At-large Democratic City Council candidate Eryn Santamoor held a meet and greet with voters at the residence of 26th Ward Democratic committeeman John Zimmerman Tuesday night. At the meet and greet, she discussed issues related to trash collection, SEPTA, funding Philadelphia’s schools and the legalization of marijuana. Santamoor had previously served as Philadelphia’s deputy managing director from 2008 to 2014.
“I’m running because this city needs our help,” Santamoor said at the event. “I get how we fix problems. I’ve spent a career finding money to support programs that work for people and businesses, and I want to bring that skill set to City Council.”
Santamoor, who said she was involved in bringing Center City’s Big Belly trash cans to Philadelphia, believes trash is one of the biggest issues in the city.
She said that the implementation of Big Belly trash cans “was a way we could pick up trash more regularly in high-traffic routed areas, but it was supposed to expand, it was supposed to grow, it was supposed to incorporate the neighborhoods and we haven’t done that yet because we haven’t been pushing hard enough and City Council.”
Santamoor said that while she was in favor of street sweeping, it was simply “treating the symptom,” not the root cause of Philly’s lack of cleanliness. She suggested that encouraging grocery stores and other business to stop handing out plastic bags could solve the problem as well.
“We’ve got to sit down and talk with our grocers and store owners and get them off of plastic bags,” she said.
According to an in-depth report from Billy Penn, Philadelphia is the only major city without a street sweeping program.
Recent Philadelphia transplant Melody Imoh told Santamoor that “the biggest myth” she’s encountered so far about moving to Philadelphia was that she wouldn’t need a car. Imoh, who resides in Port Richmond, said that wasn’t the case in her neighborhood. Santamoor said that she supports more rapid bus lines and extending the subway system – including to the Navy Yard (although she noted that she didn’t expect much federal infrastructure money to come Philly’s way under the Trump presidency). She called Northeast Philadelphia “a great land of opportunity,” but also said “there’s no way to get there” except by car.
“We are really really missing an opportunity to help bridge gaps in the city,” she said. “I was just looking at houses and the affordability of some of the houses and the Great Northeast but if you can’t get to and from where you work, that’s a real problem and no one’s going to want to be there. So I’ve talked with some of the representatives up there and Joe Hohenstein about rapid bus lines and how we can get better transit opportunities going in that direction because there’s a lot of land, there’s a lot of opportunity, and if we build the infrastructure and the transportation to get there…it’ll be more accessible for people to move to.”
Funding the School District of Philadelphia
“Any savings we can find in city government I think needs to go first and foremost towards education,” Santamoor, who has two children, aged 7 and 9, said at the event. “I believe in public schools, and I knew that they can change the trajectory of our future if we invest in them.”
In particular, Santamoor said she wanted more counselors in Philly’s schools.
“I’m lucky my son and my daughter have a feelings teacher at their school, and I never knew what that was,” she said. “You have a science teacher when you have a science question, you have a math teacher when you have a math question. Our kids have a lot of feelings and a lot of feelings issues. They need someplace to go. I believe in feelings teachers. I believe in counselors and case workers and companies’ family emotional learning programs and curriculums, and I want them to be in our schools.”
Santamoor said she was in favor of legalizing marijuana, but wanted to be sure that the public and especially children were educated about the negative effects of marijuana.
“There’s a lot of research around drug usage and marijuana usage before the age of 25 and the effects on your brain,” she said. “So if we aren’t careful, we will go down the same path we had with alcohol where we haven’t educated families on the damages and the signs and problems associated with these things. So I just want to make sure that we are educating the population before we just sort of say, here, you go have at it.”
Santamoor said, “We should look at expungement,” for people who have been jailed for using marijuana. She said that tax revenue from marijuana sales, if it were legalized, would likely go to the state, but she would “fight to get that money back as best I can.”
“No one in Harrisburg or Pittsburgh or the middle of this state wants to see us get more money,” she said. “We’re going to have to make a really good business case for why we should be getting more, and that’s going to take some some real discipline fiscally here in Philadelphia.”