Derek Green is a candidate for Mayor of Philadelphia in 2023. He is also a former attorney and city council member with a strong background in public service and experience tackling complex issues in the city.
In this interview, he shares his inspiration for getting into politics, and his plans for the city, including his push for a public bank.
What inspired you to get into politics?
My mother spent over 30 years as a teacher in Philadelphia Public Schools and my father worked at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, so public service was something that was instilled in me from a young age.
As I got older, my work as an Attorney in the Law Department and District Attorney’s Office were formative experiences that put me in the middle of some of the trickiest issues our community faces.
When I look back on it all, I think politics was always something that caught my interest, but it was the calling that I later felt to be involved in governing and being a changemaker that made me want to take the leap into it all.
Why have you decided to run for Mayor of Philadelphia?
I was born in Philadelphia and our community has seen its fair share of struggles, but I cannot recall a time where there was so much uncertainty and angst as there seems to be at the current moment. I decided to run for Mayor because I know that Philadelphians share my belief that we expect more from our city and deserve better.
I’ve done a lot of work in the spirit of that sentiment during my time on the City Council, but change only comes when the person at the top–our Mayor–is with the program and is driven to buck the status quo and deliver for the community. I don’t feel like we have any time to lose, so I decided to get into the race as a result of that.
What issues are you most passionate about?
The issues that have always fascinated me the most are the most complicated ones. I think one of the issues that has been problematic around the country, and certainly here in Philadelphia, has been housing. It’s a multifaceted issue that touches on other concerns we see around homelessness, addiction, crime, education, and mental health.
There is no one solution that is going to alleviate all of these pressure points, so I think we need to be thinking outside of the box in order to address them individually. That’s the kind of approach I have taken on the Council, where I have advocated for single room occupancy (SRO) housing and have worked to champion our neighborhoods’ interests without inhibiting development around the city.
What is the inspiration behind your push for Philadelphia to have a public bank?
As a former small business lender with Meridian Bank in North Philadelphia, I saw the impact of decades of redlining and other forms of discrimination on this community and other Black and Brown neighborhoods in our City.
Through these discriminatory policies and practices, small businesses are not able to grow and poverty has grown and has been a persistent problem holding back the growth and future of Philadelphia. By creating a public bank, we can enable these businesses to get access to credit so that they can grow and create jobs and help to reduce poverty in our City.
Further, a public bank can also help to address our public safety crisis. One of the best ways to reduce crime is to give someone a job and small businesses are the best job creators. Through a public bank, small businesses will have better access to credit, create more jobs, provide more income for citizens, and make Philadelphia a safer city.
If you could change one aspect of American politics, what would it be and why?
During my time on the City Council, I have been outspoken on campaign finance reform. It’s something that has a profound impact on our politics and, oftentimes, has negative consequences on our process of governing.
We are seeing some of the negative effects of our current campaign finance laws in the mayoral race where there has already been millions of dollars thrown at certain candidates. I think the gross amount of money that is infused into these races takes away from the discourse on issues and that’s something that only hurts the voters.