With the Republican tide of this month’s elections and Tuesday’s state Democratic caucus vote, power in Harrisburg has clearly shifted west.
And away from Philadelphia. And from Dwight Evans.
Along two major commercial corridors in Northwest Philadelphia, Ogontz and Germantown avenues, residents reacted Wednesday to the seismic shift, which could mean a real loss of clout and cash for their neighborhoods.
“That just sucks,” said Leslie Walbolt of Mount Airy.
Top of minds for Northwesters was Tuesday’s ouster of Evans, the representative for the 203d District, from his long-held post as the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.
“I’m sorry it happened,” said West Oak Lane resident Arnell Thompson. “He’s fixing up Ogontz Avenue. He does a lot of things; I can’t keep track of everything.”
With over 20 years in a seat that affords considerable influence on state spending, Evans had become a power center – and a boon to Philadelphia and the West Oak Lane area in particular.
He directed millions to area commercial and residential development, much of it through the Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corp., and was central in the establishment of several local charter schools.
“If you grew up in this area you can see the impact he has had in the community,” said Khaliya Butler of West Oak Lane. “Drugs and crime went down a lot. A lot of black-owned businesses. A lot of stuff might go down the drain.”
“Dwight Evans put these trees out there,” Joe Duston of West Oak Lane said, and signs and things all up and down Ogontz Avenue. What’s gonna happen to Philly now? Like the Jazz Festival, I wonder if they’re gonna take that away.”
Evans did find his way into controversies, too. Among them was that annual West Oak Lane Jazz Festival, which last year cost $1 million in state funds and drew disappointing numbers of fans.
Evans still represents the 203rd District, but his loss of committee rank means his constituents will not have an inside track to state funds for redevelopment, job training, education and all the other causes Evans has focused on in his home base.
Philadelphians doubt the Republican lawmakers who will run the General Assembly will care much about their needs. Nor do they expect the upstate Democrats who voted Evans out of his powerful position to do much more for them.