Well into his bid for mayor of Philadelphia, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., brought his campaign to Main Campus this Monday for a question-and-answer session with the students.
Temple Student Government and the Pi Rho chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. organized his campus appearance.
“I’m running to create opportunities for every single person in our city so that they can live up to their potential,” Fattah said to the attentive audience, composed of more than 100 students and North Philadelphia residents, adding that previous mayors displayed concern only for “the skyline and building big shiny buildings.”
Fattah said his “focus is on the citizens and, particularly the younger citizens of our city.”
During the hour-long forum, Fattah, who is one of five Democrats vying for the party’s spot on the November ballot, addressed the following three big issues facing Philadelphia: education, violence and poverty.
“This election is going to help determine future of this city,” he said.
Fattah, who is also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, said he used the fraternity’s national educational initiatives as the basis for his work in improving education.
Pi Rho Treasurer Jonathan Ball, who met Fattah at a fraternity conference last semester, said he was intrigued by the congressman’s emphasis on education during the forum.
“Basically, the congressman stressed that education is our passport to the future,” said Ball, a senior risk management major. “Education is so important and pretty much, [he has] provided access to so many low-income students to get an education. I definitely appreciate that.”
In order to provide this access, Fattah recommended eliminating property tax as the basis for funding city schools and increasing per-class spending in the school district.
He would also like to explore solutions to convince students not to leave Philadelphia after graduating from college.
“We need to find ways to keep you here,” he said.
Fattah also addressed violence in the city’s schools, calling for a “more aggressive” response to the problem.
“We need to have an intervention that happens before [a] kid ends up dead,” he said.
Fattah said he attributes the city’s violence to the thousands of illegal weapons on Philadelphia streets, adding that gun control his “number one priority.”
Fattah brought the night to a close with a promise to “stabilize homeownership” for low-to-moderate income citizens and to investigate gentrification in the city’s flourishing neighborhoods.
“Philadelphia has been kind of discovered now,” he said, citing a recent rush from outsiders seeking to make money off of real estate deals.
TSG president Raysean Hogan said he was pleased with the outcome of the forum.
“The whole purpose of it was for people to come out and meet him and ask questions and I think we accomplished that,” Hogan said, a senior risk management major.
Hogan said he also appreciated Fattah’s knowledge of Philadelphia.
“His understanding of the city is because he’s from here and he’s been here,” he said. “Experience, I’d say he has plenty of it.”
Senior political science major Tiffany Wilson said she was impressed by Fattah’s responses.
“You can always tell when a politician is faking it and just telling you what you want to hear, but with him, it doesn’t seem to be that way,” she said.
Benae Mosby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tyson McCloud contributed to this report.