190 District Special Election on Tuesday, March 12, 2019
The Parkside Journal interviewed three of the four candidates running for state representative of the 190th district, the seat formerly held by Vanessa Lowery Brown. Brown resigned in December shortly after being convicted of several corruption-related crimes, which also followed her reelection to a new
two-year term in November 2018.
The special election race has been fraught with multiple twists and turns, with three potential candidates for the Democratic nomination dropping out (two because to residency issues and one for other reasons) in mid-January. The candidates who will be on the ballot are Amen Brown (Amen Brown Party), Michael Harvey (Republican), Movita Johnson-Harrell (Democrat), and Pamela Williams (Working Families Party). Michael Harvey did not
respond to inquiries for an interview.
Why are you running for representative of the 190th
Amen Brown (ABP): “The district needs something new and young that is from the community, someone who has been doing the work. This district doesn’t need someone just starting. My organization, my team and I have been doing the work for years. [Also,] I’m not tied to any of the leading figures in Philadelphia politics. I can’t be controlled so that’s a problem for them.”
Movita Johnson-Harrell (D): “I’m running because I think the three biggest issues facing the everyday people in this district are poverty, gun violence and education. I’ve lost my father, brother, son, and
nephew to gun violence. There’s a bigger societal issue surrounding gun violence, bigger than the actual gun. I have been speaking with legislators for many years, trying to flip legislators to support
sensible gun control legislation to protect our communities.”
Pamela Williams (WFP): “I’m a lifelong resident of West Philadelphia and my mother was a dedicated community activist. I learned from her what it meant to advocate for disadvantaged people. I believe that progress starts with people. As a state representative,
I will be a vehicle for the people, bringing the voices of the 190th district to Harrisburg. I’m running because there’s no one better suited to do the work than me.”
As State Representive, what will be the three
biggest issues you tackle?
Brown: (1) Stronger senior support services; (2)
Community safety; and (3) Help small businesses in
Johnson-Harrell: (1) Poverty Reduction; (2) Gun
violence reduction; (3) Fair funding for education Williams: (1) $15 minimum wage; (2) Fair funding for education; (3) Universal Helthcare.
What is the biggest threat facing people living in
the 190th district?
Brown: “Voter suppression. The Democratic party isn’t informing people about the special election. We’ve done phone banking and educating people about the special election. We have to spend more
time educating people that there is a special election and why there’s an election. Then finally information about me. The party isn’t doing their job to educate people about the election.”
Johnson-Harrell: “Poverty. I think poverty and gun violence are interconnected. The 190th is a Promise Zone and federal money can be brought into creating opportunity and community reinvestment. There are very wealthy portions of the district and very poor parts of the district. There needs to be more balance. I think because it is a Promise Zone and there’s been no checks and balances of the 190th and that’s kept the poor, poor.”
Williams: “The biggest threat is dishonesty. We need people to be sincere about their service. We need to factor in—progress starts with the people. If we don’t hear the voice of the people then we have been apart of the disenfranchisement of the people. People are
looking to receive the benefit of it. Some of us have forgotten what’s it like to be servants. [There’s a] lack of integrity and empathy with the people and the needs of their district. Who represents you and who is the voice for the people? All of the umbrella of service. My job…is to help you come out of all of the ills that affect you.”
How will you help your constituents in Parkside
deal with issues surrounding homeownership and
Brown: “I’m a heavy believer in relationships and I have good relationships with the current sheriff as well as the candidates running for sheriff right now. It will not be a problem for me to sit down [with them] because my relationships are valued [at the
sheriff’s department], more so than the average state representative. My organization alone has helped a lot of people save their homes from sheriff sale, getting extensions, getting their homes removed from sale and that was as a regular citizen. I’d like to see the City Council and the sheriff’s department to give more assistance and more protections and leniency for families losing their homes. I have a plan to put into action immediately to help the community on a lot of levels. I want to generate a district-wide trade
program for high school dropouts and graduates who choose not to go to college and who want to go straight to work.
Johnson-Harrell: “My plan is to cap the properties that universities can buy in the district and to ensure that those same initiatives that the universities offer so that their people can move in, we can offer those same subsidies to current residents who want to be homeowners. [I am also concerned about the] real estate investors that buy stuff all over the city and in the 190th specifically—who buy properties, notes, and foreclose on homeowners to push people out of properties and squeeze out their equity. In my case, [I filed for] bankruptcy to protect a property from a speculative real estate developer. These speculators are enabled by politicians who are selling us out. We have to stop them from coming into our
neighborhoods, buying up properties, driving up property taxes, pushing people out of their homes. Another issue that concerns me is property theft. I worked on creating a task force at the DA’s office
after someone fraudulently transferred property from
my name to theirs.“
Williams: “I’m putting a plan together to see developers come together with the community. How do we regulate developers to the point where they are not isolating and bleeding the community through their development? The rental costs and taxes in the 190th have increased. We all want to see our neighborhoods develop, but the residents have the right to reach for greater stability. Once you have a stable community where people own homes, but you have a moral base because people have bought into the community because they will do things to help the community thrive, look good, and do things that benefit the community. There needs to be funding
from the state level to help residents purchase abandoned houses and land that has not been developed for many years.
One of my issues is legislating funds for those persons who are affected or threatened by foreclosure, especially older residents. When some people have to make choices between your mortgage
and electricity, what do they choose? How do we help them not lose their homes? This will put people on the right track so [they] can stay in their homes. We need to talk to the groups who live in communities to introduce legislation that is effective to and meets the needs of what you see and what you live in every day. I will stand toe-to-toe against the developers.”
How will you be accessible to the members of your
district if you should win?
Brown: “I plan to have three offices across the district as well as a mobile office. I’ll also be at all of the community meetings in the neighborhood and hold biweekly meetings in different communities. In the first 100 days, I plan every week or two to have town hall meetings in each ward to discuss the issues to know what to address and be as effective as I can.”
Johnson-Harrell: “I want to take the district to Harrisburg.
I do that by coming to community meetings and hearing
what they want, inviting them to the State House. Something else that I want to do is have a quarterly meeting with the ward leaders and a semiannual meeting with committee people. Since [ward leaders] want to be leaders, let’s make them real leaders and not just when it comes time to have an election. My scheduler will have
every meeting in the district on my calendar.”
Williams: “I’m seeing if can get donated space in every
ward so that residents can get services without having to
travel very far. I will also structure monthly town halls in
every community and hear [constituent] concerns,
whether it’s crime, development, education. I also hope
that all of the 501(c)(3)s and all of the entities that interact
with residents will open their doors to me.”