记者/Reporter：Keano Tsao编辑/Editor: 李 蓓
In the eyes of many people, Allan Domb is seen as the Philadelphia “Condo King” who owns more than 400 real estate properties. He is also a billionaire with a total asset of $400 million, and a wealthy man who spent six years as a city councilor to understand policies and public sentiment, and spent $7 million to run for mayor.
According to our reporter, Allan Domb presents a different image. He is a neighbor who parks his Mini Cooper on the side of Chinatown. He is an elder who enjoys chatting over a cup of Chinese tea. He is a politician with a firm gaze who doesn’t adhere to conventional methods.
Allan Domb visited Philadelphia Chinatown on April 14 and granted an exclusive interview to Metro Chinese Weekly. The following special report is based on the interview and aims to provide insight into Allan Domb, the candidate for the 100th mayor of Philadelphia.
Photographed by Metro Chinese
The children of the poor are early masters.
Our interview with Allan Domb begins with his background. To the surprise of our reporter, he was not a wealthy second-generation individual born “with a silver spoon in his mouth.” In fact, his family was not even considered “middle class and well-off”.
Allan Domb did not come from a wealthy family and experienced life’s hardships at a young age. The old Chinese saying “the children of the poor are early masters” is especially fitting for Allan Domb.
Allan Domb recounted a childhood story where his family lived in an 800-square-foot apartment in Fort Lee, New Jersey, right across the water from New York City. The apartment had two bedrooms, one bathroom, and cost $100 per month.At one point, they went without hot water for two weeks. Allan’s mother called the landlord, who owned the 49-unit apartment building, and asked for help. The landlord responded, ‘How dare you call me on a Sunday?
Instead, Allan Domb’s mother called the mayor of Fort Lee for help, and within two days, they had hot water. However, a week later, the landlord evicted them with 30 days to move out because of the complaint. As a result of this experience, Domb claims that “I know what eviction is like and having unstable housing. I understand it all.”
ALLAN DOMB (LEFT) AND HIS OLDER BROTHER PETER CIRCA 1965.
Photo credit to technical.ly
He also talked about how he had a “strong work ethic instilled by my parents.” He recalls shining shoes with his brother from “5:30 in the morning till 7:35” when he was just 5 years old, delivering newspapers before and after school at 11, and during his high school years working as a janitor and then a dishwasher for minimum wage.
高中毕业后，艾伦就读于华盛顿特区的美国大学。大学期间，他在课余时间为马里兰州凯亚茨维尔的Phelps Time Lock Service公司工作，推销安保系统。1976年，在大学毕业获得市场营销学位之后，他来到费城，为Phelps Time Lock Service费城分公司工作，21岁的艾伦“管理着10到15人的团队，用两年半的时间，把业务量翻了三倍”，并获得了每周10美元的加薪。
After high school, Domb attended American University in Washington D.C. Afterward, he started selling security systems in Hyattsville, Maryland. In 1976, he graduated with a marketing degree and came to work for Phelps Time Lock Service in Philadelphia, managing “10 to 15 people” at the age of 21. In Philadelphia, he “tripled their business after two and a half years” and was subsequently rewarded with a $10 per week raise.
Later, Domb earned his real estate license from Temple University and worked two full-time jobs. He worked at his first full-time job from 8 AM to 6 PM and then worked at the real estate office from 6:30 PM to 10:30 PM from Monday to Thursday, from 6:30 PM to 8 PM on Friday, and “7 to 9 hours” on Sundays. He would also “take my one-hour lunch break to return phone calls.” After three years, he went into real estate full-time.
Take personal action to help Asian SMEs
To illustrate Allan Domb’s support for Asian SMEs, we can start with a true story. MEIMEI, a Chinese restaurant in South Philadelphia that opened its doors just before the pandemic, has been hit hard by COVID-19. To survive the city’s lockdown, the restaurant relied on takeout and outdoor dining. However, the building’s operator issued an eviction order to Jay Ho, the owner and chef, due to contract disputes.
2020年12月28日，Mei Mei的老板Jay Ho站在关闭的餐厅前
Mei Mei owner Jay Ho stands in front of his shuttered restaurant on Monday, December 28, 2020.
图片来源：the Inquirer Photo credit to the Inquirer
On November 29, 2020, the exterior wall of MEIMEI Restaurant was boarded up and the door was locked. After Jay Ho was turned away by security, he posted his story on Instagram. Coincidentally, Allan Domb happened to see the post and contacted both the restaurant owner and the company that operates the building, and sat down to talk on the same day.
