Chris Rabb- State Representative for the 200th
Questionnaire Responses by Rep. Chris Rabb — Incumbent Candidate for State Rep in the 200th.
What do you value most about the 200th district and why do you want to represent it in the state legislature?
I value the depth and breadth of civic engagement throughout the upper northwest part of Philadelphia where I serve.
2. How do you plan to incorporate grassroots movements into your campaign, and long-term community organizing and participation into your governance if elected?
As an insurgent challenger in 2016, I recruited 40 young people — most of whom were not old enough to drive a car, let alone vote — who my campaign trained and paid $15/hour to be youth poll workers for my campaign.
Since taking off, my staff and I have provided internships for young people and paid youth for their labor beyond my district office. Finally, just weeks after taking office, I held a community-centered event at a mosque in my district where the people drove the discussion on issues of greatest importance to them and we had community members moderate each (rotating) roundtable exchange took place with students as scribes for each conversation. Going forward, my office will be convening community-centered business development workshops based in part on work stemming from my book, Invisible Capital: How Unseen Forces Shape Entrepreneurial Opportunity where we will facilitate community stakeholders deciding what kinds of enterprises (including non-profits and co-ops) should be established and/or invested in to grow community wealth. We will also introduce the concept and practice of participatory budgeting to the district.
3. If you have served as an elected official before, what services have you
delivered to residents across your district?
Most state lawmakers provide the same range of constituent services to residents in their respective districts. However, I have an explicit policy that my staff and I help any Pennsylvanian irrespective of the zip code in which s/he may live. While all state reps provide assistance to constituents with rent rebates, LiHEAP, SEPTA Key cards, PennDOT matters and so on, I take pride in having hired people who are professional, kind, hard-working, ethical and creative. The same goes for the many interns and volunteers who are part of my growing work family.
In addition to the aforementioned services, we help residents navigate the byzantine maze of city, state and federal bureaucracies. We are particularly adept at helping families with members who have mental and physical disabilities. Our office is also a safe haven to the elementary school students who pass by our office every day after school. Our office windows don signs and slogans that unapologetically express our collective values such that queer, undocumented folk know they are welcome, along with young people, returning citizens and all else who enter. Upon taking office, I insisted that each of my staffer receive a laptop and (shared) Wi-Fi hotspot so that we could take our office to the people. And we have! Lastly, I’m proud to be the first state representative in my district’s history to have a big, clean, ADA-compliant bathroom!
4. In recent years, Pennsylvania has had enormous trouble passing a budget. What are your budgetary priorities, what revenue sources would you seek, and how will you move these measures through the Republican-dominated legislature?
Our recurring state budget crises are symptomatic of a system infected by
hyper-partisanship, greed and political myopia. They are exacerbated by a majority party that believes in neither taxes, nor government itself. Also, entrenched incumbency where those in tasked with negotiating do so behind closed doors and where there is little transparency or accountability. Frankly, as long as the majority party has a 21-seat advantage, there is little opportunity to pass a budget worthy of the governor’s signature. The best way to make headway on the budget process and passing humane, fiscally responsible budgets is to elect more public servants who set aside partisanship and embrace civil and collaborative governance. Moreover, there needs to be more transparency and accountability in the budget process along with term limits for caucus leaders. I have introduced legislation to enforce the former and advocate the latter presently.
5. Philadelphia remains the most impoverished major city and about 75% of our residents lack bachelor’s degrees. What policies would you implement to ensure that decent, high-paying jobs created here are accessible to the majority of our population, not just the relatively well-educated and already well-off?
First, wealthy businesses and individuals need to pay their fair share when it comes to state taxes. Second, we need to raise our de facto poverty wage of $7.25/hour to a living wage of at least $15/hour, a measure I have not only co-sponsored, but for which I introduced a discharge resolution last year to remove Rep. Kim’s minimum wage increase bill from committee where it has needlessly languished. Third, I support the exploration of a universal basic income and/or a job guarantee program not unlike critical employment fueled by public works under President’s hallmark federal New Deal
6. Pennsylvania has the highest average student loan debt of any state, at
$35,185. Would you support legislation to make the PASSHE system and
Commonwealth colleges tuition and fee-free and provide cost of living stipends to low-income students?
Not would I support such legislation, I may very well introduce it! I am already researching this policy reform and have offered assistance to a statewide youth-led ally working on this.
7. What policies would you promote to reduce or eliminate Pennsylvania
residents’ student loan debt burden?
Larger budget allocations to our PASSHE & state-related institutions as paid for by increasing personal income tax for wealthy individuals, closing the Delaware Loophole, and eventually legalizing adult-use cannabis and establishing a carbon fee.
8. Philadelphia’s school district has been under partial state control since 2001. Do you support maintaining the School Reform Commission? Why or why not?
The SRC is no more, and I was an outspoken proponent for a return to local rule. The priority now is two-fold: 1) ensuring that there is a democratic, transparent and thorough way the City appoints an inclusive and robust slate of school board members, and 2) increasing funding for our public schools.
9. Approximately 33% of Philadelphia students are enrolled in charter schools. What is your position on the expansion of charter schools? Should they be given public money via vouchers or similar programs (like ESAs)? What role do you think public schools play in our city?
I do not support the charter-industrial complex. We should have a moratorium on charter expansion until the state and the new school board establish better oversight and controls over charters.
