A Progressive activist and former city councilwoman, Helen Gym, would have been the next mayor of Philadelphia if the voters her policies would have most helped had showed up to vote. Her coalition, more than any other candidate, looked like America.
Helen Gym was ready to serve Philadelphia
Anytime a Progressive activist breaks through, we are one step closer to a better and more humane, and egalitarian society. From the time I met Helen Gym in Arizona, I understood that she was the real thing. She is persistent.
Helen Gym does not only talk the talk. She performs. Her list of accomplishments as a teacher, local organizer, activist, and city councilwoman is unparalleled.
- Helped launch the city’s first mental health crisis response unit so police officers can focus on solving violent crimes
- Secured emergency funding for school safety zones, cleaner and more brightly lit streets, and new intervention programs for high-risk youth
- Shut down abusive youth residential facilities like Glen Mills and helped lead on statewide reform of juvenile justice policies.
- Worked with the U.S. Dept. of Justice to turn around a public high school that had been on the state’s most dangerous list for years before she was involved
- Restored nurses, counselors, social workers, arts & music programs, and clean water to every public school
- Held the first-ever hearings on the issue of youth homelessness and won the first city budget line item to address youth homelessness
- Led the first reform of the 10-year tax abatement, which returned millions of dollars back to our schools
- Led a 17-year movement to end the state takeover of our public schools
- Created a nationally renowned eviction prevention program, praised by the Biden White House, that reduced evictions by roughly two-thirds, keeping thousands of Philadelphians in their homes
- Passed the most expansive “Fair Workweek” law in the nation, ensuring stable schedules and predictable pay for more than 130,000 hourly workers
- Established a Department of Labor focused on workers’ rights and helping win workers tens of thousands of dollars in back wages
- Secured $20M a year for the Housing Trust Fund to support affordable housing initiatives and eviction prevention efforts
At the Netroots Nation conference, I remember feeling concerned that Helen would follow former Ohio Senator Nina Turner, a hell of an orator, in the hall where politicians had the floor. My first thought was that this tiny woman was going to fall flat. She projected way beyond her size and was definitely on par with the best orators there. Most importantly, she had the Progressive message down pat.
I interviewed her a few weeks ago as I was interested in the state of her race. She did not disappoint.
Even though Helen Gym did not win as most had expected her to, the manner in which she brought the community together must be a template for all Progressive candidates. Her coalition looks like America, and that is our future.
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