Walnut 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.
“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.
– Text and images by Casey Yoos and Max McGee.