MEET HELEN

I’m a mother, a teacher, a long-time community organizer, and I’m fighting for a Philadelphia that works for all of us.

I cut my teeth fighting mayors and developers who would take publicly funded land for private boondoggles like stadiums, casinos and for-profit charter schools. Having grown up in an immigrant family, I know that public spaces are our best shot at an equal society. I depended on my public library, rec center and, of course, my public school to give me the kinds of opportunities my parents could not.

That’s why I’ve been so fired up when public spaces go into decline: When a neighborhood park which should provide recreation and relaxation becomes an abandoned eyesore. When a public school closes down. When our streets feel unsafe rather than vibrant. When we lose a sense of connectedness to one another.

In the poorest large city in the U.S., we cannot afford to walk away from our collective responsibility to build a Philadelphia for all of us. I came to this city almost 30 years ago, raised three children, and started my teaching career at Lowell Elementary School in Olney. All of my work has been about strengthening communities and establishing a human rights agenda based on a quality public school for every child, housing as a human right, a justice system that serves the common good, and the belief that one job should be enough.

When I ran for City Council in 2015, I knew what we had built together was impossible to ignore and that a coalition which had centered the voices of our youth, of immigrants, and of poor and working people across this city would lead a vision for Philadelphia that would be bigger and more unifying and inspiring than anything that had come out of City Hall before.

We won.

Since the day I was sworn in, I’ve gotten to work to show this city what it looks like to put people before profits and how to fight like hell for our children, our communities and our future. We’ve reversed a devastating narrative on public schools and our youth, rejecting the profiteers and privatizers who had tried to shut down the most important path to a vibrant and healthy economy – a quality public school for every child. Not only did I champion the end of the 17-year state takeover of our public schools, I’m leading the most aggressive and ambitious schools agenda to come out of City Hall in decades – one that has restored nurses, counselors and music programs to every school, doubled the number of social workers to help students and families, reduced the school-to-prison pipeline by ending suspensions in lower grades, and improved school facilities by guaranteeing clean modern water fountains and lead abatement projects for every elementary school.

Many people talk about an anti-poverty agenda; I’m leading one. I introduced and passed the most expansive “Fair Workweek” law in the nation, ensuring protections for part-time workers in our city taking home the lowest wages working for the wealthiest corporations. Next year, more than 100,000 Philadelphians will be on a path to two weeks advance notice of their schedules, protection from retaliation, and a chance to qualify for full-time hours. I’m fighting for housing as a human right, establishing the first legal defense fund for tenants facing eviction and winning a citywide initiative to end the eviction crisis. And I’m taking on the city’s biggest tax subsidy which fuels inequity and inequality across our city, the 10-year tax abatement, and making it work for our communities and our school system.

I’m taking a regional approach to Philadelphia. It’s not just about our boundaries but about expanding our influence as the economic driver for southeastern Pennsylvania and the tri-state region. That’s why I’m focused on education, transit and the environment as core areas where we can improve the political and collaborative relationships to drive mobility, jobs and a growing and interrelated economy.

And yes, you’ll see me at the airport protesting Trump’s Muslim Ban, railing at the Parking Authority to fund our schools, and shutting down facilities like Wordsworth and Glen Mills when they abuse vulnerable youth. You’ll also see me celebrating the best of Philadelphia by using our voices to bring joy and honor to our city, whether we’re honoring Philadelphia’s civil rights heroes or claiming an insurrectionary NHL mascot as the non-binary leftist icon this world needs.

I’ve always believed that cities would define the progress of this nation. Because no matter what’s happening in D.C. or Harrisburg, this is still our Philadelphia.

I’m running for re-election because we have so much more to win. From debt-free college to fair taxation, from focusing on safe and clean communities to leading on a municipal Green New Deal, Philadelphia needs a champion who’s fighting for parents, working families, and Philadelphians everywhere.

Let’s make this happen together.

Helen Gym
Democrat, City Council At-Large