City Council President Darrell Clarke has two challengers for his seat in this November’s council elections.
Clarke’s two challengers, Sheila Armstrong, a Democrat who will run against Clarke in the primary race, and Glenn Dawson Jr., Republican leader for the 37th Ward, are taking aim at Clarke’s 20-year record as the councilman for much of North Philadelphia, including Main Campus and its surrounding area, according to the Philadelphia City Commissioners Office.
Dawson and Armstrong promise to fix problems that plague the district, including homelessness and vacant properties.
The 5th District needs more learning and enrichment programs that bond the North Central Philadelphia neighborhood, said Teleaha Frye, 26, a resident of Diamond Street near 26th.
“There could be enrichment and learning programs, something to keep you off the street, keep us from fighting with each other, keep us together,” she said. “Currently, nobody is taking anything seriously.”
Renell Temple, 46, said she’s concerned about issues of safety, trash removal and social programs.
“There’s trash on the ground, there’s not enough social programs,” said Temple, who lives on Cumberland Street near 10th. “Safety is iffy. It depends on the time of day.”
Armstrong supports a municipal “Green New Deal” and pushing PECO to adopt renewable energy. She also supports rent controls and universal access to GED and job training and would like to audit the Philadelphia Housing Authority and city contracts for their accessibility to minority groups, Armstrong wrote in a campaign questionnaire for Reclaim Philadelphia, a progressive group with the goal of social justice and reforming the Democratic Party.
“As a low-income African American woman, I was born and raised in a section of Philadelphia called ‘the bottom,’” Armstrong wrote.
“Now as a single mother, I’m running for City Council to end the oppression against the low-income community and for the future of my sons,” she wrote.
Armstrong declined The Temple News’ request for comment.
GLENN DAWSON JR.
More than 97 percent of Dawson’s own ward, where he is the Republican leader, selected Democratic incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf in last year’s gubernatorial election. Democrats currently outnumber Republicans 14 to three in City Council.
“It doesn’t matter about the parties,” Dawson said. “I agree with some things Trump is doing, some things not. He’s 50-50 for me. I can work with Democrats, Republicans, whoever.”
Dawson is focusing his campaign on his personal background in helping people experiencing homelessness, which he said makes him a necessary challenger to Clarke.
“I’ve already been doing things that councilmen and ward leaders should be doing,” said Dawson, who has been a pastor at Greater Impact Worship Center on 6th Street near York for 25 years.
Dawson said Clarke failed to prepare the 5th District for the 35-day federal government shutdown in December and January. The shutdown had a negative impact on social programs in Philadelphia like public housing and food assistance, which are partially funded by the federal government, Dawson said.
“The government shut down, but there should have been enough income to help people in our cities,” Dawson said. “We need more jobs. Schools are closing that shouldn’t be closing and you see homeless people on the street.”
Dawson suggested closed down schools be turned into shelters for people experiencing homelessness, he said, a platform point he and Armstrong share. On her website, Armstrong wrote vacant buildings should be turned into housing for those without it.
Dawson would also like to establish fundraisers to hold neighborhood events, like the Susquehanna Community Festival, which ran for more than 20 years.
“I’m all for restoring the neighborhood,” Dawson said. “We want to be on the same page. It seems like the love went away.”
During Clarke’s time in City Council, he has helped pass legislation for the city’s current Jobs Commission to retain private businesses and for an Office of Consumer Affairs, which is meant to protect against unfair business practices.
Clarke also started the 2,000 New Affordable Housing Units Initiative which develops homes for low-income rental and ownership, built on city-owned land in “blighted and gentrifying areas.” Clarke will continue to advocate for affordable housing if he is re-elected by the 5th District, he wrote in a statement to The Temple News.
“There is no way that I’m going to allow developers who are driving the current construction boom to not put some skin in the game,” Clarke wrote. “We need to find a way to get this industry to support the types of badly needed affordable and workforce housing that they are not interested in building.”
As for Philadelphia’s 10-year tax abatement, Clarke said it must be reformed and Armstrong wants it to end completely. Dawson said the abatement should be “tweaked.”
Clarke also supports the Philadelphia beverage tax, which has been up for debate in this year’s City Council elections, with some suggesting it is more harmful to taxpayers than helpful in funding the city’s public schools, the Philadelphia Tribune reported.
“A city with such large populations of vulnerable and preyed-upon communities has an additional responsibility to provide access to justice,” he wrote. “While I am incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished, there is much more I want to get done.”