Happy to lose ‘freshman’ tag, Jones cranks up his Philly Council agenda for 2012

As Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. approaches his second term in the city’s Fourth District, the list of items on his legislative agenda grows at a lightning pace.

His to-do list ranges from repairing the Kendrick Recreation Center to creating more open spaces for neighbors to congregate to figuring out how to work through neighborhood town and gown issues.

But what’s the one thing he’s most looking forward to in his next four years?

“Not being called a freshman,” Jones joked after walking out of his final Council session for 2011. “That’s what I’m really looking forward to.” 

As he loses one title, he gains another. Although it’s not official until Council’s vote in January, Jones thinks he has the backing from his colleagues to become Council’s next Majority Leader in 2012. 

“In addition to servicing the 147,000 constituents I have,” Jones said. “I have 16 other members that I have to look out for and I want to elevate the image of this institution.”

He plans to do so by making better use of the resources available to Council. Examples include working with educational institutions to get input on public policy and creating an intern program for the “best and brightest” in the city.

“Some of the best bills we passed, we got from young people,” he said. “That added fresh ideas to the process.”

Proudest moments 

Jones’ district covers parts of Manayunk, Roxborough and East Falls. He says his proudest moments in the community over the last four years came from preserving Manatawna Farms in Roxborough, protecting Walnut Lane Golf Course from development, and stopping sheriff’s sales in the city.

“If there was one thing that we did best, it was what we did not allow to happen and that was to allow the city to be a victim of the recession,” Jones said. “The number of schools, the number of pools, the number of rec centers that we did not close I think is our finest accomplishment.”

He pointed to the Ridge Avenue revitalization project as another major success for the community and mentioned the aging Kendrick Rec Center in Roxborough as a significant work in progress.

“It’s the second oldest rec center in the city, so it’s due for some major repairs,” he said. “We can’t just do patching; we have to start planning for some major restoration.”

Looking ahead 

Jones was instrumental in securing $135,000 in capital improvement funds for repairs at Kendrick.  A member of his staff is working with an advisory council to move the project along.

Another issue that has local residents itching to work with Jones is the large number of rowdy party houses in the neighborhoods of Roxborough, Manayunk and East Falls.

“What we’ve done on both sides of the river is work with the institutions such as Philadelphia University, Temple University and St. Joe’s to try to come up with a broad-based coalition of folks to address those issues,” he said. “We want renters, we appreciate them, but they have to fit within the fabric of the neighborhood”

Surprises and expectations

Looking back at his last four years, Jones said he underestimated the importance of a diverse council.

“There were some unlikely alliances I made here,” Jones explained. “If you were to have told me four years ago that I would have introduced legislation with Jim Kenney, I would have shook my head and said ‘I don’t think so’ but I learned from every one of my colleagues.”

Jones said he hopes to do the same with the six new members of Council come January. 

“We’re looking forward to the infusion of intellect and energy that the new members bring and we want to balance that with some of the wisdom of the people who have been there before,” he said. “I believe this council is going to be better off in the future than it was in the past.”

Check NewsWorks.org tomorrow for a profile of Ninth District Councilwoman Marian Tasco.  Check also for yesterday’s profile of new Eighth District Councilwoman Cindy Bass.

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