Logan: Education and Crime Top Issues For Voters

NextMayorLogo2015According to community activist Sheila Bellamy, the voting for the primaries is usually low in numbers because many people do not see the importance.

“In my district, there are 540-something registered voters, she said yesterday morning at the Birney Preparatory Academy, located at 9th Street and Lindley Avenue. “If we can get 200 today, we’re going to be really happy.“

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The people of the Logan section of the city believe that the best candidate for this year’s mayoral election has to be someone who attends to the issues of the community.

Bellamy said that her main concern today is the youth being targeted by police.

“Some of these boys are being murdered unarmed,” said Bellamy.

Crime and education are what the people of Logan believe are important, unaddressed issues of the neighborhood.

Like many other neighborhoods, Logan schools have also suffered because of the Philadelphia School District’s budget cuts. Voter Terry Holloway, a home-care worker and Logan community member for 35 years, stressed the importance of the next mayor tackling the school district’s funding issue.

“They’re jamming up the schools and pushing too many students together,“ said Holloway. “They need more money so they have enough supplies for the kids.“

Improving the different community facilities and recreational centers are also on the list of concerns for Logan residents. Eighty-one-year-old Marion Johnson, a community leader at Barrett Playground at 8th and Duncannon streets, has been a resident of the community for 41 years. Every second Thursday of each month, Johnson and fellow members of community meet to discuss how to improve the social conditions of the neighborhood.

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Johnson hopes that the next mayor will help upgrade and enhance the neighborhood recreation center for the youth.

“A lot of youth come there but they deserve better than what they’re getting,” said Johnson. “It is a saving grace in a way but the quality of it needs to be improved.“

 

Parent involvement is what Johnson believes is an essential piece missing from Philadelphia schools.

“You’d have forces behind the children and you’d be able to put forces on those agencies that need to be dealing with the situation,” Johnson said. “No Matter what, it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the oil.”

The members of the community believe that the way to persuade a mayor to make a change and tend to a community is to assemble and put pressure on whoever is running for office.

“Candidates can make speeches about what they want to do,” said Johnson, “but unless you stay behind them and put some pressure on them – it’s a proven fact – they might just slip right on through the holes.”

– Text and images by Clayton Hoffstein and Terence Oliver.

Students break down “The Philadelphia Budget”

“It is important to know what is important to you when voting,” according to “The Philadelphia Budget,” a multimedia site created by the Photography Seminar class of 2015 from the Temple University Journalism Department.

budgetsite“The (upcoming mayoral primary) election will determine who drafts and proposes the budget,” according to the site, which explains that: “This will ultimately affect how money is spent within Philadelphia.”

The project identifies topics on which the candidates have stated positions, including education, poverty, crime and job growth, while the section of the site strive to answer the questions: “How Does the Budget Work?” and “Why Should You Care?

The “Affected Faces” section is also viewable as a book called “Money Talks.”

Grays Ferry Wants Change From New Mayor

“They need to do something for the kids in this area,” Joe Finnegan said. “They don’t have anything to do. There need to be more playgrounds and after school programs. There has to be jobs for these young kids coming out of high school as well. With all this crime, parents have to be more responsible for their kids, then there wouldn’t be as many of these problems.”

The impact that the next mayor of Philadelphia will have on the city will be felt heavily by neighborhoods that are under-serviced. One such place is Grays Ferry, located in South Philadelphia. This once stable, Irish-Catholic community has been marred by racial tensions, crime and economic despair since the 1970’s.

This hardship is still felt in the present day. Lifetime resident Dave Renna remembered better times.

“This neighborhood used to be nice,” Renna said. “You had so many corner stores, a bakery right down the street, stuff like that. Everybody knew each other and watched each other’s back.”

Renna also highlighted the policies that have affected the residents economically.

“We need to get money back in the neighborhood,” Renna said. “(Mayor) Nutter’s trying to get funding in too many different ways. I’m a smoker, and he put a two-dollar tax on the cigarettes. I pay school taxes, and he’s hurting everyday people economically. Why should we suffer?”

