Kendra Brooks - Candidate for City Council at Large
Tell us a personal story about yourself that informs your worldview, your politics, and your decision to run for City Council.
In 2014, my children’s elementary school, Edward T Steel in Nicetown, was slated for a takeover by a charter corporation. At that time I was the president of Steel’s School Advisory Council. Without knowing that it was called ‘organizing,’ I got together with other active parents, and we demanded parents be allowed to vote on the future of Steel. We organized over 200 families by going door-to-door to vote to keep Steel public. It was the first time that this had happened in our city. When we won, we went across Broad Street to Munoz-Marin to help parents do the same thing. Since then, I have worked with parents, educators and students all over Philadelphia to fight for better schools. We’ve waged fights at the School District, at City Hall and in Harrisburg. And we’ve had some victories – sitting a new Board of Education that has taken a much closer look at charter schools, getting water stations in every building, winning resources to remove lead and asbestos from our schools.
What I have learned over the past years is that when our communities come together, when we do the work to build real relationships, when we uplift and listen to people with direct lived experience of what we’re trying to fight, we can win anything. After years of being on the outside responding to policy, I want our communities and our movements to be the ones writing policy. That’s why I’m running for City Council.
What is your opinion of capitalism as a political-economic system? How do your opinions and analysis influence your campaign and legislative priorities?
Since African people were taken in slave ships to make profits for white land-owning men, capitalism has hurt Black people. Capitalism is built on creating a lower class and therefore leads to the exploitation of those at the bottom by those at the top. We see extreme wealth for a predominately white 1% at the top and huge amounts of poverty at the bottom. Capitalism has continuously exploited people of color, poor, and all working people in this country and worldwide.
There is plenty of wealth in this country and this city. Our problem has never been if we have enough money, but instead if our elected officials have the political courage to check the powers of the 1% and to demand funding for resources for poor and working people. As a City Councilperson, my job would be to demand the 1% pay their fair share for fully-funded schools and affordable accessible housing for all, while also making sure that we pass laws that protect working people from corporations and ensure fairness and dignity at work.
What do “white supremacy” and “patriarchy” mean to you? How do you see them operating in the City of Philadelphia and its government? What policies, if any, would you enact in order to end them?
White supremacy and patriarchy are two, often interlocking, systems that place white men on the top of our social order and systemically disenfranchise people of color and non cis-men through laws not built for us. These systems impact every part of our city – from school funding, to overpolicing and stop-and-frisk, to deportations and the hatred against immigrants, to the quality and price of housing, to our ability to make living wages and respect on the job.
If our end goal is liberation for all people, we cannot recreate these systems and need to continue to look for ways to dismantle them in our policies. As a councilperson, I will always look for laws that lessen and abolish white supremacy and patriarchy in our system, and that uplift Black and Brown people, women and gender non-conforming people. To me, this starts with fully funding our education system, ensuring accessible affordable housing for all people and making sure that we have respect and dignity at our jobs.
As a Black woman, I know that none of these systems work in isolation, that the world works differently for you based on the differing identities you hold. My goal is to uplift those of us facing the most marginalization – by white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, capitalism – and create a world that works for all of us.
What do you think of the crisis facing Philadelphia schools? What do you see as its root causes? What steps would you take?
The Philadelphia school system is a case study in how white supremacy and capitalism aim to keep Black, Brown, moderate and low-income kids behind. Affluent suburban School Districts get more funding per student than Philadelphia, legislators from Harrisburg succeeded in taking away our own governing power, and rich CEOs have profited off of using our children as experiments in privatization.
Fighting for quality public schools is how I joined the movement, and seeing communities rise up to protect their children is what has given me the hope to keep going. Over the past years, we have made progress – abolishing the School Reform Commission, a new Board of Education that is making progress towards charter school accountability, funding lead and asbestos clean-up in our classrooms.
But there is so much more to do. We need to increase school funding on the state level and the local level by ending the 10-year tax abatement and collecting PILOTs for universities. We need a real process for engaging students, parents and community members in where School District funding goes, so that we can ensure our money goes towards school staff, mental health supports, and extracurriculars, not overpolicing our children. We need real governance power for young people and students, ways to engage parents and the surrounding school communities and conversations about an elected school board. The dismantling of our public schools has been decades long. Getting the schools we deserve will be my life’s work.
Under what circumstances should a person be detained or incarcerated, if any? Does the current system meet this criterion? What does safety mean to you and what policies or programs would you pursue to achieve your vision?
I approach the criminal justice system through multiple lenses, as a practitioner and trainer in restorative justice, as the loved one of someone who has been locked up and the victim of violent crime, and as the mother of Black children in America. I always work to separate the deed done from the doer, understanding that our current systems often labels people in my community guilty until proven innocent.
