Eighth District voters describe their dream representative

Democrat Donna Reed Miller’s decision to retire from Philadelphia City Council has generated a wide-open Eighth District race. It’s also given district voters a blank slate to list the qualities they seek in their representative on Council.

During NewsWorks’ “Eyes on the Eighth” voter forum Tuesday night in Germantown, neighbors from across the diverse district appeared excited by the opportunity to choose a new voice to speak for them at City Hall. Asked as part of the forum to describe the qualities they sought in a new councilperson, the 30-plus participants had no shortage of answers.

Many who took part in the discussion at First United Methodist Church said they wanted the next Eighth District representative to be a true consensus builder, someone who’s willing to advocate for residents from all over the district, which stretches along Germantown Avenue from Nicetown to Chestnut Hill.

“You need to service the whole community of the Eighth Councilmanic District,” said Nettie Boykin, a 48-year Germantown resident. “Certain areas have been shut out and I don’t think it’s fair.”

Fellow Germantown resident Rev. Chester Williams agreed with Boykin and added that weak political leadership has exacerbated the socio-economic gap among district neighborhoods. He gave Mount Airy and Germantown as an example.

“They look like two different countries,” said Williams of the adjoining neighborhoods.

But neighbors also expressed interest in results. In particular, most said the district needs a leader who not only has the ability to listen to everyone, but also the ability to take concrete action, especially when it comes to education and community development issues.

For Mount Airy resident Jack Malinowski, the district’s next representative will need willpower to overcome obstacles, but has to realize he or she won’t be able to do everything alone.

It will “obviously take someone who’s tough, yet a coalition builder – somebody who can work with the more far-sighted members of the city government, but also can challenge the local corporations,” said Malinowski.

Sheila Slater of Germantown said she doesn’t expect the next Eighth District councilperson to be able to do everything voters ask. Following through on one or two priorities, she said, would be welcome enough change.

“Just accomplish something,” she said.

That sentiment was echoed throughout the night. Over the next several weeks, registered Democrats in the Eighth District will further assess which of the seven Democratic candidates best exemplify these qualities.

There are no Republican candidates in the race. The unusually crowded Democratic field consists of:

Cindy Bass
Bill Durham
Andrew Lofton
Greg Paulmier
Robin Tasco
Howard Treatman
Verna Tyner

Four of those candidates – Lofton, Paulmier, Treatman and Tyner – were on hand Tuesday night to meet potential voters and listen in on their dialogue, which was led by moderators from the Penn Project for Civic Engagement, a NewsWorks partner.

The voters also drafted questions for the candidates to be asked at the April 27 debate that concludes the Eyes on the Eighth series; that event will be held at the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown. The project is co-sponsored by the Committee of Seventy, G-Town Radio, the Germantown Community Connection and the League of Women Voters.

NewsWorks will hold two more voter forums: Monday, March 28, at Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church, 8855 Germantown Ave., and Tuesday, April 5, at the Commodore Barry Club in Mount Airy. At both events, doors open at 6 p.m., activities at 6:30 and the formal program at 7 p.m.

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