Despite these complaints on the current city administration, there is hope from the Grays Ferry community that changes could come from a new mayor. The favorite candidate throughout the neighborhood seems to be former Philadelphia City Councilman James Kenney. Lifetime neighborhood resident Carroll McCollum weighed in on why Kenney has garnered the support.

“He has the support of the fireman, cops and teachers,” McCollum said. “I think he would be the best for the whole city, not just Grays Ferry. We need a mayor that’s going to stand up and say, ‘let’s be a city again’.”

Similar to Renna, McCollum has complaints with the current administration.

“Nutter’s more concerned about his image than anything else,” McCollum said. “He’s handcuffed in certain areas, but in some situations, like the education funding, a better job could be done. Now people around here have to send their kids to Catholic schools that cost ten thousand-dollars-per-year.”

Another prevalent issue for the residents of Grays Ferry is housing. The residents mentioned that the University of Pennsylvania, located directly across the Schuylkill River from the neighborhood has promised for years to expand. In theory, this would allow infrastructure to be improved, and have prospective homebuyers congregate to Grays Ferry.

Finnegan, a former resident of the community, commented on the importance of this issue.

“We’ve been ignored for a long time,” Finnegan said. “There’s Section 8 housing, absentee landlords all over the place. They don’t fix the properties, they all fall apart and then the tenants don’t have the money needed to fix it up themselves. If Penn follows through with what they’ve been saying for years, then hopefully that could mark an improvement.”

With the crime prevalent in the neighborhood, Finnegan also believes that it is important to keep the youth occupied in productive ways. He noted that doing
this would benefit younger people in the community. As a new father in the city, he wants it for his own family, and others in the same situation.

Ultimately, the new mayor of Philadelphia will have to make policies for the entire city, and not just the community of Grays Ferry. What these residents of the neighborhood highlighted, showed the concern that they have for the preservation of their home. Whether change will come or not, it is equally important that people like this care about where they live. That is the first step.

– Text and image by Patrick Smith.

Kensington: What Do You Want From The Next Mayor?

With the Philadelphia mayoral election coming up, each section of the city has its own concerns and expectations about which candidate will take on the title.

Philadelphia’s diversity shines through in many cases; however, elections do not tend to be one of those times. The city is primarily Democratic, which has been displayed in that the elected mayor has been a Democrat since the early 1950s. This Democratic streak is not expected to be broken this fall.

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John O’Connell, a valet attendant in the city, was not optimistic about the area of Kensington being taken care of.

“If you want my honest opinion, unless the new mayor is tough on crime I don’t see there being any change down here,” O’Connell said. “I know that City Hall doesn’t really care about this region of the city.”

One candidate, Anthony Williams, has said he hopes to focus on areas like Kensington, however. On his campaign website, Williams states that he finds it necessary to increase neighborhood events. O’Connell said that Kensington could “absolutely” benefit from these types of festivities.

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Jessica Duval, a registered nurse, said the mayor should work more closely with police officers.

“I’d like to see the mayor work more closely with police officers to clean up the streets,” Duval said. “I want to see more police on the ground in my neighborhood rather than just patrolling.”

Each of the running candidates plans to focus on the schooling system in Philadelphia, which is a topic that weighs heavily on those in Kensington.

“With all of the things that have happened with the Philadelphia education system, I’m hoping for some stability,” Duval said. “I feel like, in Kensington, the schools aren’t that great. So I’d hope that the mayor would work on fiscal policies and would put more money back into the schools.”

The area of Kensington is highly Latino populated, meaning that candidate Nelson Diaz could inspire many. Diaz, the first Puerto Rican to graduate from Temple University‘s Beasley School of Law, already has expectations set for him.

“I feel like a Latino mayor would focus more on bringing health care into the community,” Duval said. “It seems like a lot of the Latino community has limited resources for health care, so I’d like to see a Latino mayor bring in more free and Spanish-speaking clinics so that our families can get better health care and more ways to keep our families healthy.”

Duval went on to say: “I’d be in favor of Diaz but, as a female, I would like to see Lynne Abraham get into office. It would set a good example for women that says that we can achieve things.”

