Two East Falls residents among crowd at Monday’s city candidates’ forum

A pair of East Falls residents was among the political hopefuls to speak at a candidates’ forum held on Monday night.

Sponsored by the East Falls Community Council, over a dozen aspirants for a variety of political offices in Philadelphia shared their policy platforms and personal stories in anticipation of the May 21 primary.

Standing before the EFCC’s membership – whose limited numbers were augmented by the handful of campaign staff in attendance – candidates were given three minutes to speak, but even with candidates arriving late into the evening, this served more as guideline than rule.

As EFCC’s acting president Barnaby Wittels observed of lawyers, “When we say we’ll be brief, we don’t mean it.”

Katie Scrivner – Court of Common Pleas 

Katie Scrivner is a candidate for Court of Common Pleas. Scrivner, an East Falls resident for approximately 11 years, said she wanted to be a judge since before entering law school, with a special interest in family court.

“I’ve dedicated my career to fighting on behalf of children and families involved in the law,” said Scrivner, explaining that she believed “in the power and ability of our courts and the professionals involved to truly make a difference in the lives of children and families.”

Before law school, “as a young and naïve volunteer [for] child advocacy and working for families,” Scrivner recalled not knowing how she was going to make a difference in the lives of families.

“I realized that by touching a life for a moment, and being a positive influence, I could change the trajectory of the family for good,” she said.

After law school, Scrivner became an Assistant District Attorney, specializing in prosecution of rape of small children. She now has a private practice representing abuse, neglect, truancy and adoption matters.

“People say to me all the time, ‘I don’t know how you do the work that you do, it’s upsetting, it depressing, its demoralizing,'” she said. “My answer is always the same: I’m able to get up in the morning and do this work because I’m fighting the good fight and making Philadelphia better for children and its families.”

Sean Stevens – Court of Common Pleas

Sean P. Stevens is also vying for the Court of Common Pleas. Stevens, a neighborhood resident for approximately ten years, was raised in the Kensington neighborhood. He attended Frankford High School and received several degrees from Temple University, including his law degree.

In his presentation, Stevens shared his diverse legal background, which includes criminal defense, commercial litigation, and insurance defense, working for clients such as All-State and State Farm.

For the city, Stevens worked in the District Attorney’s office and worked for the city’s law department, where he tried both civil and criminal matters. He is also a certified court arbitrator and served as a judge pro tem.

“I’m passionate about community service,” said Stevens, having served in AmeriCorps’ National School and Community Corps, which provides teams to inner city schools in Trenton and Plainfield, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Oakland, CA. The teams create before, during, and after school programs, with a focus on literacy, the arts, and service learning, according to descriptions on volunteer websites.

“I’m used to working with diverse backgrounds,” said Stevens, who worked as service learning coordinator in Kensington, “building bridges” between schools and community groups.

Since 2007, Stevens has served as chair of the Discovery Charter School in West Philadelphia.

“I’ve made hard decisions as chair,” he said on Monday, “and when there are hard decisions to make, I believe I can make those.”

‘It’s the American way, but it’s also brutal, it’s hard’ 

Scrivner and Stevens were joined by dozens of other candidates for judicial position, including Kenneth Powell, Tamika Lane, Dane Grey, Dawn Tancredi, Sierra Thomas Street, Derrick Coker, and Stephanie Sawyer for the court of Common Pleas.

Donna DeRose and Omar Sabir were present for Traffic Court positions, and both Fran Shields and Henry Lewandowski are seeking positions as Municipal Court judges.

In addition to judge candidates, Office of the Controller candidates Mark Zecca, Terry Tracy, and Brett Mandel were present as well. District Attorney hopeful Dan Alvarez spoke as well.

At the conclusion, Wittels saluted the numerous candidates for their dedication and perseverance.

“Running for office is the American way, but it’s also brutal, it’s hard, and only those who truly want to serve run for office,” he said. “My hat’s off to all of them.”

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