*The below letter was sent to Philadelphia City Council on behalf of Philadelphia Family Pride, Equality Pennsylvania, William Way LGBT Community Center and Philadelphia FIGHT in support of the Sugary Drinks Tax.
We the undersigned represent members of and organizations serving the LGBTQ community in Philadelphia, and we have joined the fight for solutions to the most crippling problems that confront our city — inadequate public schools, struggling neighborhoods and the highest poverty rate of any major city in America.
We believe that Mayor Kenney’s proposed FY2017 budget includes a comprehensive plan to address these issues that will improve the lives of our most vulnerable citizens, through a series of investments that would: expand pre-K opportunities for 10,000 additional Philadelphia children; create 25 Community Schools that provide essential health and social services to “wrap around” education programs to make them more effective; rebuild neighborhood parks, rec centers and libraries that in many cases have been ignored for a generation or more; retrofit city buildings to make them more energy-efficient; and provide more resources to the city’s struggling pension fund.
As you’re aware, the mayor has proposed to pay for these investments through a Sugary Drinks Tax, to be levied at three cents per ounce on all distributors of soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks sold in Philadelphia. We know that for this measure to become law, the Sugary Drinks Tax must be approved by a majority of the Council. We support the tax as the best way to pay for the investments that mean so much to tens of thousands of Philadelphians who will directly benefit from these proposals, especially people in struggling neighborhoods. Please support Philadelphia’s children and neighborhoods and support the Sugary Drinks Tax.
Our community cares about fairness and leveling the playing field for all Philadelphians — something all the programs set forth in the mayor’s budget will do. No one disputes that expanding pre-kindergarten will ensure our youngest Philadelphians are given a better chance to succeed. Or that rebuilding parks, libraries and rec centers is essential to improving quality of life in the neighborhoods they serve. Or that putting additional resources toward the city’s pension debt is an essential step for Philadelphia’s fiscal future. The evidence makes clear that Community Schools are a national model for educational success, and that retrofitting city buildings will generate millions each year in energy savings while providing as many as 10,000 new jobs for our citizens.
There is no more important work that the city can do than to provide opportunities to improve the quality of life for our fellow citizens. We must support investments that allow children to get a quality education, and help our neighborhoods to flourish once again. We join the growing numbers of Philadelphians from all walks of life who recognize that now is the time for decisive action to address Philadelphia’s most persistent problems.
For the future of our community and our city, we urge you to support the Sugary Drinks Tax.
— Chris Bartlett, executive director of William Way LGBT Community Center; Stephanie Haynes, executive director of Philadelphia Family Pride; Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania; and Jane Shull, executive director of Philadelphia FIGHT