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Lynne Abraham recently made waves by announcing that she is in favor of the decriminalization of marijuana in Philadelphia. Marijuana is currently decriminalized here, however, and citizens did not believe that a new mayor would have much of a say in changing that.

“If the new mayor isn’t on board, I don’t think it’ll cause all that much of an issue,” O’Connell said. “The new mayor could butt heads with City Council, but I think it’s pretty much here to stay. It’s probably making police officers’ lives a lot easier.”

O’Connell backs former city Councilman James Kenney, the candidate who sponsored the bill that decriminalized marijuana.

O’Connell excitedly expressed his support by saying, “Kenney all the way!”

– Text and photos by Sabrina Iglesias and Clayton Russell

Philadelphia CeaseFire offers support

Outreach workers mentor young people struggling with violence but also provide job listings, interview attire and transportation passes for returning citizens who are looking for for work. Reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods: Melissa Steininger at Temple University.

Walnut Hill: Community Association Encourages Residents to Stand Up and Be Heard by Voting

NextMayorLogo2015Walnut Hill Community Association President Horrace Patterson believes that the primary election and November general election could impact the community significantly. As president of the association for the past four years, Patterson finds that drugs, crime, cleanliness, schools, abandoned buildings and vacant lots are plaguing the community.

“In my opinion, Mayor Nutter hasn’t done anything directly to help Walnut Hill, to be honest about it,” said Patterson.

The community is involved with several of the local schools such as Henry C. Lea Elementary and West Philadelphia High School. Patterson expressed significant concern for the school funding issue, which he believes is important for the next mayor to address.

Patterson isn’t the only Walnut Hill Community Association board member to share concern over the next potential person to take office.

“To have compassion, be knowledgeable, have connections and the perseverance to actually want something for our children’s education,” said first vice president Lorna Peterson. “Not to stop at obstacles and close doors but to actually be able to work and create a plan to stand for education for our children.”

The stop and frisk situation is another key subject that the community feels strongly about as crime is always a primary concern. Patterson feels that an outside entity to examine and overlook the police department is necessary.

Local businesses are the heart of the community in Walnut Hill. As a local business owner, Patterson understands the community’s sense of urgency to be tax friendly on owners’ pockets.

Residents are concerned about the changes that a new elected official could bring to their community. Specifically, some residents are worried about gentrification. Some in the community are afraid of being pushed out of the neighborhood, especially by the University of Pennsylvania. However, Patterson is not concerned.

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“The University of Pennsylvania does a lot for employment,” said Patterson. “They have come into the neighborhood and taken houses that are run down and beaten up and fixed them up. I’m all for Penn coming into the neighborhood and improving it.”

“I see gentrification as an opportunity to educate people,” said Peterson, “to give them the desire to reach for something higher and can connect them to resources as long as they are giving the residents access and information.”

Peterson feels that the local government overlooks the residents, the community and the inner city, which is why she volunteers with the Walnut Hill Community Association and the Community Leaders program. Through these organizations, she is able to create partnerships with the community and address the community’s concerns.

“I like to remain optimistic because that keeps me happy and thriving but I don’t really see or hear a plan,” said Peterson. “I don’t see anyone’s focus in the inner city to help this city.”

Through outreach from their website, email and Facebook page, they encourage the community to stand up and he heard.

“One of the ways that you can stand up and be heard is to go out and vote,” said Peterson. “Then you are also being an example to the generations behind you for them to go out and vote.”

The Walnut Hill Community Association tries to be that link for people to be heard. While the association does not suggest that they vote for any specific candidate, they do suggest that the residents do things in their city, community and neighborhoods to make a difference and be heard.

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– Text and images by Casey Yoos and Max McGee.

Frankford: Residents Hope New Mayor Brings SEPTA and PPD Together

NextMayorLogo2015Voices in Frankford have united, stating that crime is the primary concern for their neighborhood. Many believe the next mayor of Philadelphia has a responsibility to tackle the issue, even if they don’t agree on the best candidate for the position.

“Hopefully the next mayor steps in and does something because it’s only gotten worse,” Bernadette Langdon said regarding crime.

