Nicolas O’Rourke - 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.
What is your opinion of capitalism as a political-economic system? How do your opinions and analysis influence your campaign and legislative priorities?
I come from a family of working people, forged by a racist world and fueled by faith, that saw to it that family was protected and provided for. My Mother worked as a telephone operator for many years and served as a CWA Union Rep. She now operates/drives buses within a public transit system. My Father was first an electrician through the early 90’s before moving on to truck driving and finally a custodian at a university to help cover my tuition for college. My Brother, after serving in the military for years, has had to overcome countless obstacles as returning citizens and brought me close to the struggles of the formerly incarcerated. Being married to a Black Muslim Woman in Trump’s America makes me sensitive to the ways she is treated daily. Being in proximity and in the family with the very types of persons that are often not calculated into the American equation gives me a unique lens as an organizer and Minister to poor and working people. Experiencing what its like to live in a home that was one paycheck away from needs not being met and working extra jobs to ensure a safety net teaches early how low wages is the vehicle of poverty. Watching my brother be told he wasn’t allowed to hug his own son teaches you the inhumanity of mass incarceration. The commitment and love the working and marginalized people closest to me informs my people first approach to public policy and governing.
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?
Though we have never really seen a real “free-market” in this country, and because of the fundamental requirement of a caste system in order for capitalism to work, I am aware of and have experienced along side others, the suffering and penury that a racist and sexist productivity focused economic system creates. With that awareness, I find it necessary to legislate with a commitment to first meeting the needs of people en masse. As we are the ones who are not factored into the pursuit of profit and have few advocates to prioritize the improvement of our lives.
What do you think of the crisis facing Philadelphia schools? What do you see as its root causes? What steps would you take?
The school crisis is one of racism and funding. The proliferation of charter schools, while helpful to families of color, blocks needed funding from reaching the public-school system where the lion shares of students are Black or Brown. Students and staff alike suffer from poor conditions and a lack of resources due to a notoriously racist funding distribution, that has seen a shift in its formula but not the needed and clarified funding put through in order for it to reach our schools. I would support a democratically elected school board, call for a moratorium on charters and continue to advocate for Harrisburg to fully funded our schools.
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?
If a person is a danger to, or cause harm to, themselves or others. The current system goes far beyond this criterion with an aggressive approach to policing and incarceration that prioritizes property over people. The continued practice of stop and frisk is an example of the ways in which the police and the justice system violate humans by assuming jurisdiction over bodies that pose no threat to them. The parole and probation population, having recently been cut by the DA’s office efforts still requires a progressive city council to hold accountable and help push us to continue to lessen incarcerating people even after they have served their time.
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?
I support a Green New Deal for Philadelphia to end our reliance and addiction to fossil fuels and gas. We must pass a moratorium on the development of fossil fuels in Philadelphia. No new natural gas plants in Black neighborhoods and instead make intentional investments in Black and Brown communities for new employment opportunities as we shift towards renewable energy.
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?
Yes, Philadelphia is facing a housing crisis, among other reasons, because of the proliferation of luxury apartments being built with few to no affordable homes being constructed alongside them. The construction of these luxury residences increases the price of living while giving tax breaks to the developers that build them. Going into elected office in January comes with it a mandate from those who will elect us to end the 10 year tax abatement.
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
I’m grateful for your consideration of our campaign and your commitment to progressive values that will put poor and working people first in Philadelphia. We look forward to winning and working with and for the grassroots community base that will elect Kendra and I to bring about the kind of city that people deserve.