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Photo: Jared Piper/PHLCouncil
Photo: Jared Piper/PHLCouncil

María Quiñones-Sánchez backs public defenders and more in reaction to Philly’s new budget proposal

The longtime City Councilmember called out hypocrisy in Kenney’s attempt to make the budget equitable.

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On Thursday, March 31, Mayor Jim Kenney released his proposed city budget for the fiscal year 2023. While there were some small improvements, community members and City Councilmembers alike found glaring issues.

Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sánchez in particular, had a lot to say about the failure of Kenney’s budget to truly help Philadelphia recover.

Quiñones-Sánchez was quoted saying that she was disappointed in the lack of funding for Philadelphia public defenders.

“How are you looking at those investments from a public safety perspective? Public defenders are left out of the conversation,” she said.

In an op-ed for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Quiñones-Sánchez highlighted her priorities for the upcoming city budget. She believes that this is not the time to “breathe easy,” but to double down on crucial investments that will help the entire city recover.

Before the pandemic struck the nation, Quiñones-Sánchez was a co-chair of the  Special Committee on Poverty Reduction and Prevention. During her time in this role, the committee launched a public-private partnership to drastically reduce poverty in the city.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the economic disparities among Philadelphians, and Quiñones-Sánchez says it’s time to stay focused on these issues.

“We need to promote policies that create and expand rental vouchers, basic income, and job training stipends. Our anti-poverty investments must continue to focus on people, not programs,” she wrote.

In Quiñones-Sánchez’s view, the feeling of hopelessness is a big contributing factor to the rise in gun violence throughout the city. Her solutions to this multifaceted issue include more investments in small businesses, clean public spaces for all residents, and improved trash collection.

“The first step toward hope is making sure our residents and neighborhoods do not feel abandoned. City departments must be held accountable for doing their jobs at a basic level,” she said.

Quiñones-Sánchez emphasized that the city must learn from COVID-19, rather than continue with more of the same. This means more access to government and better communication between residents and those who represent them.

“This is doubly true for immigrant and non-English speaking residents, who prior to COVID-19 had limited access to technology and now will need more than ever,” she wrote.

Quiñones-Sánchez said that each city department must provide periodic updates on what they’re working on in regards to services, and language access is a necessity.

Quiñones-Sánchez argued that Kenney said his budget decisions were motivated by equity, but the reality doesn’t match his statement.

For instance, the city’s Health Department is forging ahead with the construction of a health center in Quiñones-Sánchez’s district, but selected a location that most neighborhood organizations oppose. 

“I will keep working as City Council Appropriations Committee chair to make sure that our pandemic response is equitable, responsible, and reflective of community needs, and with unprecedented federal investment on the way, we cannot miss this opportunity for bold action. A ‘safe’ budget is not good enough,” Quiñones-Sánchez wrote.

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