John Taylor, 55, has been serving in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives since 1984, fighting for unions, voting for smoking bans and voting to raise minimum wage. He also serves as the chair of the Liquor Control Board and secretary of Veteran Affairs and Emergency Preparedness. But this year, the Port Richmond native gets a little break. For this two-year term, Taylor, a Republican in a heavily populated Democratic area, is running unopposed in the 177th District as Port Richmond’s state representative.
“It’s a nice break. But once the election is over, we immediately start again,” Taylor said. “In one year from now, we’ll be preparing petitions to run all over again. It’s not like it’s a long hiatus or anything.”
Taylor may be calm and relaxed, but he never stops striving to give the community what he believes it deserves.
“We’re always looking for ways to act on some new laws that we’ve created over the years for the neighborhood,” Taylor explained. “Act 135 is the conservator act that allows us to go in and get control of properties that are a mess. Our whole goal, I guess in general, is to make some kind of connection between what we do in the neighborhood and what we do.”
Port Richmond is notorious for its abundance of dilapidated houses that have been vacant for years. Taylor, along with many Port Richmond residents, talk about how corrupt landlords buy the properties and rent them out to tenants who do not care, or have respect for the property or the neighborhood.
“I’ve been a strong community activist and involved in community groups and organizations for over ten years now and I can’t imagine taking any step without John Taylor being right there behind me,” said Maryann Trombetta, a leader of Port Richmond’s Eyes and Ears Town Watch. “Taylor is working on this bill to try to get rid of a lot of the blight that’s in the neighborhood, like these abandoned houses that nobody has done anything with.”
House Bill 712, more colloquially known as the Land Bank Act, is what Taylor and his staff have been working on for six years. The law was enacted in order to clean up these houses that have been neglected and put them back on to the private market.
“It’s a legislative tool that will help move the terrible inventory of abandoned tax delinquent houses that are on our streets,” said Taylor. “Our big problem now is that these houses sit forever. If we have the opportunity to clean up at least 100 houses, which we can easily do, we’ve met our goal. This land bank system, along with some other pieces of legislation should be able to do that.”
“Port Richmond is the tale of two cities,” said Patty Pat Kozlowski, a community activist in Port Richmond. “You have the good side, east of Aramingo Avenue, where your big problems are drag racing down Delaware Avenue. Then you have the bad side, the west side where you have stabbings and shootings. So years ago, [we] saw how the west side was deteriorating. John did this huge investigation and found out that there were a high percentage of renters and absentee landlords that were causing the biggest problems. He was right there.”
While the Land Bank Act may be the talk of the town, with Taylor behind it, residents are even more animated about the law.
“I run the Port Richmond civic organization and president of the Richmond library and leader of the Town Watch, so I’m very involved in the community so I know how much people remember him and what he does,” said Kozlowski. “He’s very accessible and I think that’s what people love about him and respect about him.”
Pat, along with many other community activists are the main reasons behind Taylor’s unopposed campaign.
Taylor does not take the resident’s respect for granted.
“You’re led by what the people are calling you about,” said Taylor. “They can call us about anything, even things that are not governmental at all, like carpets and I’m there.”
“I’ve never heard anyone bash John Taylor,” Kozlowski said. “And I’m in politics.”
“There’s a level of compassion in [Port Richmond] that most offices do not have,” said Taylor. “I’m tremendously lucky to have that.”