Introducing five new faces of Philadelphia City Council – each with their own unique past.
Let’s start with the one probably previously most removed from public service, real estate mogul Allan Domb.
Domb, now a Democratic at-large member, oversees dozens of towers in town as a real estate developer, investor and broker. He founded Allan Domb Real Estate nearly two decades ago and his empire spans from river to river and beyond.
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Now, his vision for Philadelphia is to bring his smart business sense to government. Philadelphia is the most tax-delinquent city in the country — with an uncollected debt of $1.8 billion.
“What I’m trying to do is bring to the city those things that business already understands,” he said.
“Our goal is to expand the base of the city and help the 400,000 people in poverty get better income, better jobs and better wages.”
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Domb is donating his entire $127,000 City Council salary to the city’s beleaguered school district, so its easy to believe he’s “not doing this for the money.”
“I’m not doing this to get re-elected. I’m doing this so the city gets better, that’s all. I hope more people like myself, who are in business, step up to the plate and do the same thing.”
Republican Al Taubenberger was president of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce for a quarter of a century, and ran for elected office several times, never succeeding until this most recent race for an at-large seat on City Council.
“When I was at the chamber of commerce, I had some frustrations. I saw city government operate — constantly [talking] about raising taxes, always the need for more money as opposed to ‘hey, maybe we need to take a look at this program and see if its really meeting the [people’s] needs,” said Taubenberger.
Having more than two decades with the chamber of commerce, Taubenberger said he’s focused on making the city more business friendly.
“Everybody has to have the opportunity to have a job in every zip code in this city. We want businesses to grow and prosper and to stay in the city of Philadelphia, and they have not always,” he said.
A former school teacher, Helen Gym has been active in immigrant communities for years, and a lot of her work has been geared toward connecting those who don’t have an inside track to power.
“We have to organize, be visible, make our voices heard and really drive narratives to tackle tough issues to engage the public — that’s the essence of what it means to be political,” said Gym.
Asked what drove her to run for an at-large seat on City Council, she said it was the city’s decision to close 24 public schools in 2013.
“It was a wake-up call for me to move from community-based politics to electoral politics,” she said.
As for legislation she plans to push, Gym, a Democrat, said she plans to champion school funding issues.
“It’s important to me that everybody does a heavy lift…I’m about ending poverty, being inclusive…and making all public schools the visions they were supposed to be.”
Hving worked under Councilwoman Marian Tasco until she retired at the end of her term in January, now Derek Green is filling an at-large seat, leaving William Greenlee, David Oh and Blondell Reynolds Brown as the only remaining veteran at-large members.
A Democrat, Green has spent much time in City Hall, both as a staffer for Tasco and on various campaigns before that. He’s also worked in the private sector as a small business lender for Meridian Bank in North Philly, as well as in the District Attorney’s Office and in the law department.
“I sometimes call myself a private sector guy that’s been in the public sector world for a period of time,” said Green.
Green plans to espouse issues relating to small business, education, and special-needs students, as he has a son who falls on the autism spectrum.
“For my time in Council, I want to promote the city for it can be and what it should be,” he said.
Perhaps the longest-serving public servant is Cherelle Parker, who didn’t take a single day off between leaving Harrisburg as a Democratic state representative and being sworn in to City Council last week. She replaced Tasco in the 9th District, which represents parts of Fern Rock, Mount Airy and Olney.
Parker said she was only 17 when she started off an intern for then-councilwoman Augusta Clark, who introduced her to Tasco and put her to work in the West Oak Lane community.
“This has really come full circle for me,” Parker said.
“I viewed it as another way to serve,” she said of moving from the state House to the city.
She, like her colleagues, cited public education as a priority.