Nonprofit lobbyist joins race against City Council President Darrell Clarke

Omar Woodard is running in the Democratic primary for 5th District City Council seat.

City Council President and 5th District Councilman Darrell Clarke speaks at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in May 2018. | KELLY BRENNAN / FILE PHOTO

UPDATED at 2:15 p.m. on Feb. 28

Former nonprofit executive Omar Woodard joined the Democratic primary race for 5th District councilperson on Friday.

Woodard, the former executive director of GreenLight Philadelphia and a member of several philanthropic and city nonprofit boards will run for City Council President Darrell Clarke’s 5th District seat, along with Democrat Sheila Armstrong in the May primary. He is Clarke’s first challenger with political and lobbying experience, is a North Philadelphia native and was a professor in the Fox School of Business.

Woodard does not currently teach classes at Fox, according to the university’s faculty listings.

“I’ve spent most of my life in the nonprofit industry,” Woodard told The Temple News. “We will win by putting the community at the center.”

Woodard is focused on poverty as the main problem facing the 5th District. 36 percent of the district’s residents live in poverty, according to a 2017 report by the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation.

“I’ve spent most of my personal life in the nonprofit space,” Woodard said. “What I bring is a focus on reducing and eliminating poverty. …This is a crisis.”

Woodward lobbied in Washington, D.C. for more than a year with the Whitaker Group, which specializes in development projects throughout Africa. He then became a deputy regional field director in Chester County for former President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.

Woodard also worked as a policy advisor on state Sen. Anthony Williams’ 2015 Mayoral campaign.

Before leading Greenlight Philadelphia, he also as a consultant and associate director for the Advisory Board Company, a healthcare provider consulting company, and was a principal at Venture Philanthropy Partners, a nonprofit investment and consulting group. He completed a certificate in nonprofit governance from Harvard Business School in 2011.

Many residents do not access the benefits they are entitled to, Woodard said.

“The unearned income tax credit leaves money unused,” he added. “Everyone needs to have access to the benefits they can get.”

Woodard’s platform also focuses on homelessness, environmental justice and reducing crime, he said. He believes soaring home prices is one of the reasons why residents struggle to keep their homes.

As for the 5th District’s incumbent, Clarke proposed a housing construction program to fight homelessness in the district by building housing “on city-owned land in blighted and gentrifying areas.”

“We have one of the oldest housing stocks in all of Philadelphia, filled with mold issues or lead,” Woodard said. “This is an environmental justice issue. They need to be repaired, and we need to make sure people are able to invest.”

With many of the 5th District’s residents concerned about crime, Woodard said the problem can be best tackled with gun control.

“Gun violence is one of the most crucial issues, especially in the 5th district,” he said. “We need to look at social services for families of victims. And we need to tackle the availability of illegal guns streaming into Philadelphia.”

Clarke has not yet officially filed for reelection with the City Commissioner’s office. Petitions to run close on March 12.

“A city with such large populations of vulnerable and preyed-upon communities has an additional responsibility to provide access to justice,” Clarke wrote in a statement to The Temple News earlier this month. “While I am incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished, there is much more I want to get done.”

Woodard said his initiatives will help him in the election.

“The incumbent has spent the past 40 years in public service,” Woodard said. “I admire that, but it’s not about me or my opponent, it’s about the quality of ideas put forward.”

UPDATE: This article was updated to include more information about Omar Woodard’s history at Temple.

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