Langdon, 46, has lived in Frankford more than 20 years and insists that the community needs additional help.

“The community certainly doesn’t feel there’s enough police around, whether it be SEPTA or Philadelphia police,” she said. “This neighborhood has been going downhill for many years. Maybe it’s just a lost area in the Northeast.”

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Crime has always been a serious issue for the entire city of Philadelphia. However, in 2014, the number of homicides in the city fell to a historic low. According to PPD statistics, the homicide total in 2014 was 248, one below the 2013 total and a 25 percent drop from 2012.

Overall, robbery fell 8 percent and violent crime fell 7 percent last year in Philadelphia.

Frankford is a part of Philadelphia Police Department’s 15th District, which is the busiest and largest district in Philadelphia. Officers in the 15th District patrol either all or parts of the neighborhoods of Bridesburg, Frankford, Tacony, Wissinoming, Mayfair and Holmesburg.

There has been plenty of talk about splitting the busy 15th district in to two, but one advantage Frankford has over the other neighborhoods in the 15th district is the availability of the SEPTA police force.

SEPTA police chief Tom Nestel spoke at a recent Frankford Civic Association meeting and answered residents’ questions regarding criminal activity under the SEPTA Market-Frankford Line, commonly referred to as the El. Local residents asked Nestel about the working relationship between SEPTA police and the PPD .

“We’re the little brother and they’re the big brother,” Nestel said. “I have offered to team up our officers. If they choose to use us a resource, then it’s up to them. I offer the resource, and the captain can use it as he feels fit. We’re there to help.”

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Nestel said he has positive relationships with both Captain McCloskey and Commissioner Ramsey but he also added that McCloskey feels he has adequate resources to handle the area. Disconnect between SEPTA police and the PPD is disheartening for many Frankford residents who don’t feel safe while riding SEPTA.

“I get off the at Margaret-Orthodox [station], and catch the bus five days a week,” resident Adam Davies said. “I don’t feel safe taking the El. Not at all. People don’t take SETPA police seriously. I just keep my head down but my eyes open.”

SEPTA police and the 15th district have a lot on their hands as the 15th led all Philadelphia police districts in Part One incidents – homicides, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, thefts – from 2006 to 2013, averaging 7,000 incidents per year. Although the national crime rate has fallen drastically, those statistics demonstrate what many residents in Frankford are concerned about.

“All I see police doing is standing on the corner talking to each other,” resident Patrick Fishburn said. “They don’t spread out and try and contain the area. The El is an open-air drug market. There’s a lot of cops around because there’s a lot of crime. I think the next mayor, whoever it is, needs to hold Ramsey and the police force accountable.”

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Six candidates have officially declared to run for the next election. Among them, three seem the most likely to be tough on crime based purely on their past experiences and positions with the criminal justice system.

James Kenney has worked as a city councilman and has openly supported hate crime legislation to protect LGBT rights, as well as the decriminalization of marijuana.

Lynne Abraham currently works at law firm Archer Greiner as an attorney but her past experience as the first female district attorney meant that she dealt with crime on a daily basis. According to her biographical statement, Abraham annually prosecuted 70,000 criminal cases as district attorney.

She has also been referred to as “one tough cookie” by former mayor Frank Rizzo, who prompted one of the toughest crack downs on crime the city has ever experienced.

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Although not known to be as tough on crime, Nelson Diaz has some support from the Hispanic community, who think he could be a better fit as mayor.

“I moved my family up here from North Philly to better myself,” resident Daniel Rodriguez said. “But Frankford is just as bad if not worse than North Philly, especially under the El. Hopefully Diaz can open his eyes and provide real change all over the city.”

Frankford residents may not agree on which candidate is best suited to be the next mayor, but whoever can get SEPTA and the PPD to work together might at least be a start for Frankford.

“There are rundown houses all over, which open the door for drug houses and prostitution,” resident Alicia Zekes said. “It’s not just the El. The neighborhood around it isn’t safe. No matter how much police you put on and under the El, go one block away and it’s just not safe at all.”

– Text and images by Dave Appiott and Sarah Figorski.