Rue Landau, former executive director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR), announced her run for Philadelphia City Council at-large during an event at the John C. Anderson Apartments December 13. If elected, Landau would be the first openly LGBTQ+ city council member in Philadelphia.
“Philadelphia is an incredible city, and we have so much potential to be the best,” Landau said. “But, I look around and see what most of us here in Philadelphia see – our city government isn’t working for us, and it’s holding us back.”
The top issues Landau plans to tackle in Philadelphia if elected are gun violence, persistent poverty, the housing crisis, underfunded and out-of-shape schools, and the ongoing ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I believe for Philly to reverse those trends and build back, we need someone with vision, a proven track record and strong relationships to get things done,” Landau told the crowd, which included State Sen. Nikil Saval, District Attorney Larry Krasner, State Reps. Elizabeth Fiedler and Ben Waxman, City Councilmembers Kendra Brooks and Jamie Gauthier, and former City Councilmembers and mayoral hopefuls Helen Gym and Maria Quiñones Sanchez. Chris Bartlett, a longtime community leader and friend of Landau’s, introduced her at the event.
“In all the years I’ve known her, I always hoped Rue would be on City Council, become Mayor, or take on any other political role that would bring her smarts and connections to bear on our city,” Bartlett said. “I saw her at die-ins in ACT UP and defending clinics for Women’s Health Action Mobilization. I saw her as a Temple-educated lawyer using her skills for the people at Community Legal Services. And her tenure at Philadelphia’s Human Relations Commission was so inspiring to me that I showed up to testify at her hearing on racism in the gayborhood. I saw that she had the courage to lead communities in difficult conversations that would lead to actual outcomes and consequences.”
After departing the PCHR in 2020, Landau worked as the director of law and policy for the Philadelphia Bar Association as well as on the faculty at Temple University School of Law, her alma mater.
“When I am elected to office,” Landau said during her speech, “I’ll work to ensure that everyone in Philadelphia has access to safe, quality and affordable housing, including a wider expansion of low-income housing units and subsidies to lift up our city’s lowest-income renters. I’ll fight for full school funding and hold the Philadelphia school board accountable to improve school facilities so that teachers can focus on educating and students can focus on learning.”
Landau also promised to reinvest in Philly’s neighborhoods by working to fully fund and update libraries and recreation centers, make city blocks cleaner, increase street lighting and curtail violence. She plans to address gun violence by forming coalitions spanning government and local institutions, using trauma-informed, community-led approaches.
“I have had a long career of working in the public interest, in community and public service,” Landau told PGN. “I have built strong relationships. I’ve got a proven track record of getting things done. Right now is an opportunity to use all that I’ve done and all that I’ve learned on a larger scale.”
Landau’s work fighting for justice in government, the legal world, and in the local community runs deep. She fought for Philly’s marginalized communities to have access to social services and housing as part of ACT UP and the Kensington Welfare Rights Union. Through her work at Community Legal Services, she represented low-income Philadelphians in danger of being evicted, and fought for them to stay in safe, affordable housing.
In her role at PCHR, Landau was instrumental in executing a comprehensive ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Philadelphia. She acknowledged that LGBTQ communities are impacted by so many common issues, especially if they concern inequity. Landau oversaw many bills that affected LGBTQ people, such as the Wage Equity Ordinance, which bars employers from asking an applicant about their salary in the hiring process; the Emergency Housing Protection Act, and Good Cause eviction protections, which helped protect some of the most marginalized Philadelphians.
In 2014, Landau her wife Kerry were the first same-sex couple to get a marriage license in Pennsylvania. Landau would be making history again if elected to city council. She pointed out the significance of having made the announcement at the JCAA apartments, named after John C. Anderson, a Black gay man who sat on Philadelphia’s city council roughly four decades ago, although he wasn’t out at the time. When Anderson passed away from AIDS, it became known that he was gay. Since then, there have been no LGBTQ city council members in Philadelphia.
“It feels like now’s the time,” Landau said. “It’s been too long that we haven’t had representation from our community in City Hall and particularly on council. We’ve been very fortunate to have allies in council and the mayor’s office. They have worked with us on our issues, but it’s time that we have a seat at the table so we can make sure that we always have the perspective of our community presented on any single issue.”
At her announcement, Landau said, “while breaking the glass ceiling is so important, I want to be clear – I’m running to represent all Philadelphians.”