Alexandra Hunt wants to bring the young voice of the city to its government watchdog
Hunt, a public health researcher and former congressional candidate, talks about her young start in politics, her campaign, plans for Philly, and more.
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Alexandra Hunt is many things.
College educated with two master's degrees, a public health researcher, an advocate, a political organizer, a girl’s soccer coach, a former Congressional candidate, and now a candidate for Philadelphia City Controller.
The 29-year old first received national attention when she challenged the incumbent and longtime Democratic official, Dwight Evans, for his 3rd Congressional District seat in the House in 2022, but ultimately lost out on the Democratic nomination.
Though losing the race, she was victorious in other respects.
Demonstrating an ability to fundraise, which hit almost half a million dollars, was a huge feat for a first-time candidate as well as garnering many fans along the way. As an under-30 candidate, Hunt also represents the new kind of voice and leadership that a growing, young, vitalized voting demographic often seeks out.
Despite an unsuccessful bid for Congress, she gained many supporters and raised a sufficient amount of money on her first try. And even with the defeat, she knew her commitment to Philly was not over.
She now has her eyes set on another hunt — becoming Philly’s newest paymaster and chief accounting officer.
Hunt announced her bid for City Controller on Wednesday, Jan. 11.
In an interview with Al DÍA, she spoke about her decision to run, Philly’s issues, and her plans as City Controller.
Hunt 4 Change
She first hinted at running for Controller in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer last December. She said she considered the run especially after witnessing Rebecca Rhynhart's tenure, now a candidate for mayor.
“There's not really the practice of accountability, of rooting out corruption in wasteful spending. Rebecca took on a more proactive role. The Office of the City Controller can continue to move into that proactive role,” she said.
Hunt looks to build a new legacy upon the foundation already established, and at a young age, can offer a new perspective that she says has been missing.
“There's this complacency and because a lot of elected roles tend to go towards somebody not from a younger generation, that leads to a very hard grip upon the status quo. There needs to be room for new ideas,” she said.
Hunt told AL DÍA that the decision to run for City Controller “took a bit of time,” but she knew the severity of the problems in the city and stressed the importance of time in regards to responding to the issues, as she knows the position would give her the keys to bring about change.
“We can't wait another decade, as we are facing the climate crisis, a pandemic,” she said. “Local governments, especially in Philadelphia, where this is a Democratic stronghold, can step in and do things that are going to better people's lives immediately. The City Controller has that impact.”
As Hunt’s campaign website reads, “there is no shortage of ills facing the city,” and that includes the education system across the city.
From budget and staff cuts, to a pandemic that only exacerbated the issue, and she spoke to the impact the city controller could have on this.
Hunt says the school district’s problem is because of a Republican legislature that has defunded public schools and as she points out, the funding of public schools is reliant upon property tax in order to get any sort of funds.
“What we're working on is finding a way around that abuse of the Republicans' power in the statehouse. And getting money to fully equip schools, teachers, counselors, and students with the resources they need,” she said.
Affordable and equitable housing is also hard to come by. Inflation and rising costs across the board have made it difficult for many of the city’s working citizens to be able to afford housing.
The Philadelphia Housing Authority recently opened up their Housing Choice Voucher program after more than a decade. A lottery format will be used to select 10,000 people to get on the waiting list with the first 2,000 expected to receive vouchers later this year.
However, on Monday Jan. 23, the website crashed due to the overwhelming demand of people seeking affordable housing.
“The funds for PHA come from the federal government. That's going to take working with the Auditor General and the federal government to use funds in that manner,” Hunt said.
Hunt went on to cite recent news of Philadelphia’s Juvenile Services Center, in which reporting last October, revealed complaints from staff, citing overcrowding that resulted in dangerous violent acts between inmates.
But as Hunt said about the situation, a lot of the youth there are waiting for homes.
“They are waiting for housing, and they are being mistreated and overcrowded in this juvenile facility,” she said.
“And then schools are collapsing under the pressure of trying to provide the counseling that children need from that sort of environment at home. And that's why they need to be better funded,” Hunt added.
Gun violence is also the biggest issue of the 2023 Philadelphia campaign cycle, and Hunt offered ways in which the City Controller can contribute to the solution, particularly looking at what she called “wasteful and corrupt spending by city departments.”
That includes, according to her, the massive funding gone to support gun violence prevention programs.
“A lot of short term and long term prevention programs that simply just get money thrown at it. And then we don't go back and make sure that the work is being done,” she said.
She also cited the amount of data that has proven poverty is the root of community violence and argued that more money should be put into solving issues around that experience.
“And so we know that we need to have affordable housing and we know we need to be investing in schools, and into parks and recs, things that actually build community infrastructure,” Hunt said.
Holding the watchdog accountable
Transparency for a City Controller is also specifically important, and it’s why Hunt said she would build a system of internal checks and balances and quality assurance within the office. The City Controller is monitoring the city’s money, but no one checks the controller.
Hunt, who has previously worked on clinical trials and its regulatory department, said she also understands the continuous check in to make sure there is no breach in integrity of the trial.
“That would be the same function of the regulatory department of the Office of Controller. That integrity would be maintained by us would be eliminated, and that we all would be moving in a very ethical manner to to function as an office,” she said.
Another method of transparency Hunt wants to introduce within the City Controller’s office is a platform she dubbed Taxpayer Money through Technology.
Hunt said she would build and expand the City Controller dashboard so citizens are able to track their taxpayer money through an accessible dashboard demonstrating the city budget and how each department is spending it.
For the many who will come to know, hear, and meet Hunt for the first time, she hopes more people in the city pay more attention to these kinds of races that can sometimes go under the radar.
“One of the unfortunate sides of Democrats is that we pay attention to these sexy races like the President, Congress, the U.S. Senate,” Hunt said. “I hope people start paying more attention, become more engaged so that we actually get some changes that people can feel in their own homes.”