What do 4 former metropolis councilmembers, a former metropolis controller, a former municipal decide, and an area grocery retailer magnate have in frequent? They’re all Democratic contenders for Philadelphia mayor in 2023.
There’s seemingly about to be one other title on that record: Helen Gymnasium has entered the chat.
A member of Metropolis Council since 2016 who rode a wave of recognition to an at-large seat, Gymnasium on Tuesday morning formally introduced her resignation. A probable run for mayor has lengthy been anticipated from the previous instructor and activist, who used her time as a lawmaker to concentrate on points like training, housing, and labor.
“Thanks to each single Philadelphian who confirmed up and proved that we will construct the town that we actually deserve,” Gymnasium mentioned in her resignation message. “No matter occurs subsequent, know this: I shall be proper alongside all of you preventing to be sure that Philadelphia is a safer, more healthy, extra affluent, vibrant, and artistic place for all of us.”
Right here’s what to find out about Gymnasium, her rise to energy, and the way she’s made a reputation for herself as one among Philadelphia’s progressive commonplace bearers.
A path to energy via training and growth activism
Gymnasium, now 54 years previous, was the primary Asian American lady ever elected to Philadelphia Metropolis Council.
Born in Seattle and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Gymnasium obtained her bachelors and masters levels on the College of Pennsylvania. After commencement she labored as a enterprise reporter in Ohio, and as a instructor.
Earlier than she joined metropolis authorities, Gymnasium was finest recognized for talking out in opposition to it. In 2013, a Philly Magazine profile dubbed her “Philadelphia’s preeminent public agitator,” a reference to her activism on training and Asian American points within the metropolis.
Gymnasium’s work with Asian Individuals United, of which she was a board member, included efficiently organizing protests to cease proposed developments in Chinatown — in 2000, a baseball stadium, and in 2008, a on line casino — neither of which have been constructed.
In 2006, she cofounded Mother and father United for Public Training, a company centered on “partaking mother and father with the price range course of as a way to guarantee a baseline degree of assets, providers, [and] staffing” in metropolis colleges, per the org’s web site.
Gymnasium additionally cofounded Folks Arts-Cultural Treasures Constitution Faculty (FACTS), a Chinatown college largely designed to serve Asian American and Asian immigrant college students.
Her citywide recognition has been slowly constructing. Gymnasium introduced her run for a primary time period in Council in February 2015, with an endorsement from the Philadelphia Federation of Lecturers. After coming in fifth within the at-large race within the Democratic main — and solely narrowly qualifying for the final — she got here in first in November, however solely by 750 votes.
By the point of her re-election marketing campaign in 2019, nevertheless, Gymnasium’s recognition had surged. She garnered extra main votes than some other candidate for Metropolis Council for the reason that Eighties, profitable all however 10 of Philly’s 66 wards in a discipline of 28 Democrats.
Now, Gymnasium has resigned her seat with somewhat over a 12 months left in her time period. If she broadcasts a run to switch term-limited Jim Kenney as mayor, she’ll enter a crowded discipline, with a number of challengers vying for the place.
A legislative report that outlines her platform
On Metropolis Council, Gymnasium was recognized for being a progressive voice on points like housing, training, youth points, and employee’s rights.
Throughout her first time period, she launched a “Truthful Workweek” invoice that launched new duties for big chains, like compensating for last-minute schedule adjustments and notifying staff of accessible shifts that would earn them extra money.
In 2019, she launched “Proper to Counsel” laws that gives authorized illustration to tenants with low incomes dealing with eviction. She additionally spearheaded Philadelphia’s Eviction Diversion Program through the pandemic, which requires landlords to fulfill with their tenants and a educated mediator earlier than they will file for an eviction, and has led to a diminished variety of landlord-tenant disputes going to court docket.
Her education-related work on Council has included pushing for clear consuming water in colleges, working with the Faculty District of Philadelphia to put a nurse in each Philly public college, and probing the Philadelphia Parking Authority on whether or not it’s been assembly its obligation to fund the native college system.
Gymnasium has additionally continued her activism streak whereas in workplace, prompting criticism from some over “grandstanding” slightly than prioritizing lawmaking. She bought arrested for trespassing in Harrisburg final 12 months throughout a protest over college funding. She has rallied in help of higher union contracts, in help of abortion rights, and in opposition to former Trump’s immigration ban on folks from predominantly Muslim nations. She was additionally a proponent in 2017 for the removing of the town’s Frank Rizzo statue (one thing that in the end ended up taking place amid racial justice protests in June 2020).
Her latest legislative work has included a invoice to loosen the town’s residency requirement for municipal jobs, and a package deal of laws geared toward safety abortion rights and privateness.
Per public data, Mates of Helen Gymnasium ended 2021 with round $327,000 in money available.
That’s essentially the most among the many former members of Metropolis Council who’ve introduced campaigns, however lower than half of what former metropolis controller Rebecca Rhynhart had accessible at first of the calendar 12 months.