Marc Stier teaches at Temple University and is involved
as a community activist in West Mount Airy.
An Interview with Marc Stier
Candidate for Philadelphia City Council-At-Large
-- Alan Tuttle
We interviewed Marc Stier,
one of 24 candidates for Philadelphia City Council-at-Large, 19 Democrats and 5 Republicans. Seven candidates will be elected in November. Marc
Stier offered insights into the state of our region,
and the nature of politics in general.
PJV: What is different about your campaign for City Council-at-Large. Why you?
I’m focusing my campaign on fixing our broken politics, which fundamentally do not
work. Most any good policies do not get carried out because politics transforms
them. Politics work by special deals: Whether you’re an individual, a homeowner, business owner --- if you want something from the city, you have to make a special deal, so we can not count on efficient government. E.g.
there is a big ballot proposition coming up for commercial corridor development. I have been calling for a long time for that kind of redevelopment: improve sidewalks, support small business plans and transit, provide start-up capital, bring enough businesses to an area to make the change self-sustaining. What is going to happen to that money? It will probably become a slush fund for district Council members, who will give money not to community development corporations that have a good record of success, but to those who have supported them politically. We spend so much time thinking what will help our neighbors instead of what public policies will help our own city. Another example: when I was President of West Mount Airy Neighbors,
there was at one point a crime wave. I went to our Councilwoman, got more police. But I realized that solution was a problem: it took police away from other areas that may need them more. Because my area was connected, richer, whiter, we succeeded. But I let the Councilwoman off the hook. I thanked her for doing her job, which she was doing well in the context of city politics. But what I should have said was, “Go up to New York City to find out how they had reduced crime by 75% over 10 years, and bring those policies back here. We are not innovating because we’re so focused on special deals for individuals or communities. So I’m going to try to change the way we do politics
PJV: Universal health care is receiving more press recently, with moves at both the Federal and State level to bring this about. What can be done at the City level to address the issue of lack of healthcare coverage?
A couple of things. First we must improve and expand our Health centers. There are long lines to be seen; they are understaffed, using antiquated software, which is bad not only for patients, but the providers often do not get reimbursed as quickly as they should be. I have an idea how to improve this. The City could encourage medical institutions such as public and private hospitals to do outcomes research. Treatments are not necessarily different; they just measure if treatment is effective with different kinds of people instead. People with different ethnic backgrounds may respond to some treatments, not others. To do this research you need enormous numbers of people. What you do is review medical records, do physical exams, and look at outcomes of standard treatment. This is the kind of collaborative efforts that our medical centers could do. The Health Centers could be one source of people being studied.
If you put in a little city money, the City could coordinate with hospitals and medical schools, then get private and federal grant money to do these studies, and some of that money could go to help support the health centers.
A second approach is to pool various city workers --- CCP workers, school district teachers and other employees --- and create one large buying pool that could then contract with BC/BS to provide less expensive healthcare so small businesses can provide better rates for small businesses. We can’t get full coverage for all right away, but it can help lots of people and encourage small businesses to move into the city. All of this will be as we wait on true Universal Coverage, which needs to get done.
PJV: Many people find themselves in deep financial distress due to predatory lending. What will you do in City Council to address this situation?
One problem is that we’ve been pre-empted by the State Legislature. A few years ago, there was a movement to regulate lending citywide led by Marian Tasco. However, the State Legislature usurped that power, so the City was unable to enact it. However, there are still some things we can do. We can engage in more education, and change our practices with homes that are in danger of foreclosure. The City has often sold liens to private companies who have been very harsh in taking peoples’ homes away without giving opportunities for the owners to maintain ownership. The City should stop making problems worse. We can do this by providing education and expanding programs that give people money to work through a crisis.
In broader terms, there are two more things that can be done. We can cap property tax increases by creating homestead exceptions for homeowners, and we can cap the rate of increase of taxes as property values increase. People are finding it harder and harder to pay their taxes, thereby getting them into situations of increased debt. We need to create responsible forms of borrowing. Home values have jumped, but there aren’t products to borrow on the value in responsible ways instead of at exorbitant rates. To do this would solve some difficulties, and it could put predatory lenders out of business.
PJV: Philadelphia now leads other major cities in its homicide rate. Other than saying it is tragic, what can be done about this?
We need short, medium, and long-term solutions. First, we need smarter and more aggressive policing. That means enforcing minor crimes, prosecuting when they are committed with illegal guns. We have an epidemic of gun use, with usage getting ratcheted up. Normally law-abiding people are carrying guns because they’re afraid others are. Several years ago when teaching a class at City College in New York
City, all the people in class were carrying switchblades. Now it’s guns.
Secondly, we need to provide more support for at-risk kids by expanding recreation centers and their programs, particularly for those at risk.
And thirdly, we need more jobs for people with and without high school diplomas.
PJV: To what degree does your Jewish background impact your approaches to these issues?
Very much so. My commitment to social justice comes out of the political and religious traditions in which I was raised. I’m trying to assert true democracy, so discussion and innovation takes precedence over just giving goodies. Historically, Jews have always done best in fair, transparent, open societies. As a minority, we lose when government operates in a system of special interests and closed networks. So I find it is both a value and a benefit to promote open, fair practices.
- May 2007: Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA 7) speaking
at CAIR, and interviews with
Marc Stier and
Andy Toy, Philadelphia
City Council candidates.
- April 2007: Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA 13)
- March 2007: Judge Anne E. Lazarus
candidate for the PA Superior Court.
- February 2007:
Rep. Mark Cohen,
Democratic Caucus Chairman
- January 2007:
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN 5), first Muslim elected to Congress
- November 2006: Candidates Lois Murphy and Jim Gerlach,
Pennsylvania's 6th district.
- October 2006: Patrick Murphy, candidate
for Congress in Pennsylvania's 8th district.
- September 2006: Alan Schlesinger, Republican
Senate candidate in Connecticut.
- August 2006: Peter Edelman, President of the
New Israel Fund
- July 2006: Joe Sestak, candidate for Congress
in Pennsylvania's 7th district.
- June 2006: Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY 2).
- May 2006: Charles Smolover, Vice-President
of the Philadelphia Jewish Voice
- April 2006: Ira Forman, Executive Director
of the National Jewish Democratic Committee
- March 2006: Alan Sandals, candidate in the Democratic
Primary for U.S. Senate
- February 2006: Matthew Brooks, Executive Director
of the Republican Jewish Coalition
- January 2006: Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA 2).
- December 2005: Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA 6).
- November 2005: Gov. Howard Dean, Chairman of
the Democratic National Committee
- October 2005: Bob Casey candidate in the Democratic
Primary for U.S. Senate.
- September 2005: Pennsylvania State Representative
- August 2005: Lois Murphy candidate for Congress
in Pennsylvania's 6th district.
- July 2005: Chuck Pennacchio candidate in the Democratic
Primary for U.S. Senate.
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