There’s a fresh face in the race for 8th District council seat — and a real plan for change as outlined in this interview with Local journalist Sandy Smith.
If one could sum up what Seth Anderson-Oberman would like to see the Eighth Councilmanic District become if he gets elected in a single sentence, it would be this:
A safer and greener Northwest Philadelphia where everyone has a good-paying job and everyone who wants to live here can afford to.
The Germantown native, son of a hospital maintenance worker, experienced firsthand the difference organizing to fight for good jobs at good wages could make when his stepfather was able to breathe easier after his union, District 1199C, won a contract that raised the wages of the hospital staff. That led him to ultimately become a labor organizer with SEIU Healthcare PA. And good-paying jobs and affordable housing are two of the chief concerns he has as he works to unseat Cindy Bass.
“The thing that made me decide to throw my hat in the ring was growing up in this area, in Germantown, being a part of this community for a long, long time, and seeing it change rapidly before my eyes,” he said in an interview. “Seeing the racial and economic diversity of our neighborhood changing, becoming wealthier and whiter. And wanting to fight to maintain the multiracial, working-class community we have here in Germantown and Nicetown and Tioga and Mount Airy.”
The stepped-up pace of residential development in the area, he says, has put pressure on those who can least afford all those new and renovated houses coming on line. Those residents are the ones whose future as Nicetowners, Germantowners, and Mount Airyites he most wants to ensure. “We’ve got to figure out ways to keep housing affordable and to help people stay in their homes.”
That does not, he adds, mean freezing newcomers out. He advocates a “multi-layered approach” to maintaining housing affordability without choking off development. Among the approaches he advocates are adopting zoning overlays that would require new multi-unit developments to include affordable units, expanding existing city programs that offer low-interest loans for homeowners to repair and rehabilitate their properties, setting up community land trusts that ensure that housing built on land they own remains affordable forever, and establishing a city-owned public bank to finance renovation, development and other community initiatives.
When asked how he would ensure that a public bank does not fall prey to the city’s endemic political corruption, Seth said that the bank would need strong accountability measures, even going to far as to suggest that its governing board include members directly elected by residents instead of being appointed by public officials.
As for the jobs part, Seth has two concerns uppermost: Making sure that new jobs pay decent wages and hastening the emergence of a greener Philadelphia.
“We need to get Philadelphia off of fossil fuels and invest in modern green technology,” he said. “This can be an economic engine that drives our city.” Weaning public transit off fossil fuels, improving the energy efficiency and shrinking the carbon footprint of city schools, and planting trees throughout the district to pull greenhouse gases out of the air are all part of this strategy as well. “These are jobs that need to be created,” he said, “And these could be good-paying union jobs that help rebuild our communities.”
Seth also supports encouraging Black entrepreneurs (and others) to set up shop in the neighborhood and providing incentives for them to offer their employees jobs at living wages. Noting that state pre-emption prevents the city from raising its minimum wage above the state level — as of now, still $7.25 an hour — he would seek ways to work around state law to boost starting wages to $15 per hour. Or more: “I think we should look at something that would provide an incentive for small businesses to hire at $20 an hour.”
Jobs also figure into the safety part of the picture. For starters, he supports incentives for businesses to hire residents returning from prison to civilian life. There is, he admits, a larger issue here, one of changing people’s perceptions of the formerly incarcerated and their ability to become productive citizens. “That’s work we can do over time as part of a community conversation,” he said. “But let’s get folks jobs first, and let’s work with the people who are ready to offer them jobs — the small businesses that are ready to help.”
Elsewhere on the safety front, Seth would like to stress ways to prevent violent crime in the first place. “We need a multi-layered and holistic approach that brings resources into our communities experiencing the highest rates of crime, targets efforts at poverty reduction, and treats violence as the community healthcare crisis it is,” his campaign website states.
This Democratic candidate for Council supports channeling city money into programs that support community-based programs that promote conflict resolution without violence as well as support services for crime victims. And keeping people housed and employed is also part of this picture.
“Our challenge is to create an economy and communities that work for everyone,” he says.
IMPORTANT DATES FOR VOTERS:
May 1 — deadline to register to as a voter in Pennsylvania
May 9 — last day to apply for mail-in ballot
May 16 — ELECTION DAY! (last day to mail your ballot, too)
For more information about voting in May’s primary election (or voting in general), go to vote.phila.gov.
Get a rundown of candidates’ views, endorsements and other info at reclaimphiladelphia.org and workingfamilies.org.