughout her career, Helen has been a trailblazer on expanding voting rights and guaranteeing fair elections in Philadelphia and beyond. As the Executive Director of Asian Americans United, Helen advocated for assistance for English language learners at the polls, including more poll-worker training on basic issues, and the assignment of bilingual translators to precincts with language needs. As a City Councilmember, she worked extensively with immigrant communities to demand improved language access for immigrant voters, and her advocacy pushed Philadelphia elections officials to triple the number of languages that the city supports at the polls.
Helen co-sponsored legislation supporting the public financing of elections. She partnered with the School District of Philadelphia to support voter registration in our public high schools, and is a supporter of automatic voter registration and the expansion of voting rights to those 16 and up. When the City of Philadelphia entered into contracts for new voting machines ahead of the 2020 election, Helen was City Council’s loudest advocate for ensuring the procurement process was fair, and did not lead to government waste. At the state level, Helen has worked hand-in-hand with Keystone Votes Coalition for Modern Elections, to ensure that all elections in the Commonwealth are fair, and that all votes are counted.
During the 2020 election, Helen helped rally thousands of people to the Philadelphia Convention Center and uplifted a nationally televised multi-day Count the Vote rally to ensure a fair democratic process, protect vote tallies against anti-democratic actors seeking to subvert the will of voters, and bring joy and people power to the streets.
As Mayor, Helen will:
- Work tirelessly with the City Commissioners to improve support for English language learners at the polls, including offering bilingual translators at polling places, and expanding voter registration outreach in immigrant communities.
- Develop a comprehensive program alongside the School District of Philadelphia to register high school students to vote as soon as they become eligible.
- Increase the number of mail-in ballot dropoff locations across the city.
- Expand voting rights and registration outreach in neighborhoods that have experienced legacies of race-based disenfranchisement, which has kept Black and Brown Philadelphians away from the ballot box.
- Harness the resources of Philadelphia’s Office of Criminal Justice and Department of Prisons to ensure that incarcerated and formerly incarcerated citizens can exercise their right to vote where permitted.