10. What policies would you advocate to expand and strengthen the labor movement in Pennsylvania? How would you fortify existing unions in the event of a state or nationwide right-to-work law? How would you expand worker representation and power in sectors with low union density?
Unions need to innovate, collaborate and diversify the means by which they survive and scale. Unions should include non-voting members who are allies, but not part of current or prospective collective bargaining units. They should be investing in worker-owned co-ops and other community-centered enterprises founded by retired or laid-off union members and allies toward creating family-sustaining jobs whose products and services are aligned with the espoused values of many diverse public and private sector unions.
11. Will you commit to fighting for funding to expand Medically-Assisted
Treatment, mental health, and community-based programs to support people struggling with addictions and their families in Philadelphia? How will you hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable for its role in the spread of the opioid crisis?
Yes, I will. I will continue to support my colleagues on the House Health Committee toward crafting and promoting legislation to address this scourge. As for Big Pharma, the best way to handle them is to reduce the role of money in politics, which is a major concern and priority of mine.
12. Philadelphia’s immigrant and minority communities of color are threatened by increased ICE deportation efforts, police brutality and misconduct, and discriminatory treatment by our criminal justice system. At the same time, crime has been a significant problem in some parts of the district. What will you do to ensure that Philadelphia is safe and welcoming for all, from all types of violence?
I have already introduced legislation to make PA a “sanctuary commonwealth”. I have introduced two bills addressing gun violence, and am currently working on a bill that will create a statewide, multi-stakeholder team competition to improve public safety, reduce racial bias and excessive force through innovative policing reform. In terms of my district, I am dedicated to increasing information-sharing, transparency and community engagement in the 14th Police District. Specifically, I am working on illuminating the policing metrics by which community stakeholders can better
understand the efficacy of police activity in the district which will provide a better foundation for accountability, trust and collaboration.
13. Do you agree or disagree that “tough on crime” policies have overcrowded our prisons, and if so, what steps would you take to reduce our prison population?
Philadelphia has the most over-incarcerated population of any U.S. city. I believe we need to decriminalize many transgressions. We need to end cash bail. We live in the only state in the union where we do not fund public defenders and we have the highest number of incarcerated juveniles. We need to put pressure on the governor to release those elderly inmates who do not pose a threat to society along with those who are seriously ill. We must also abolish life sentences without parole, and I have co-sponsored HB 135 which would do so. We must also invest in pre-arrest diversion programs, restorative justice measures over incarceration, and invest early in the most vulnerable youth populations to reduce the chances that they will enter the school-to-prison pipeline. I introduced the First Chance Trust Fund early in my first year in office, which I am proud to state is now Pennsylvania law. It assess a 1% surcharge on the largest contracts with the PA Department of Corrections and puts those funds into a trust fund to be used exclusively for educational scholarships and support services grants to benefit youth who live in the most over-incarcerated neighborhoods statewide.
14. The statewide average annual cost for childcare services is $10,640, while the median assisted living facility and nursing home cost $43,200 and $116,800 per year, respectively. Would you support or oppose legislation to provide universal child and elder care for Pennsylvanians?
I would support both measures assuming we have a fiscally responsible state budget that allocates the appropriate funds to pay for them along with new recurring revenues as alluded to earlier.
15. Would you support legislation for universal single-payer healthcare with no co-pays that covers all individuals regardless of documentation status?
16. Do you support the Keystone Opportunity Zone program? Would you
introduce legislation to eliminate it, or to limit the number of times a parcel’s KOZ designation can be renewed or extended? More generally, do you support tax breaks to lure or retain businesses?
The KOZ needs to be overhauled, and all of our state tax credit programs need to be reviewed assiduously. I was appointed to a bipartisan Select Subcommittee on Tax Revenues for the House Finance Committee to look into this very subject.
17. What is your opinion on privatized infrastructure or public-private
partnerships for development or maintenance of public infrastructure like roads or water works?
I am generally opposed to and almost universally skeptical of privatization and many public-private partnerships.
18. What, in your view, are the causes, threats, and opportunities of climate change? How would you address climate change as a Pennsylvania state representative?
A growth by any means economy that privileges material consumption over all else has caused climate change. I have introduced a 100% renewable energy bill to move Pennsylvania to a green infrastructure by 2050. I have also recently bought an all-electric vehicle as one small, but important step in my walking the talk.
19. The Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce advocates converting Philadelphia into an “energy hub” for oil and natural gas, or the “Houston of the East Coast.” Do you agree or disagree with this vision? If you or your employer are a member of the Chamber, have you used your influence to advocate in any way on this proposal?
Pennsylvania needs to aggressively invest in a green economy, not a fossil fuel-based “energy hub”.
20. Do you regard basic needs of Pennsylvanians, including food, housing, healthcare, and education, as human rights or as commodities most efficiently distributed by economic markets?
The former. Period.
21. How do you define democracy, and does Pennsylvania meet your definition? Why or why not? What actions if any would you take to alter who makes the most important decisions in our state and society, and whose needs are prioritized?
We live in a society systemically influenced by a capitalist oligarchy and fueled by structural inequality. As I have said for years, whatever your #1 issue may be, the second and third issues must be electoral and media reform. With the impact of voter suppression, the corrosive influence of unlimited soft money in electoral politics and gerrymandering amplified via media consolidation (and influencing the endangerment of net neutrality), democracy is in tatters. Only well coordinated, strategic and highly inclusive non-violent direct actions within and beyond the electoral sphere to deliver civil society to the people.