How the City’s New Millennial Advisory Committee Could Change Philly Politics

Millennials are now the largest generational group in Philadelphia. They’re here to stay – whether you like it or not – as the city’s next set of progressive political voices.

Philadelphia City Hall | Photo by Jeff Fusco

Philadelphia City Hall | Photo by Jeff Fusco

On Wednesday, the city announced the 21 members of its first-ever Millennial Advisory Committee.

The committee, which will meet monthly, is tasked with advising the city on policies, programs, and actions that are “affecting millennials” – or, in other words, the policies, programs, and actions that are affecting Philadelphians. Millennials are, after all, now the largest generational group in the city. 

“I want to urge the members of this committee … to continue to take their passion and energy to causes that make Philadelphia a better place for all of us,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. “We need the energy and fresh ideas of Millennials to help us tackle the problems that we’ve faced for generations.”

MAC was born out of city’s Millennial Recruitment Advisory Board, which was created in September 2015 by former managing director Rich Negrin (now a Philadelphia district attorney candidate) to recruit talented young people to government. The city asked millennials to apply for the committee in August, and within a month, officials received more than 400 applications from some of the city’s youngest and brightest residents.

The committee will work toward attracting and retaining young residents as well as connecting them to larger communities and providing them – especially those new to citizenship – with mentorship models. Simply put, MAC is Philly’s next generation of leaders and change-makers, tasked with speaking up for the city’s largest, most progressive age group – which, now more than ever, needs to step up to the political plate.

The committee is comprised of young leaders like Nicole Allen White, a former Kenney transition team staffer and the current director of government and external affairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; artist and educator Terrell Green; community development activist Nigel Charles; and Michelle Feldman, executive director of Keep Philadelphia Beautiful, among others. The group looks like young Philadelphia – diverse, and not all necessarily primed for politics, but for activism, for education, for entrepreneurship, and for driving conversation about change in Philly. They have the potential to connect the city’s people to its politicians — half the meetings will be open to the public.

Call me idealistic, but MAC has real potential to clean up Philly’s tainted political landscape – which, as is increasingly obvious, is often controlled by an aging, corrupt, elitist bureaucratic machine that’s not always as Democratic — or people-driven — as it should be.

Of course, the timing of the advisory board is crucial. In recent weeks, Philly has served and will continue to serve as a hotbed for protest and dialogue, especially in the age of Trump (as we’ve seen). Political activism is unarguably on the rise in the city, and events that encourage participation and allow citizens to embed themselves in communities striving for change are being held with increasing frequency and generating impressive crowds.

It will be interesting to see, then, if MAC can harness this citywide drive and use it to save Philly’s Democrats – especially at a time when young Philadelphians are increasingly registering as independents, are more and more inclined toward politicians like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and find themselves open to socialism or social democracy. How progressive will Philly become under its new leaders – and how can current leadership help the next generation get there?

If, as Kenney says, MAC is “not just for show,” then Philly could have a lot to gain. The committee’s first step should be getting young people to vote – locally and nationally. The city has posted the full list of committee members – and it might do you some good to get familiar with them:

  • Nicole Allen White, Director of Government and External Affairs, Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Fatima Baig, Teacher, Prince Hall Elementary
  • Brandi Baldwin-Rana, PhD, Founder, Millennial Ventures
  • Nigel Charles, Community Development Assistant, Local Initiatives Support Corporation
  • Alexis De La Rosa, Assistant Resident Director, University of Pennsylvania PENNCAP
  • Julian Domanico, Fundraising and Development Consultant, The Catholic Foundation of Greater Philadelphia (CFGP)
  • Michelle Feldman, Executive Director, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful
  • Terrell Green, Theatre Artist and Master Class Facilitator, CCP ACE+ and Greater Phila. Cultural Alliance WorkReady Program
  • Tierra Holmes, Community Partnerships Coordinator, AmeriCorps VISTA
  • Penda Howell, Marketing and Membership Associate, The Energy Cooperative
  • Joe Lee, Public Space Researcher, PennPraxis
  • Steven McFarland, Teacher, Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia Charter School, Teach for America Corps Member
  • Sebastian Ramirez, Radiologic Technologist, Jefferson Urgent Care and Pennsylvania Hospital
  • David Rosenblum, Photographer/Owner, Dave Rose Photography
  • Jasmine Sadat, Deputy Director-Southeast Region, Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development
  • Kyle Shenandoah, Office Manager and Senior Tax Specialist, H&R Block
  • Patrick Sherlock, Director of University Relations and Student Engagement, Campus Philly
  • Raymond Smeriglio, Assistant Director of Athletics Development, Temple University Athletics
  • Alonzo South, Senior Manager of Strategic Planning & New Business Development, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)
  • Leah Tucker, Grassroots Organizer, Planned Parenthood
  • Dafina Williams, Vice President of Public Policy, Opportunity Finance Network

Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.

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