While many of us have been cast off–campus and into our hometowns during this crisis, Philadelphia continues to suffer. Greedy real estate moguls are holding much–needed hospitals hostage. The pandemic has claimed 1.5 million jobs in Pennsylvania as Philly residents report delays in receiving unemployment benefits. Food insecurity has climbed as people face limited paychecks and children no longer receive school lunches.
Yet these tragic disparities did not start with the coronavirus pandemic but are systemic problems being made even more apparent by this crisis. In West Philly, gentrification — a problem that Penn has worsened — has demonstrated the inequality in our city and created housing insecurity. Philadelphia is the poorest big city in the nation, with crumbling infrastructure and underfunded schools. Pennsylvania has one of the largest prison populations in the country, and the heavy impact of COVID-19 on prisons has emphasized what has been clear to many: we need to reduce our rates of incarceration, which do little to reduce crime but exacerbate disparities and damage communities.
Each of these issues can and needs to be addressed by our state leadership. While the presidential race has been the recent focus of our political attention and media outlets, state elections are just as crucial in shaping the policies that most directly impact our lives. We have a responsibility to take these races seriously — and incumbents have a responsibility to not take our support for granted.
Our current Pennsylvania State House representative, Jim Roebuck, has done too little to address the issues affecting West Philly in his 35 years in office. Across the nation, we’ve seen dynamic, brave leaders standing up to long-time incumbents who have not done justice to the people they serve. We’re lucky to have one of them running in our district against Roebuck: Rick Krajewski.
Krajewski’s platform champions everyday people, specifically addressing education, housing, mass incarceration, healthcare, and climate action. His message should speak to all of us as young people hoping to afford health care costs and raise our children on a liveable earth. But as West Philly residents, we have a responsibility to not only consider the issues affecting us directly but also those of vital importance to our neighbors and city. As both a West Philadelphia organizer and Penn alumnus, Rick bridges this gap and will fight for policies that benefit our community as a whole.
During this pandemic, Rick has directly demonstrated his leadership and commitment to our community. He and his volunteers have called every elderly resident of the district, connecting with those in need of food, medicine, and other necessities. They have made over 30,000 calls to West Philly residents, assisted 650 to vote by mail, and connected over one hundred families to life-saving mutual aid services.
While many of us may not still be physically in Philadelphia, it still needs our vote, and we can still make it heard. For many of us, our sights may be set on the general election in November, but we have the power to bring about crucial change in the primary as well. We have a responsibility to interrogate and challenge those within our own party as well as those outside of it.
The primary has been moved to June 2nd, and all of us can still register and vote absentee by mail from wherever we might be located. The registration deadline is May 18, and the ballot request deadline is May 26, so it isn’t too late to stay engaged, and it’s more important than ever. By voting for Rick, you are supporting leadership vital in today’s pandemic and necessary for Philadelphia’s future.
EMMA WENNBERG is a College first-year from Pasadena, CA. studying Political Science and Creative Writing. She is the Communications Director of Penn Democrats. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.