Philly For Change Endorsement Questionnaire: Brian Sims (182nd State House district)
Philly for Change Questionnaire 2012
1. If elected, what will be your top three priorities, and how will you achieve them?
My top three priorities when I am elected will be to improve our public schools, create jobs and be a strong voice and leader for the city in Harrisburg.
The attack on public education by the current administration and legislative majorities is already rolling back the progress our public schools have made over the last decade. In recent years we have faced consistent budget shortfalls here in Philadelphian that prevent us from making major progress.
I will fight attempts to pass vouchers and privatize education. The last thing our public schools need is the diversion of any funds, let alone to private and religious schools. I believe such diversions are unconstitutional and unconscionable. Public dollars should not go to a school where a singular religious view and even hate and discrimination are taught. The potential for individuals and corporations to make massive profits from the education system is a very scary proposition because the bottom line comes first, not the students or teachers. Moreover, as a member of the LGBT community, I shudder to think that my taxes dollars could go to a school where children are taught to hate me for who I am.
See question 2 for my thoughts on job creation.
Our city needs more strong voices in Harrisburg representing our interests and I intend to make advocating for the city as a whole a top priority. Legislators from other counties, both Democratic and Republican, slight Philadelphia and we need to make our interests are better represented. With a strong record as a coalition builder, I intend to develop the relationships it will take to ensure that our city gets the respect and funding it deserves.
2. What steps will you take to create jobs and raise Philadelphians out of poverty?
I will fight to make sure that job creation is given more than just lip service in Harrisburg. The Legislature has failed to address the job crisis caused by the recession and regressive Republican policies have made it worse.
One way to create jobs is to leverage the existing assets we already have. The Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster (GPIC) for Energy-Efficient Buildings is a consortium of academic institutions, federal laboratories, global industry partners, and regional economic development agencies that established an Energy Innovation Hub at the Navy Yard with $130 million in federal grants.
At the Innovation Hub they are developing new and less costly way to renovate existing buildings to make them more energy efficient. The General Assembly can help nurture its work by passing legislation for better energy efficiency policies that will lead to investment and jobs.
There are more multi-unit buildings in the 182nd District than any other district in the state. If we make greening these buildings a priority we can create thousands of good living wage jobs while at the same reducing our carbon foot-print. These are jobs that cannot be outsourced; passing legislation to incentivize building retrofits, green roofs and more can create the atmosphere we need to increase investment in the blue and white color jobs that Philadelphia needs.
Also, as manufacturing moves into the 21st century, smart policies can help Philadelphia reestablish itself as a center for production. Specialized manufacturing still has an important place in our economy, and I will focus on creating the right incentives that welcome and keep these jobs here. I support eliminating the Corporate Net Income Tax and moving to a Commercial Activity Tax (CAT) as has been done in Ohio. Philadelphia based businesses, especially manufacturers, are at a competitive disadvantage to out of state businesses. A CAT system will not only level the playing field by closing the Delaware Loophole, it will in turn give a boost to Philadelphia based manufacturing. After a CAT was enacted Ohio, manufacturing has improved and expanded, even during the recession.
3. What steps will you take to improve Philadelphia’s public schools and our ability to provide a quality education for every child?
As mentioned above increasing funding and fighting vouchers need to be our top priority. The current administration’s war on public education needs to end. We need to get back to the Funding Formula to provide the School District with the resources it needs to implement important reforms.
We also need to make sure the administration and SRC are more responsive to the needs and input of teachers, parents and students. Our teachers are not given the support networks they needs to succeed, and we need to develop better mechanisms so they have the help they need to be as effective as possible in the classroom.
Parents and students are all to often cut out of the decision making process and it has led to disengagement of the very stakeholders that we need to be move involved in our education system. The SRC and administration need to develop better ways to ensure that parent and student voices are heard and should incorporate them more into the decisions making process. Increased engagement is better for everyone.
4. What steps will you take to ensure women have access to safe legal abortions and emergency contraception? What will you do to protect women from state-mandated vaginal ultrasounds and other ridiculously invasive punitive procedures?
The current legislative assault on women’s health is unconscionable and frightening. With no basis in science or reason, the far right attack on women must end now. I will fight to not only protect current access to care and reproductive health services, but I will fight hard to expand them. Pennsylvania lagged far behind the nation on women’s health, even before the recent steps backwards, and now we must fight to bring that care into the 21st century.
We need to keep up the battle inside the Capitol, but we also need to keep up the fight in the court of public opinion. Great organizing and mobilization has been done already to get the invasive ultrasound bills shelved for the moment, but we need to keep up the pressure. The logical and moral arguments against this legislation don’t hold water with the supporters of this bill, so they need to feel political pressure from their own constituents. We need to make sure to ramp up pressure on the legislators who support this horrible legislation from their constituents to the point where they realize how much of a liability it is for them to continue their support.
5. What steps will you take to promote marriage equality for the LBGT community?
The first step I would take is to push for HB 300, an amendment to the Human Relations Act that would protect citizens from discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Most people don’t know that it is still legal in the state to fire someone because of their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
Gaining marriage equality in Pennsylvania will not be easy, but we need to start by getting the legislature to recognize those of us in the LGBTQ community as equal citizens. When I am elected, I will have an opportunity to develop relationships with members of the legislature who will have to recognize me, a gay Pennsylvanian, as an equal colleague. The effects of having an openly serving member of a state legislature are tremendous. We see time and time again that when members of the community are elected that, legislatures begin passing bills.
Ultimately, I believe that marriage equality is a federal issue. Our federal Constitution guarantees certain rights and I believe those rights are currently being violated by every state that fails to recognize marriage equality. That being said, I see the most effective path to marriage equality as one that uses the “state’s rights” argument against those who oppose equality. Essentially, when DOMA falls in the next 24 months, LGBT marriages performed in those states under a “states’ rights” argument will suddenly be valid in non-equality states.
This will not only force states to recognize marriages from their neighbors, but will ultimately force them to enact similar laws or have to deal with having two “separate” systems for out of state LGBT couples and their own in-state, taxpaying citizens. I also think that the trouble this will create will ultimately lead the federal government to step in and create marriage equality coast to coast.
6. In light of Pennsylvania's expanded natural gas drilling, what steps do you support for protecting Philadelphia’s water and the Delaware River Basin?
I would fight for increased regulation, monitoring and penalties, and for better coordination and cooperation with the EPA. Simply put: we cannot allow fracking to endanger our water, and as long as drilling is taking place we need the PA DEP and DCNR to actually do their jobs. The current administration’s drill first, ask questions later mindset is not putting out best interests first.
7. Do you pledge to forswear voter suppression as an electoral tactic and combat it if elected?