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

Strawberry Mansion: Residents Discuss Issues They Want Next Mayor to Address

Strawberry Mansion residents shared their concerns about the upcoming 2015 mayoral primary, and the impact a new mayor might have on the community.

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Many residents focused on the quality of education in the area, as well as community development, from broken sidewalks to abandoned houses.

Although some residents were unsure of the current candidates and where they stand on the issues, most were happy with the last eight years of leadership from Mayor Michael Nutter.

Nutter will have finished serving the maximum of two terms as mayor later this year, therefore opening up what has traditionally been a Democratic seat.

– Text, images and video by Robert Kennedy and Evan Little

Northeast Philadelphia: With a New Mayor, Comes Hope for Change in Northeast Philadelphia

NextMayorLogo2015Northeast Philadelphians had a lot to say when asked about the upcoming mayoral race. Issues such as education, revitalization and prison reform were all topics of discussion.

“Right now you have two front runners that are political heavyweights,” said city councilman Bobby Henon of the Northeast’s 6th District. “They have different stories and come from different walks of life. They come from different parts of the city, and they have different platforms.”

Henon feels that the enthusiasm that the candidates bring to the election will spill over to the voters, which will help increase voter turnout. In terms of what Northeast Philadelphia needs help with, Henon believes it’s education over all else.

“I think it’s a concern in the Northeast,” Henon said. “There’s not enough charter schools for Northeast residents and they don’t feel confident in the school system. The school system needs resources, and it should be the number one focus here for our kids. We want people to stay in the neighborhood.”

Henon believes that choosing a school is important for residents of any city.

“You have a decision to make,” Henon continued. “It’s the most important decision you’ll ever make aside from starting a family and that’s where to send your kids to school. This must be addressed.”

Councilman Henon encourages the candidates to engage the residents of Philadelphia.

“It’s important to get people involved and engaged and to make them feel like a part of the solution,” he said. “I think that we have an opportunity with the mayor’s race now to do that. The only way to really get a sense of the direction of Philadelphia is by getting out there and talking to Philadelphia.”

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Lisa Deeley has lived in Rhawnhurst her entire life. She sits on many different committees and boards and is an active member of the Rhawnhurst Athletic Association. Deeley’s passion for her community has lead to her candidacy in the race for city commissioner.

“I’m very civically active in my neighborhood, so my concerns come out of my passion for my neighborhood  which I have always had,” she said.

Deeley believes that there needs to be a stronger concentration on the different neighborhoods in Philadelphia.

“Throughout all of Philadelphia, the neighborhoods feel as though they are under-serviced,” Deeley said. “Hopefully with the new administration, and an enthusiastic council, we’ll see a lot of new initiatives working into the neighborhoods.”

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Deeley also feels that revitalization and redevelopment of Rhawnhurst is important, specifically in terms of schools, recreation centers and housing.

“The make-up of Northeast Philly is a lot of single family dwellings, a lot of rental properties and a lot of mixed use,” she said. “But what we don’t have that we’re seeing in other parts of the city is that re-development and new construction. Like the change of scenery, both economic and residential in the neighborhood.”

She believes that recreation centers are an important part of any neighborhood.

“If you drive by a rec center in a neighborhood and its rundown, the equipment is all broken and the lights are busted out, people see that,” she said. “They think, I don’t know if I want to live here.”

Deeley also talks about how thankful Rhawnhurst residents are that their schools are still open.

“Public schools in the Northeast are still thriving, and they have pretty maximum attendance,” Deeley said. “So if we can keep that up, and improve their appearance, we can to improve our schools. But there is a obviously a major budget restraint.”

She also believes that Northeast Philadelphia has great community groups and some of the best civic associations in the city.

“Our community groups are really willing to get active and to help create change,” Deeley said. “But they just need a little help from the administration, so hopefully they will get that from the upcoming election.”

Rich Frizell is president of the Holmesburg Civic Association. He believes that prison reform is one of the most important issues regarding Holmesburg.

“We have Holmesburg prison here, obviously,” said Frizell. “Mayor Nutter had talked about wanting to reform the prisons and stop people from being re-incarcerated with real, true, parole and reintroduction into society.”

Frizell says he would like the new mayor to also help with parks and recreation.

“My primary goal is to have our slice of Pennypack Park get more notice because the people who work for me work very hard,” said Frizell.

– Text and images by Siobhan Redding and Allie Kachapuridze.

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.

After School Program Founder Says Next Mayor Needs To Fix School Environment

Cynthia Allen, founder of the Cynthia Allen Success Academy says the city’s public schools need more discipline. Reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods: Avory Brookins at Temple University.

Next Mayor To Face Education Struggles

Education was the main focus in Center City as Philadelphia residents discussed struggles facing the next mayor. Reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods: Melissa Steininger at Temple University.

Mantua: Residents Speak Out on Priorities for Next Mayor of Philadelphia

On Nov. 3, the people of Philadelphia will elect Mayor Michael Nutter’s successor. Philadelphia’s new mayor will be handed the enormous task of alleviating a city fraught with poverty, segregation and criticism of stop and frisk.

Declared Democratic candidates include Lynne Abraham, Nelson Diaz, James F. Kenney, Doug Oliver, Milton Street and Anthony H. Williams. The party’s nominee will be chosen in the May 19 primary.

Mantua, in West Philadelphia, sits adjacent to the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University. More than half of the residents live below the poverty line in Mantua, a predominantly African-American neighborhood. The neighborhood was recently selected by the White House as one of the country’s first “Promise Zones” – a new plan established to provide assistance to economically struggling areas.

When asked what the most important issues the next mayor should focus on, Yolanda Batin (above), a former teacher at the recently shuttered Walnut Center in University City, responded, “Education, first and foremost.” In order to close a $304 million budget gap in 2013, the School District was forced to close 24 of its public schools.

“The kids were learning,” Batin continued. “I don’t know why they did what they did, maybe it was greed. Maybe we need to get rid of greed in the city. That and stop-and-frisk.”

“I cried when they tore it down,” Batin said, regarding the Walnut Center. “It was a sad day. Schools should not be torn down, they should be kept for the kids.”

An Inquirer article last June reported that Drexel plans to transform the school property into “residential, retail and recreational space as well as laboratory and research office space and parking.”

Crystal Henry, Mantua resident

Crystal Henry (above), a Mantua resident, agreed with Batin.

“This city has a bad education system and poor neighborhoods,” Henry said. “There also should be a program to move people from shelters and into these abandoned houses. Especially those with children. It’s a win-win situation. The neighborhoods are cleaned up because there are less abandoned houses, and the kids [have] stability in their family.”

Henry hopes that Williams will come out as the victor in the mayor’s race.

Sheila Pope, Mantua resident

Another Mantua resident, Sheila Pope (above), was quick to say that a change in leadership needs to happen.

“As long as Nutter is gone, I don’t care who wins,” Pope said.

 – Text and images by Naveed Ahsan

Strawberry Mansion residents voice concerns for Next Mayor

Blight, education and community development are on the minds of residents as the mayoral election approaches. Reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods: Robert Kennedy at Temple University.

Future teacher thinks education should be top priority for Next Mayor

Temple University Education major Marc Blumenthal shares his thoughts on the upcoming mayoral primary. Reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods: Michael Zahn at Temple University.

Residents share their key issues for Next Mayor

Homelessness, Medicare, housing and students needs are among the issues voiced by residents. Reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods: Michael Zahn at Temple University.