Safe communities are ones where neighbors come together around shared values of dignity and respect. Neighborhoods are safe when they have all the services and investment that they deserve, and when there are pathways for people who caused harmed and people who were harmed to enter into dialogue and repair.
The era of broken windows and stop-and-frisk policing must be completely upended. We need to continue to end punitive and racist policies like cash bail and to ensure officers espousing hate aren’t on our streets. And we need massive investments in what actually will help our neighborhoods becoming safer – ending poverty, funding education, addressing mental health problems including trauma, and providing re-entry services and supports.
What is the fundamental factor causing climate change? How should we address this? Do you support a Green New Deal for Philadelphia and, if so, what does that mean to you and what will you do if elected to City Council?
Climate change is a direct result of capitalism. To address climate change, we need to shift our economic system, not just in how our energy is produced but also in prioritizing people and the planet above profits.
The climate crisis is also linked with fights for environmental justice and our health. In my neighborhood, Nicetown, where I have fought SEPTA’s attempt to put in a new gas plant, it is very clear how racism is linked to where fossil fuel plants are sited. It is also clear to me that in my neighborhood, as in neighborhoods across Philadelphia, we have an un and under-employment crisis.
As a mother and a grandmother, I support a Green New Deal that addresses these multiple interlocking crises. A Green New Deal for Philadelphia must be about addressing the climate crisis, uprooting the source of poor quality air and environmental injustice, creating jobs and uplifting low-income neighborhoods of color. I am excited about the growing energy, particularly from young people, to help chart our new energy future. Our city is ready for a large conversation about climate resilience, renewable energy, green jobs and a participatory democracy.
Do you think Philadelphia is facing a housing crisis? If so, why? If not, why not? What changes would you make to bring housing policy more in line with your vision?
Whether you rent, own or live in public housing, the cost of housing in our city is going up. More and more people are facing housing insecurity. This is being caused by developers, banks and hedgefunds looking to profit, by unregulated landlords, by underfunded shelters -- all symptoms of capitalism and white supremacy.
The housing crisis is personal to me. I paid off the mortgage of the house I was raised in. But in 2014, after being laid off of my job of 17 years, I fell behind on my taxes, and my house was taken from me by sheriff sale. I now pay rent to live in the house that me and my parents owned.
We need a comprehensive housing agenda led by the belief that housing is a human right, that prioritizes keeping longtime residents in their city, that addresses housing and homelessness from the perspectives of homeowners, renters, those in PHA and homeless people. I will go into Council fighting to end the 10-year tax abatement, to enact rent control legislation, and to increase the amount of affordable accessible housing for low-income people. I will go in pushing to make housing a central tenant of everything City Council does over the next 4 years, bringing those with lived experience into the room and always making people not developer profits the center of our work. I believe the next four years of housing policy will determine the future of our city, and I’m going in fighting for us.
YES OR NO QUESTIONS
1. Do you commit to opposing the privatization of all utilities in Philadelphia? YES
2. Do you commit to support and vote for the creation of a Philadelphia Public Bank? YES
3. Will you support using savings from closing the House of Corrections to invest in job training programs and opportunities for formerly incarcerated people, in an effort to combat mass incarceration? YES
4. Will you support a participatory study funded by the City to formulate a local Green New Deal energy plan to transition Philadelphia to a democratically controlled 100% renewable energy system by 2030, create unionized jobs, and center the decisions and needs of Philadelphia’s working class and communities of color? YES
5. Do you support a democratically elected school board? YES
6. Will you commit to publicly funding and administering fully staffed libraries and recreation centers seven days a week? YES
7. Do you support rent control? YES
8. Will you commit that at least 50% of all City funds allocated to create or preserve housing, including but not limited to the Housing Trust Fund and subfunds, must go toward helping the poorest Philadelphians (30% or less of area median income)? YES
9. Will you commit to introducing or sponsoring legislation that would establish a system of public financing for city campaigns that would create a fund that would provide matching public funds for money individual donors contribute to candidates? YES
10. Do you support the creation of an overdose prevention site / supervised consumption site to help efforts to combat the opioid epidemic in our community? YES
11. Do you support completely ending the ten year tax abatement? YES
12.Do you commit to opposing all new fossil fuel projects in Philadelphia by using all zoning and regulatory means at your disposal? YES
13. Will you support increasing funding of the Police Advisory Commission from $500K to $1.5M and giving it the power to subpoena, investigate and censure cases of police brutality and over-policing? YES
14. Will you publicly support a moratorium on all charter school expansion? YES
15. Do you support the right to strike for public employees including teachers? YES
16. Will you enact a statutory right to counsel for any Philadelphian facing the loss of their home, be it foreclosure or eviction? YES
17. Will you use all means at your disposal to support workers’ right to unionize? YES