Letter to Editor: Juniata News, submitted April 20, 2020
A personal statement from Councilmember Maria D. Quiñones Sánchez, 7th District:
Eastern North Philadelphia and our City will be better after this pandemic. I wholeheartedly believe in the resilience of our residents.
Over the past month, our City Council offices established remote working, with no interruption in our ability to respond to your daily calls and emails, with the new addition of Zoom to continue meeting together. We received over a thousand calls this past month — lighter than normal — but we are glad to see that our residents can reach us when they need us. And we are here for you.
Our office has collaborated with our food distribution centers, advocated for expanded meals for our seniors, and worked with the school district in facilitating the distance learning required for this academic year. The School District established help lines in 10 languages to support all parents, and our teachers and staff rolled up their sleeves and distributed thousands of Chromebooks. This has been a bumpy ride but we are on the same bus.
Speaking of buses, despite all the challenges, SEPTA has maintained service, for free, for all those essential workers helping maintain the operations of our city. Every time I can, I thank these workers for continuing to work. When I shop at my local store, I am reminded that essential workers, usually the lowest paid, keep this city moving every day and help provide a sense of normalcy to our lives.
I have to give a shout out to our Police Department for not missing a beat and staying connected with our civic organizations and leaders. We continue to work together on the new challenges we face given the limited court times and new public safety strategies.
For the residents of Kensington, Fairhill, Harrowgate, and Juniata, who were living in a public health crisis long before this pandemic, we continue to advocate daily for a change in strategy with our challenges in Kensington.
Before the pandemic, we began working together on the Restore Kensington plan to make major community investments and repair damage caused by years of neglect.
Even during this unprecedented crisis, that work continues because we remain angry and frustrated with the lawlessness, trash, and violent and dangerous conditions in Kensington. Kensington residents have waited far too long for the city to fully address this challenge and the delay is unacceptable! Councilmember Squilla and I will not back off because we all know that Kensington deserves better.
National press coverage shows that around the country, lower income communities and communities of color are the hardest hit by this pandemic. The data is still incomplete, but we expect that 19134 will tell the same story. Disasters can strike anywhere, but as many of us have seen with storms in Puerto Rico, they are made worse when communities are denied the resources to prepare and the assistance to recover.
A government has to be judged by how it takes care of the most vulnerable. We cannot pit communities against each other.
My staff and I are encouraged and inspired by the great work of our community activists, leaders, and neighbors. The 7th District is resilient, and we are rising to this challenge.
The question we hear every day is simple: When will we get back to normal?
My answer is simple: I hope we don’t. This pandemic makes painfully clear what we already knew: vast inequity defines daily life for most Philadelphians – from healthcare and housing to workers’ rights and wages.
We can do better. We cannot go back to normal.
If our essential workers keep up their critical efforts–
If we all stay informed, stay home, and stay safe–
If we keep taking care of each other–
We will be able to reopen as a better city. Kids will return to school, businesses and restaurants will reopen, and the data and lessons learned from these difficult weeks will guide our recovery.
But we shouldn’t go back to normal. Together we will demand better.
The Office of Councilmember Sánchez can be reached by calling 215-686-3448, on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram @MariaQSanchez, or via email form at phlcouncil.com/MariaQSanchez.