The agenda for last night’s Lawncrest Civic Association read like a who’s who of local figureheads – much to the attendees’ delight.
Aside from the usual address from board members Bill Dolbow and Phil Grutzmacher, guests included representatives from the offices of City Council members Marian Tasco, Brian O’Neill, Jack Kelly and Bill Greenlee; Senator Shirley Kitchen; and representatives Dwight Evans, Mark Cohen and Brendan Boyle. Officer Mark Mroz of the 2nd District spoke, in addition to Bill Conaway from the Philadelphia Protestant Home and Debra Mikus with the Lawncrest Library.
The highlighted speakers were Al Schmidt, Republican candidate for City Controller, and Michael Untermeyer, Republican candidate for District Attorney. Needless to say, the meeting’s agenda was packed – and Lawncrest residents came ready with questions.
Below, you can read highlights from each part of last night’s meeting, which are broken down according to topic.
Mark Mroz, community relations officer for the 2nd District
Violent crime is down 26 percent in the district since last year, Mroz told attendees, much like he did at recent Fox Chase and Burholme meetings. Burglaries in homes and cars are up, which is likely a result of people leaving windows and doors open and unlocked in the warm weather.
Mroz fielded questions from neighbors about large trucks blocking traffic on Levick Street, loose dogs in the area, crossing guard problems and what one woman called “an influx of mental health patients” around the neighborhood whom are unable to receive proper care. The officer advised residents to call the police regarding all quality of life issues such as these, and said he has written tickets for the illegally parked trucks and given fines to irresponsible dog owners. Crossing guards, he said, are fully under the police department, not the school district, and can be disciplined or terminated for poor job performance. As for the mental health patients, “I wish I could answer that better,” he said. Mroz recalled an incident which resulted in him driving a woman to a facility in Center City, only to have her released 30 minutes later.
Lastly, Mroz explained the new Public Safety Areas, which split the district into three zones, to be manned by the same officers at all times to encourage a rapport with the neighborhood, and to hold officers more accountable for their coverage areas.
Al Schmidt, Republican candidate for City Controller
“The City Controller’s job is to eliminate waste, fraud and corruption” Schmidt told residents, as he explained the duties of a city controller.
Philadelphia, he said, has the highest tax burden and highest municipal debt of any city in the country. When asked how he plans to change that, Schmidt told Lawncrest residents he intends to audit every agency every year – something he said hasn’t been done at all this year.
Here is a list of current zoning issues, as presented by Lawncrest Civic’s Phil Grutzmacher
6247 Lawndale Ave. – daycare center denied application to increase from six to 12 kids
5724 Rising Sun Ave. – deli can now serve cold sandwiches
6910 Rising Sun Ave. – board plans to write a letter denying homeowner zoning to operate a thrift store from the ground floor.
A developer is in the early stages of planning senior housing in the former Oxford Hospital
Before he rejoined the crowd, Schmidt told the attendees his greatest advantage and disadvantage in this “low profile but critically important race” for City Controller is being a Republican candidate. (He is running against incumbent Alan Butkovitz).
“I’m not looking to be popular,” he said of his minority position; Schmidt is the only Republican candidate for City Controller, while four men competed in the Democratic primary in May.
Michael Untermeyer, Republican candidate for District Attorney
The DA is an advocate for public safety, Untermeyer told last night’s crowd, and people want “tangible, practical, realistic” solutions.
Untermeyer said he is focusing on four main issues for the upcoming election, in which he’ll run against Democrat Seth Williams. Those issues involve cracking down on plea bargains, a “victims first” philosophy, a fiscally responsible bail system and a less expensive alternative to jail time.
Untermeyer said he plans to enforce appropriate punishment for criminals, rather than offering compromised pleas. On the legal side of things, the candidate said he is seeking to assign lawyers to cases, not courtrooms, to reduce confusion about cases and make the legal system run more smoothly.
“The bail system in Philadelphia is insane,” Untermeyer said. His solution is to require cash bail. Philadelphia is the only city in the United States, he said, which gives people 90 percent of their bail – asking only 10 percent from criminals. As a result, he told Lawncrest residents, the city is owed $1 billion from people who fail to appear in court.
The final point of Untermeryer’s plan is to substitute electronic monitoring bracelets for jail time. It costs eight dollars per day to keep a person on an ankle bracelet, and $90 a day to keep a person in jail, he said. Untermeyer estimates that if just 1,500 people charged with non-violent crimes were placed on this monitoring system rather than being placed in jail, the city would save $49 million dollars in the course of a year. A similar plan was suggested statewide by the commonwealth’s Auditor General Jack Wagner last August.
Debra Mikus of the Lawncrest Library
Mikus announced the Friends of Lawncrest Library Book & Audio/Visual Sale, to be held Sept 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Proceeds will benefit the library, though Mikus fears the impending Doomsday Budget could have the Lawncrest branch – and others – closed by early October.
Ken Hyers of Lawncrest Town Watch
Hyers told residents the Town Watch is “in desperate need” of volunteers, especially since the group could lose city backing after the budget comes through. Mayor Nutter has already cut the town watch budget by 50 percent, Hyers said, and could cut more. Similar groups are in danger of losing police radio communications, though Lawncrest purchased its own five years ago, which is atop St. William’s Parish.
Gary Weaver of the Fourth of July Committee
The committee will hold its first Fall meeting Monday, Sept 21 at 7 p.m. at the Philadelphia Protestant Home. The group is seeking volunteers to help with fundraisers in an effort to bring back the July 4th parade and fireworks – a 95-year tradition.