Andrew Stober says he sees city politics not as a Democratic nor Republican enterprise. That's why he's running as an Independent.
The former chief of staff of the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities, Stober, 37, of South Philly, announced his candidacy two weeks ago -- and just months after the launch of the Indego Philly bike share service that he developed.
His goal in the November general election? To knock out one of the Republicans holding the two at-large seats reserved for minority parties.
"People are really excited about the potential of having an Independent councilperson and not just being stuck with the choices the Republican party gives them," Stober said.
Another third-party candidate is the Green Party's Kristin Combs, a public school teacher from Port Richmond. But Stober says he has the advantage of years spent working in City Hall.
"I know how the city budget works, I know how city departments work," he said. "An important part of the function of City Council is to hold city departments accountable and also to partner with them to advance. I’ll start day one on the fourth floor in City Council chambers with the knowledge and skills to be able to do that."
I want to be a strong, clear and consistent voice for public schools. I am going to make sure that our property taxes are being fairly and accurately assessed and that we’re having a serious conversation about collecting unpaid taxes. I’m going to make sure that we're investing in our community infrastructure; that’s our streets, parks and our libraries.
Why are you running as an Independent?
When it comes to local government, the solutions to the challenges we face aren’t Democratic solutions or Republican solutions. These decisions are not ideology-driven; they should be driven by someone who understands the city they live in, understands how government works and understand how to use efficiently the tax dollars that are sent to City Hall.
At the local level, I really don’t think of myself as a Democrat or a Republican, I think of myself as someone who is independently interested in getting the best solutions to address the city’s problems. At the state and national level, I certainly would associate myself with the values of the Democratic party.
What do you hope to achieve with Philly schools?
Public primary schools should be points of neighborhood pride. Parents should feel comfortable sending their kid to their neighborhood public school. Strong neighborhood high schools need to be hubs of community activity, and safe and vibrant environments where young people can prepare for college and the workforce. Our magnet high schools must continue to be national models of excellence.
When schools don’t have school counselors, they can’t function well. When they don’t have school nurses, kids aren’t getting basic health services that they need to be successful at school. These are the basics of a school and if the state isn’t gonna fund it the city has a responsibility to step up and fund it.
We need to get back focused on the original intent of charter schools, which was to serve as laboratories to experiment with new models of instruction, supervision and compensation, test those out, transfer those best practices to public schools and close schools when they're not working.
While we have some really exceptional charter schools in the city, we need to make sure we’re learning from those schools. Schools that are failing students, making executives rich and draining the public schools of resources are something that we just can’t afford. We have to not be ashamed of shutting them down. This idea that somehow the solution to neighborhood schools that aren’t meeting the needs of their community is that kids should be getting up at five in the morning to go across the city to get to a school that's acceptable is not in the interest of children.
The Indego bike share service that you launched from the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities has passed 100,000 rides and counting in two months. To what do you attribute that success?
The success of the Indego bike share program is an incredible credit to my colleagues in the office of Transportation and Utilities, but more importantly, it's the result of making sure that we learned from what other cities are doing and applied it here in Philadelphia.
We built a program with a set of policies that works for Philadelphians, and guess what? They’re using it in droves. That's exactly what I think voters want from their City Councilperson -- they don’t want City Council members who shoot from the hip, who don’t study the best practices of other cities, who don’t understand or who their answer is 'Well, thats not how it works in Philadelphia.' You want to look at other cities, figure out what they’re doing well and figure out how you can bring that to Philadelphia.