With his extensive experience as an investor, restaurant owner, and landlord, Allan Domb helped Jay Ho and the company put aside their differences. After seven hours of negotiations, they finally reached an agreement, and MeiMei was able to reopen in January 2021.
Allan Domb expressed his willingness to help and stated, “I’m just happy to help. Every resident’s and business’s success in this city is our success, too.” He also shared how he had previously supported businesses in Philadelphia during the COVID-19 pandemic by meeting with various entrepreneurs, such as restaurants, hotels, and gyms, and asking them directly, “How do I help you?”
It seems that Allan Domb’s efforts resulted in 862 restaurants across Philadelphia being able to take advantage of outdoor dining during the pandemic. Furthermore, he pushed for a streamlined process for applications for outdoor seating to be approved within three days. According to Domb, having set and organized time frames for applications is an important step in improving business in Philadelphia.
Domb argues that “you should be able to open a restaurant and we should be able to tell you that it will take you 60 days. You want to open a barber shop? It will take you 30 days. You have a zoning change? It will take you 90 days. We need to revamp our systems and attach timeframes, so the government understands that time is essential to a small entrepreneur.”
Domb also mentioned how he lowered the “taxation policies for an entrepreneur or a restaurant or any small business” to 15.9% by “working with the Asian American Chamber…the African American Chamber, the Hispanic Chamber, and LGBTQ [chamber].” He believes that having a lower tax rate allows businesses to “reinvest in their businesses, create jobs, and expand their businesses.”
Another tax-related initiative Domb has is to reduce the “Net Income Tax of almost 6%” to 0% over the span of 10 years, which he says would “dramatically help small, medium, and large entrepreneurs and businesses and employers” and create “100,000 good-paying, family sustaining jobs” according to a study he says he conducted with an economic consultant called Econsult Solutions.
Photographed by Metro Chinese
Domb has also proposed having bilingual staff in the Commerce Department who can speak various languages to assist Asian-owned and other language-speaking businesses. Additionally, he believes that making Philadelphia more hospitable would make business easier, such as having a friendly greeting when someone calls the City of Philadelphia, such as “Thank you for calling the City of Philadelphia, how may we assist you?”
Domb believes that a welcoming environment would attract more entrepreneurs to Philadelphia, and he suggests that the Commerce Department should assist entrepreneurs from the initial stages of opening a business until its inauguration. According to him, the process of setting up a business is so complicated that many people become frustrated and discouraged. Therefore, he emphasizes the importance of having a dedicated and helpful team that can guide entrepreneurs through the process and make it easier for them.
It seems that Domb is suggesting that the mayor should promote the safety of the city, including Chinatown, more actively to attract more traffic to the area. According to a report by the Brookings Institution, the core of the city, including Chinatown, is safer than it has been in the past several years, including 2018 and 2019. Domb believes that if this fact were more widely known, it would benefit not only Center City but also Chinatown, which has been losing traffic to other areas, such as the suburbs.
Why should suburbanites and outsiders come to the city in the first place? Besides the economic benefit that more visitors would have, “all the fun occurs in the city, with the cultural restaurants that we have and the city’s sports teams… looking at what happened when the Phillies were winning, when the Eagles were winning. It wasn’t happening in Ardmore. It was happening in the city. That’s where it was happening. And so we just have to get the public safety under control. But we also need someone who’s the cheerleader for the city… You’re the sub of the urb. We’re the urb.”
Why did he run for mayor when he could have retired?
Many people may have such doubts. Allan Domb is sitting on hundreds of millions of fortunes and “dominating the wind and rain” in his business kingdom. Serving as a city councilor for two terms has also expanded his circle of political friends. If it were someone else, they would like to enjoy their retirement life. Furthermore, being the mayor of Philadelphia is not easy, and one might face criticism. Why does Allan Domb ask for trouble?
Domb said he “resigned from council and ran for the mayor, because the city has a crisis, a public safety crisis. We have a good-paying jobs crisis. We have a housing affordability crisis, and an education and poverty crisis.”
However, the “best takeaway from this interview” Domb wants us to take is that the biggest crisis of them all is “the crisis of leadership, with strong leadership, you can solve all these problems. You look at any business, any government, any institution, you have strong leadership, you have success. We need that leadership in the city of love.”
