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Councilmember Helen Gym is still on the rise on the national stage with her new leadership appointment. Photo: AL DÍA News.
Councilmember Helen Gym is still on the rise on the national stage with her new leadership appointment. Photo: AL DÍA News.

Philadelphia Councilmember Helen Gym to co-chair national network of local elected officials

Local Progress is a movement of local elected officials throughout the country dedicated to advancing an agenda of racial and economic justice.

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Philadelphia at-large Councilmember Helen Gym was announced as the new co-chair of Local Progress, a nationwide network of local elected officials that work towards advancing the agendas of racial and economic justice at all levels of local government. 

She will lead alongside Austin City Councilmember Greg Casar, who was also named the other co-chair.

Both will take the place of New York City Councilmember Brad Lander starting on Jan. 1, 2021. Lander chaired the organization for four years and is now running to be New York City’s Comptroller to help the Big Apple recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Gym, the appointment is another step in her rise to national recognition as a major voice in the progressive movement.

“As we prepare to step forward together into a new year with the same challenges, we know that our cities and municipalities must continue to be the epicenter of progressive change in this country,” said the councilmember in a press release about the appointment. “By working together, we can drive transformative change across all levels of local government, build power with our communities, and impact policy and governance at the state and national level. Together, we are redefining what is possible.”

She is the first Asian-American woman to ever be elected to Philadelphia City Council and accomplished the feat in 2016 as an at-large councilmember.

Since then, Gym’s popularity in the city has skyrocketed and she received by far the most votes of any at-large City Council candidate during the 2019 city elections. 

Gym has also stood behind a number of measures that have pushed Philadelphia to new arenas on the national stage.

In 2018, she introduced bills that passed like Philadelphia’s Fair Workweek Law, which granted the employees of major fast food, retail and hospitality chains more certainty around their schedules, and a raise of the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. 

Gym has also established a pre-filing eviction diversion program, Philadelphia’s first legal defense fund for tenants facing eviction, and supported the creation of a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and permanent Office of Labor

In 2020 and amid the COVID-19 pandemic, she was a principal sponsor of bills that were part of the Emergency Housing Protections Act, including the creation of an eviction diversion program.

The package was aimed at keeping Philadelphia renters in their homes amid the government shutdown of businesses and a rate of unemployment not seen since the 2008 Recession. 

Gym was also named AL DÍA’s ‘Person of the Year’ in 2019

Before taking office, Gym was a journalist and community activist that was part of a grassroots movement in support of Philadelphia public schools. Her efforts contributed to the end of a 17-year state takeover of the Philadelphia school system. 

She is the daughter of Korean immigrants.

Her co-chair, Casar, in addition to being the youngest person ever elected to Austin City Council, has fought for paid-sick days for residents of Austin, TX and successfully passed the largest affordable housing bond in the state’s history.

He is the son of Mexican immigrants.

Beyond Gym and Casar, other notable local officials part of Local Progress include Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, and Seattle’s first Latino elected to its City Council, Lorena González, among many others.

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