This is the eighth of ten questions NewsWorks asked the seven Democratic candidates running for the Eighth District City Council seat to respond to. We will be running their answers to questions nine and ten on Friday.
At forums, voters consistently said they want a Councilperson who knows how to collaborate and partner across lines of neighborhood, politics, class and race. Tell us about a time you reached out to partner with someone who wasn’t like you. What did you achieve?
I have worked with a diverse set of people throughout my career. People from different neighborhoods, religions and backgrounds, even my campaign team reflects diversity.
I worked in long term care as the community liaison officer for 6 years. This was during a time that nursing homes had a terrible reputation in communities and nationwide. I had to interface with a lot of the community groups to address issues concerning the care of seniors by our organization, and staff. Seniors are not like us. We don’t connect on almost any level. We are different generationally in our music, dress, food, respect for others, in how we communicate, and in the past thirty years technology. I had to crate partners in the community to help care for our seniors, and confront misconceptions. No organization in long term care will be successful without community support. I created that bridge by opening the doors to allow the community to see in. They became a part of the daily life of the facility. There is no greater pain for the elderly than LONELINESS when you have no family and fewer friends. I work to eliminate that plague.
I have organized basketball leagues which have included youth from different socio-economic, racial and religious backgrounds. This process taught youth that while there may be some differences there are a lot more similarities. Personally, I have interacted, partnered, or worked with individuals who are homeless, jobless, come from different racial religious and socio-economic backgrounds. At the end of the day the objective was to complete whatever the task was, regardless of our differences.
Habitat For Humanity is a group that partners with different people to build healthy communities across the lines of neighborhood, politics, class and race. My involvement as a founding member of the Germantown chapter is a lesson in how to encourage and inspire cross-cultural understanding and unity. People from the Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy sections of this District came to Germantown to work side by side with the families there to build these homes. In ten years this organization has built 18 homes in the Germantown neighborhood and each home is a secure place where a family lives and contributes to a stronger community. Since my childhood I have been involved at the Wissahickon Boys and Girls Club, first as a member and then on the Board. As the First Chartered Black Club in the country this is a place in my neighborhood where the opportunity to reach out and partner with all others is continually encouraged and practiced. The experience I had there was coming in contact with people who had a different perspective from the one I had. Club members come from a different socio-economic class from my self and this experience continues to give me valuable insight.
A few weeks ago, I heard about a man named Mr. Bell who had been mugged in Vernon Park because there were no lights on in the park near the Vernon House. Not knowing or caring about Mr. Bell’s race or ethnicity, I got a few electrician friends of mine and an electrical contractor in the 8th District together, and we donated the lights and the labor to put in lights that illuminate Vernon House at night. To this day, I haven’t met Mr. Bell and I have no idea what race or ethnicity he is. What I do know is that learning that another human being had been hurt badly in Vernon Park was enough for me to take action so that hopefully another incident like that will not happen to anyone again.
My wife and I moved to Germantown 17 years ago to raise our family here precisely because of the diversity of our neighborhood and because we wanted to ensure that our lives, and the lives of our children, would have the benefit of this diversity. Working through our neighborhood group, West Chelten Neighbors, I provided leadership in the efforts which ended the illegal and dangerous night club being operating out of the swim club of the Empirian Towers Apartments. I am the immediate past president of Germantown Jewish Centre, a cornerstone institution in Mt. Airy and a founding congregation in the Neighborhood Interfaith Movement. During my presidency we continued this role, including hosting the NIM annual event at the Centre. The Centre is also a host congregation in the Northwest Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network, and we host homeless families at our Synagogue. To continue this interfaith work, I have been nominated to join the board of NIM, and will be seated in the coming months.
Working across lines of neighborhood, politics, class and race is especially important in an area as diverse as the Eighth District. Throughout my years of public and community service, I have always focused on united people – and it has been the centerpiece of this campaign for City Council. For the last sixteen years, the Tioga United neighborhood group, which I helped co-found, hosts our annual Unity Day, which brings people of many different neighborhoods, races and cultural backgrounds together for a show of trust and harmony. I’m also very proud of the Senior Prom we organized for our senior citizens, many of whom told me they never attended a traditional prom during school. I was especially thrilled to plan that event because I worked with many wonderful young people and students throughout the process. I believe that similar efforts to bring young people and seniors together would be a great asset to our district.
Tomorrow we’ll hear from the candidates on how you would ensure that donors won’t influence your decisions and what will they do to ensure that all of the Eighth District feels represented.