As primary elections approach, NEast Philly will interview council-at-large candidates so readers can get to know the names they’ll see on the ballot.
Today we meet Joe McColgan
. The St. Martha's and Archbishop Ryan grad has traded his days in Walton Park for East Torresdale and his time at the Far Northeast Athletic Association for political involvement.
McColgan got involved in politics long before earning political science degrees from Villanova. What began with knocking on doors to hand out political literature at 9 years old has led to a run for council-at-large.
In between all that, he focuses on raising his tow young daughters in a Northeast different from the one he grew up in.
"Today, everything seems more homogenized, more controlled. I think sometimes there won’t be anything authentic or unique left in Philadelphia by the time my daughters are old enough to notice. When the children of today grow up in a mall, when everything is the same everywhere you go in whatever city or state, I think life kind of loses its meaning. When you sacrifice that feeling of uniqueness, of tradition, of neighborhoods, for the need for comfort, I think you tend to lose a sense of memory, a sense of feeling. It’s not just a certain time in one’s life; it is what a place is as well. That is how you knew it. Sometimes I believe we just might be in danger of losing those things we care about the most."
Why council-at-large and not a specific district?
: My passion is Philadelphia, not just a part of the city. I believe we can be a much better city than we are and that will take strong leadership across the city. It is no longer about any one political party or politician, race, creed, color or sexual orientation. What it is
about is 1.5 million people who are taxed too much, educated too little and hide, afraid, in their own homes.
As a councilman-at-large from the minority party, it is my intention to go around the entire city of Philadelphia and have the dialogue, the discourse, the debate, the discussion regarding the good things about Philadelphia and how we can make them great, and the not-so-good things and how we can make them better.
Philadelphia is a great city with great people and even greater opportunities. What we have not had is great leadership. Sometimes I think Philadelphia is facing west waiting for the sun to rise
You mention getting back Philadelphia's reputation as a City of Firsts. Do you have specific goals there and ways to achieve them?
I believe it is about new, fresh ideas not the failed policies of the past. Creating a sense of pride. From geographic location, to climate, to history and arts, to restaurants, to people – Philadelphia cannot be beat! But yet Philadelphians do not believe that, probably because we have been so beat up over the years. Let’s start putting square pegs in square holes and round pegs in round holes.
At the end of the day, when you turn over rocks and look at all the slimy things underneath, you can either put the rock down, or you can say, ‘It is my job is to turn over rocks and look at all the slimy things’ even if what you see scares the hell out of you. That is the job of a city councilman-atlarge – to turn over rocks, and fix the problems. Following along the same old path will only bring the same old results and the first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you are not going to stay where you are. Career politicians got us into this mess and you can be certain it will not be career politicians who lead us out. Someone once said Philadelphia is just a rest stop between New York City and Washington, D.C., and that bothered me. We are so much better than that and people should be coming here and driving 1.5 hours north to visit New York or three hours south to visit Washington, D.C.
Are there any other main focal points you'd like to address, or that you'd like Council as a whole to address?
We need to start worrying about the children who are being cheated out of their innocence and their future because the educational system in Philadelphia has failed them. At the end of the day there are two types of schools: those you want to send your kids to and those you don’t. I am the only
council-at-large candidate calling for the dissolution of the School Reform Commission, the resignation of the school superintendent [Arlene Ackerman] and moving toward an elected school board like they do in the other 66 counties of the Commonwealth.
Our tax policy in Philadelphia is downright stupid and we propose budgets suggesting we tax soda and lay off police officers and close firehouses, when in fact we should be hiring more. It is about priorities that are so out-of-whack and ideas that are so out of date and stagnant that they offer yesterday's solutions to today’s problems and in the end, we can choose one issue a day for the next 365 days and not discuss the same issue twice. That is how bad it has become. Remember one thing; if you take a very low dose of Aspirin, all you will get is a very small amount of pain relief.