Members of the East Falls Community Council (EFCC) gathered Monday night at East Falls Presbyterian Church to hear about new happenings in the neighborhood.
Kicking off the night was State Representative Pam DeLissio of the 194th Legislative District. DeLissio was on hand to promote her upcoming town hall meetings in Roxborough, Bala Cynwyd, and Belmont, and to extend an open invitation to her constituents to “shadow” her for a day, for a glimpse into the life of a legislator.
Her primary purpose was, however, to register her concerns over the recent redistricting efforts in Pennsylvania.
Standing beside a map of newly redesigned Pennsylvania wards, DeLissio said, “I’ve never seen a more disgraceful act in my entire life.”
The Pennsylvania Reapportionment Commission – the body tasked with defining the boundaries of elective districts – adopted its final vision for state representative and senatorial districts on December 12, 2011, according to state documents.
As a result of the 2011 redistricting effort, the presence of DeLissio’s 194th Legislative District expanded significantly in East Falls.
“I was an absolute no-vote,” she said in regard to the redistricting legislation, and explained her rationale with a description of behind-the-scene deal-making.
“We actually had congressmen,” she said in exasperation, “calling state representatives, saying ‘vote for the map’.”
“It served their interests,” she continued, “not the interest of their constituents or the citizens of the commonwealth.”
As a result, DeLissio has her eyes on reform.
“After seeing the manipulative, self-serving process [of redistricting], I’ve decided that we need change,” she said.
Despite the circumstances, she’s proud to represent “anyone in the bounds of the 194th District,” and is attempting to lay the groundwork for increased transparency and accountability in the reapportionment process.
“We need a non-partisan way to do this going forward,” declared DeLissio, “and we have nine years [before the next redistricting] to get it done.”
Improving the look of the reservoir
Providing an update on beautification efforts at the Philadelphia Water Department’s Queen Lane Reservoir was Paul Elia, an East Falls-based architect.
In October, members of the EFCC met with the PWD and representatives of city, state and federal government to discuss the impact of the reservoir on residential quality of life.
Specifically, Elia cited the “egregious fencing and obnoxious lighting” at the Queen Lane facility.
Among the federal agencies represented was the Department of Homeland Security, which has domain over the protection of critical infrastructure elements, such as reservoirs.
Elia received an official response from PWD over the holidays.
A second meeting has been planned for community representatives to inspect proposed fencing, and for PWD to evaluate their responses, said Elia.
Plans have also been submitted for what he termed as “beefed-up landscaping” and improved lighting fixtures to cut down on the ethereal halo that encapsulates the reservoir at night.
Despite these grievances, official negotiations were not wholly negative, especially as the only leverage held by the community, according to Elia, is that the facility does not meet current or proposed zoning standards.
Tom Sauerman, EFCC president, said that at the initial meeting, “the dark suits were ready to go to war [with us].”
Sauerman said that 4th District Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. was able to counteract the frenzied feds.
“Curtis Jones stood up for the community,” said Sauerman, who was delighted by this gesture.
“I floated out of that meeting,” recalled Sauerman.
Penn Charter updates
Providing the keynote speech was Dr. Darryl Ford, Head of School at William Penn Charter.
He spoke about his background in education, extolled Penn Charter’s expanding arts programming and ongoing community service projects, and reaffirmed his schools’ commitment to East Falls.
“We have a wonderful neighborhood, and we have a wonderful institution,” he said, “and part of the mix is having a great organization, great schools, great religious organizations, and people who care about their neighborhoods.”
“People in East Falls care about their neighborhood,” he concluded.