Councilwoman Bass: ‘If you’re not getting the answers you need, call us’

Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass held a Thursday night community meeting at Triumph Baptist Church in Nicetown in a continued effort to bring officials from several city agencies together with residents who could ask questions and discuss issues.

Bass, who said her office has already solved an estimated 200 constituents’ issues, noted that this was an effort to “try to make ourselves as accessible as possible.

“You know I’m in your neighborhood and you have an opportunity to come out and talk with us,” said Bass, explaining these community meetings are held “so you don’t have to go all the way downtown to have your issues addressed.

“We’re in the ‘yes’ business. Our goal is to get to ‘yes’ as much as possible,” Bass continued. “If you’re not getting the answers you need, call us.”

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Public-safety concerns

Sgt. William Schmid, who attended on behalf of the 39th Police District, fielded questions about foot-patrol officers.

He said there were currently six officers assigned to that beat, which has a mission of getting “the officers involved with the community.” However, “right now there’s no plan to expand that,” he said.

Schmid also heard complaints regarding gambling, drinking and drug use that persists despite police presence. Some residents asserted that 911 operators were refusing to help residents when calls were made.

“If you’re calling 911 and not getting service, we want to know,” Schmid said. “Please believe we’re doing the best we can with what we have.”

Bass also vowed to look into the issue.

When it comes to requesting a permit to close off streets for block party, some residents noted that they were denied because their location was deemed a “problem block;” this, despite police not having an active defintion of what that means.

Schmid said that every request is taken under consideration and that if a permit is not issued, it’s for reasons such as drug-activity concentration.

“I’m not angry about not having [a permit issued],” one resident declared, noting that she has seen block parties devolve into gang fights.

Illegal dumping is a concern

Gary Howell, of the Streets Department’s sanitation office, heard exasperated locals discuss the illegal dumping that takes place in their neighborhoods. He asked for help.

“We can’t do it by ourselves. It takes a community,” said Howell, noting that organized clean-up events can’t remedy the issue 12 months a year and urging residents to call 311 if they see illegal dumping. “It’s up to you to clean up year-round. We can’t see it all.”

Added Dawn Woods, a sanitation enforcement officer, “I can’t force a broom into someone’s hand and I can’t change behavior.”

Rising water bills

Representatives of the Philadelphia Water Department notified residents their area was undergoing a meter-battery changeout which could possibly result in higher bills.

If residents have been getting bills showing zero usage, or that the amount owed is much lower than usual, they may have to cover extra costs for the time in which their batteries have been dead, said Water Department spokesperson Greg Harris.

In that case, the amount owed would be determined by averaging bills from previous months.

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