Michael Galván hopes to be the first openly-LGBTQ+ person elected to Philly City Council in 2023
Galvan made their announcement for a city council run during a picnic in Germantown on Aug. 28. They are the first Democrat to declare.
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Philly City Council election season is upon us, and the first to declare could make history if they are elected next November.
Michael Galván first announced their run for city council during a picnic in Germantown. They are the first Democrat to formally declare a run for 2023, and if elected, Galvan would be the first openly LGBTQ city councilmember in Philadelphia history.
In the week since the announcement, AL DÍA had a chance to sit down with Galván and talk about their early bid.
“It's been very exciting. A lot of things are moving in the right direction, getting good traffic on social media and the website,” they said.
Being Latinx in Texas
Born and raised in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas to Latino parents, Galván had an “interesting” upbringing in the conservative Lone Star state. Being Latinx in Texas opened their eyes to some of the abrasive and racist attitudes, tones, and comments that are made about LGBTQ+ individuals.
“You hear stories, and read news articles about the conservative nature of Texas politics. It was just interesting, the racism and the subtlety of microaggressions. It was less micro aggressive, and more just flat out aggressive,” said Galván. “But I would say that shaped who I was very strongly today because I think that nobody should have to go through the upbringing that I went through.”
A lot of these experiences growing up is what in part made them want to pursue a life in public service. With the prevalent racism directed at them, combined with the horrible experiences that LGBTQ+ youth go through a lot of times with their identity and people not embracing them, hating them in certain instances, it made Galván want to help those that need it, but don’t get it.
“I knew that I wanted to help people. That's really what I have done, are, and have wanted to continue to do,” they said. “I just knew that there are people out there that are going through similar things that I went through, and maybe not have access to the same resources that I was lucky to have access to.”
This includes reinvesting in these same communities that have lost funding and helping those historically oppressed, marginalized, and denied basic human help.
“There have been decades of disinvestment, and in effect in our communities. We know that some neighborhoods get better access to services than others. There's a long history of racist practices like redlining and discriminatory housing practices that have taken advantage of BIPOC communities,” said Galván. “It's past time for us to be having the conversation that we need to be solidly addressing those communities' needs and of Black and Brown communities as a whole. To have access to career pathways that are going to allow them to stay in their neighborhoods for as long as they desire.”
They attended and graduated through the Texas public school and college system. Galván initially started out as a music major who dreamed of creating and designing their own music and shows for high school marching bands. They did not consider themselves to be political until they saw Barack Obama speak in 2008. From there, Galván switched majors to political science.
After grad school, they got an internship working for Wendy Davis’ campaign, and got their foot in the door and on the ground with political activism and community organizing.
Kenney to the campaign trail
In Philadelphia, Galván also worked as part of Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration under different circumstances.
They first worked on the campaign as a Field Organizer and Deputy Policy Director before heading into city government as the Director of Education Policy. Following their time with Kenney, Galvan then moved into nonprofit work that includes as an Associate on Education and Workforce Policy and Strategy for the Philadelphia Youth Network, Executive Director and Policy Consultant for YouthBuild Pennsylvania Coalition, and as Policy Director for Breaktime.
All of this has led up to this point, in which they now find themselves in what will be a wide-open race for city council.
While it was not an easy decision to make, it was the right one for Galvan as they look to help people.
Housing, growth and communities
On their campaign website, Galvan focuses on three main issues they want to address. These include stable housing, empowering growth, and securing the communities. One of the first issues they want to address is the growing homelessness in Philly. The larger groups to make up the homeless population are Black, Brown and LGBTQ+ individuals.
“We need to continue to pursue and think diligently about, is how we get our unhoused individuals into stable and permanent housing,” said Galván. “People are more likely to be successful in addressing their employment, behavioral health, and substance abuse disorder issues if they have stable housing.”
The second spoke involves creating a clearer pathway for stability in renting and rental housing.
“This whole conversation to me is around this concept that the more people that get into permanent stable housing, the better our neighborhoods will be in the long run. Whether that is affordable, mixed income, or market rate, there has to be a process for us to think about each of these as a whole, because right now, our approach is not taking that into consideration,” said Galvan.
Community to solve gun violence
Gun violence is another major issue for Galván, and it has become endemic in Philadelphia.
Last year, 2021, was a record year for homicides and this year is on pace to break that record again. Philadelphians do not feel safe in their neighborhoods and are looking to leaders for answers. Galván’s answer to the crisis is the community.
“One of the key things that we have to do is create a broader sense of community in our neighborhoods. A lot of that is just, does everybody have access to not just housing but a career pathway that supports their long term economic prosperity,” they said. “We also have to have a robust conversation around what it means to be a community, and what it means to be actively engaged.”
Galván spoke on their experience as a block captain and the many different kinds of things one can do to improve their particular neighborhoods. This includes regular block meetings, block walking groups, block cleanups, and block beautification efforts. However, so many neighborhoods that need it lack the funding and resources to be able to do such projects on their blocks. When talking to AL DÍA, Galvan pointed to being more mindful and careful about where city dollars go.
They also spoke on the importance of empowering growth. This includes investing in Philadelpians themselves, their businesses, and giving individuals in marginalized communities a chance at a better future. This also calls for the city government to invest and bring in different kinds of jobs to grow the local economy.
“There's a great understanding that the city needs more jobs across the board. There's a discord when it comes to where those jobs need to come from. The real growth and real talent potential in our neighborhoods is investing directly in Philadelphians who have entrepreneurial spirit, have the skills, and the desire to build out small businesses in our neighborhoods, and our community corridors,” said Galván. “They're gonna hire their friends, families, neighbors, church members, and people from their community. They're going to be able to get them living wage jobs in their community to stay in their community.”
A run for history, but so much more
When it comes to their history-making potential, Galván doesn’t want to be alone should they get elected in 2023.
“There will be other LGBTQ candidates that run. And if I'm not the first and they are, that's great. If I'm the first and they're with me, that's better,” they said. “I firmly believe in the process of having like a two for one special this election cycle, because we've been without LGBTQ+ representation for so long on the council that I think we need as much as we can.
Over the course of the campaign, many new people are going to come to know and meet them for the first time. They hope their passion and consideration shines through whatever bias the others may have.
“You might not agree with my politics, solutions, or the way I present myself, and that's fine. But I just would want people to know that this is genuinely something that I am very passionate about,” said Galván. “Regardless of how this race turns out, I am going to continue to work through this work and work to serve the communities that I'm from.”
“I fell in love with the city seven years ago while being an organizer. It was the strength and passion of Philadelphians that made me realize that this is the place that I'm going to be for the long haul,” they continued. “But if nothing else goes right. I just want to be able to continue to say this city is a city that I love deeply. The people of the city are people that I genuinely, absolutely love. And if I can come away with that feeling at the end, when or lose, it's gonna be a good one.”