by Heather Shayne Blakeslee
Abraham’s bio has a lot of firsts. She’s the daughter of first-generation Americans who lived “on the edges of poverty,” and was the first in her family to go to college; she got a degree from Temple University and went on to Temple Law School. She is the first woman to be elected to the Municipal Court, and if she’s elected this year, she’d be Philadelphia’s first female mayor. She’s worked at the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, as a judge in Court of Common Pleas, ran the City’s 600-person law office, and was the City’s District Attorney for 19 years. She touts her independence from powerful interests with the campaign message, “Nobody’s mayor but yours.”
Vision for a sustainable Philadelphia
There are many opportunities for making Philadelphia more sustainable. The Philadelphia Water Department has done an excellent job dealing with stormwater runoff in the context of our largely combined stormwater/ sanitary sewage system. To begin with, Philadelphia’s “Green City, Clean Waters” plan is an award-winning “25-year plan to protect and enhance our watersheds by managing stormwater with innovative green infrastructure.” By implementing the plan, the City has begun to enhance the quality of life for our residents by reducing river pollution in what have be- come more frequent storm events. In addition, the plan now proposes even tighter standards for runoff and water quality. I will fully sup- port the plan as mayor.
Fortunately, LEED has become the norm in construction of major new office buildings, corporate headquarters and other facilities. The zoning code should be reviewed to deter- mine whether additional incentives for green buildings—including low-scale development —should be added to the regulatory framework. The adaptive reuse of existing buildings eligible for inclusion in the National Register should be encouraged through regulatory relief and zoning bonuses; reuse of existing structures is generally in itself sustainable development because the bricks and mortar need not be replicated.
In any event, growing the population through in-migration (from the nation and from around the world), increasing jobs and strengthening the tax base will make Philadelphia a more prosperous and “more sustainable city.” A vibrant economy will help us afford the capital improvements necessary to make Philadelphia the “Next Great American City.”
Would you maintain or expand funding for the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability?
Expand. By increasing funding, the City will improve quality of life for its residents, create jobs, protect the environment, and attract green-minded businesses and residents. Specifically, each City agency will be held accountable for achieving sustainability goals.
What’s your perspective on balancing public health and economic development?
Job creation will be at the very top of my agenda, but the “Next Great American City” needs to be a healthy city for our own residents, and for those we want to welcome as new members of the community. We shall protect the environment and enforce applicable regulations governing air, water and other pollution. We shall also determine whether existing regulations are sufficient to protect public health.
On climate change and resilience
The City should encourage a citywide bike share program, Zipcar facilities and their equivalents, vehicles using hybrid and electric power, and vehicles using natural gas as a fuel. We should have available a detailed survey of flood-prone areas beyond those identified by FEMA and other agencies to help guide development decisions.
On water and responsible development
The Philadelphia Water Department is currently implementing the “Green City, Clean Waters” plan, and is amending the regulations to tighten the requirements both with respect to water quality and volume of onsite containment. As stated above, I will support the plan. In addition, the City is currently offering financial incentives and loans to support the efforts of private landowners. These efforts will continue in my administration.