Photographed by Metro Chinese
“Well, I come from a different experience. So I have a different vision.” But how does Domb have a different experience and vision than other candidates? He said that his “40 years in the private sector, as an entrepreneur, building a business from scratch, creating great jobs, and really building up the city” coupled with his “almost two terms on council in government” make him the “only candidate who has that type of experience in both sectors,” which he says makes him unique. Domb also says that his experience in business has made him able to understand “what it takes to be successful” and “that every entrepreneur’s success is the city’s success.”
“I published on my website an ethics plan that says I’ll be stepping away from everything. But at this point of my life, whether I made an extra $100 or not, it’s not going to affect me at all. I don’t have a big means.”
Not following others,
he promised Philadelphia a bright future!
As Allan Domb said, his experience in the business gave him a different perspective. When it comes to solving the problems facing Philadelphia, he also does not follow the usual routines, which makes people shine.
In the interview, he stated to reporters his strategy for solving the public safety crisis in Philadelphia after taking office. “On my first day in office, I will declare a criminal emergency in Philadelphia and a public health emergency in Kensington！”.
If elected mayor, Allan Domb will also convene “a weekly meeting, whether it’s one hour or six hours, of the police commissioner, District Attorney, FBI, ATF, Attorney General’s Office, US Attorney, courts, PATCO and SEPTA security, and EDS and MED security. Bringing together, because the key here is to collaborate with everybody to get to the outcome of getting this crime down.” He added, “I will also develop a 10-point public safety plan, which can be found on my campaign website votedomb.com.”
Here’s the 10 point public safety plan on Allan Domb’s website, votedomb.com, that he says will be implemented in Domb’s first 100 days as mayor:
Declare a crime emergency on his first day in office
Aggressively crackdown on illegal guns
Declare a public health emergency in Kensington
Get illegal vehicles off the street
Crackdown on retail theft and repeat offenders
Increase penalties for violence against city employees
Triple funding for recruitment of police officers
Expand programs to protect against violence based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity
Install cameras at every high school, increase coordination with school leaders
Clean every vacant lot, seal every abandoned building
Allan Domb’s approach to reforming public schools is more business and finance-focused, making it more unique than other candidates’ ideas. He said that he wants kids in Philadelphia to work hard and become successful like he has and wants to “teach financial literacy, kindergarten to 12th grade, across the board. I want to teach technology K through 12, and I want to teach entrepreneurship.”
Domb also proposed implementing a program where “students go to school four days a week, but on the fifth day, working a job, get credit, and get paid.” He said that this would “take young people and give them a tremendous opportunity for a job, get them off the street. They’ll graduate with different job experiences.” He also mentioned the labor shortage as a problem that this would address.
Domb cited Cristo Rey High School in North Philadelphia as an example of a school that does this program, “and it’s for families who have suffered severe violence in their family. These kids go to school four days a week, they work one day a week at a job in high school…. Last year, they graduated 99% of the kids, and of the 99%, 100% were admitted to college.”
Allan Domb seeks to find a win-win solution for the 76ers’ new arena plan. He argues that the “decision shouldn’t be made now” and that it should be up to the next mayor whether or not to allow the arena to be built.
“And as the next mayor, what I would do is I would call a meeting of all parties” which include, according to him, Chinatown, the Sixers, SEPTA and Jefferson Station, Jefferson Hospital, “because of congestion [and] getting emergency vehicles to Jefferson Hospital,” and others.
Domb also thinks that we should not think of the Sixers stadium “in a vacuum” and should also consider the police station and African American Museum, which would need to be redeveloped. He claims that “we have to have everything out in the open. Everything has to be transparent.”
Domb also supports the Vine Street Expressway capping project, which aims to reconnect the Northern and Southern halves of Chinatown by covering specific sections of the expressway.
After the interview, Allan Domb excitedly wandered around Philadelphia’s Chinatown and took photos in front of the iconic Chinese archway. If he hadn’t been rushing off to the next campaign event, you might have seen him talking to friends with a cup of bubble tea in hand.
Photographed by Metro Chinese
Seeing him squeezing himself into the Mini Cooper against the backdrop of Philly’s Chinatown, we couldn’t help but feel that Allan Domb is both different and similar to the people of Philadelphia. Like all Philadelphians, he loves the city deeply.
本篇报道是Every Voice, Every Vote项目的系列文章之一。
This story is part of the Every Voice, Every Vote series.
Philadelphia mayoral candidate Allan Domb is scheduled to host a small forum with voters at EMei Restaurant, and visit store owners in Chinatown and on Wednesday, May 10th at 1pm. If you’re interested in participating, please scan the QR code below on WeChat to contact us.