Fiedler fields questions from voters in South Philly town hall

Fiedler is running unopposed in November’s general election.

Pennsylvania State House District 184 candidate Elizabeth Fiedler took to South House, a bar and restaurant on 13th and Shunk, last Tuesday night for an informal town hall with local residents. Fiedler is running unopposed in November’s general election.

Education funding dominated most of the discussion.

“I think it’s ridiculous that we allot our money [to school districts] right now based on factors that are not reflective of the current demographics,” Fiedler said when asked about her top priority when elected. “It doesn’t make any sense to me. I think we need a strong public education system so that there’s a good public school in every neighborhood.”

According to the Education Law Center, Pennsylvania school’s receive approximately 35.8 percent of their funding from the state, below the national average of 43.5 percent. As a result, local school districts are forced to raise taxes on their own, meaning wealthier districts can afford more education funding. According to the same Education Law Center study, 53 percent of Pennsylvania school district funding comes from local taxes. The national average is only 44 percent.

“As a society, we’re failing a lot of kids, especially poor children [and] children of color,” Fiedler said. “We’re so under-funding our public education system.”

Fiedler was also asked a question from a self-described “pro-life Democrat” about whether she’d be willing to vote for any pro-life Democrats in state house leadership or if she feels there’s room in the Democratic Party for pro-lifers. Initially, she dodged the question and re-affirmed her pro-choice stance.

“As someone who has held that responsibility in my body for nine months two times, I can’t imagine anyone else getting to make decisions about what happens in my body,” she said. “I just can’t. It is such an immense responsibility.”

However, she eventually conceded she doesn’t “have an answer for you yet.”

Bike infrastructure was also discussed at the event. Fiedler called bike infrastructure “one thing that is overlooked by a lot of people in government who honestly have not been on a bike — let’s be honest — in years.”

Fiedler said she didn’t have a car for 10 of the 15 years she lived in Philly, and even while working as a reporter for WHYY, she’d use her bike as her main method of transportation. Her husband bikes to his job in West Philly every day from their South Philly home at 4th and Tasker.

“For a lot of people across South Philly … it is not a choice,” she said. “It is out of necessity. They don’t have the money for a car. They don’t have the money for a SEPTA pass so they ride their bikes. So how I see it, both in terms of state and making sure that people don’t die in our streets unnecessarily and in terms of economic justice and making sure that people who are riding their bikes to work in Center City aren’t run off the road by a car because there’s no place for them to go.”

Another asked Fiedler, “is single-payer health care feasible?”

“I don’t know if it’s feasible,” Fiedler said, “but dammit I’m going to try. I’m so sickened by a system that is driven by profits and not human lives. I’m tired of it.”

She said health care was a top priority for a large percentage of people she talked to during her campaign.

“People told me about how terrified they were about their medical bills, their medical insurance, instability, how they were covered,” she said. “I just think it is so much more common than a lot of people even realize, like the direct impact that the insurance companies and the profit-driven model that we have right now that I think we can get enough lawmakers in office to really support it who don’t take money from those places, then I think we could see it as a [possibility].”

Fiedler said single-payer could be done at the federal or state level. However, there’s been little interest in implementing single-payer health care in Harrisburg to date.

How would we pay for it?

“A tax on the 1 percent,” Fiedler said.

“There’s also a lot of tax loopholes that exist that are allowing corporations and very rich people to avoid paying money that needs to go to our education system,” she said. “Significant amounts of money that we allow to just go back into the pockets of people while our kids have to go to school in buildings that are falling apart.”