A community arts promoter, a block captain, a local contractor, a food drive philanthropist and an historic home renovator were among the persons who participated in “Coffee with the Councilwoman” recently. Eighth District Councilwoman Cindy Bass made a small rustic wood table in the rear corner of The Night Kitchen Baker, 7725 Germantown Ave. in Chestnut Hill her meeting place with constituents on Friday, March 9, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.
This is part of an ongoing series where Bass and her staff sit down with local residents. Bass said that since she is a freshman to Philadelphia City Council she does not yet have a community office. These breakfast sessions which began earlier this year are a way for her to meet with constituents in the Northwest Philadelphia area.
“Going to my office in Center City is not always convenient for some,” said Bass, who was taking notes about constituent concerns on her iPad. “We always have a good turnout. It’s a way to connect directly with those I serve.”
For Paula Paul, “Coffee with the Councilwoman” gave her a chance to invite Bass to come and support the Artists Roundtable. She said that some 100 Germantown artists are involved in this initiative which showcases the visual and performing artists who live in the community. The group holds regular showcases at Germantown venues.
“I think that having this shows that our councilwoman is actually sincere about her job,” said Teresa Duncan of Nicetown, who serves as a committeewoman in the 13th Democratic ward. “I respect the fact that she has a vision for a better community.
“I am excited whenever we get a new elected official who seems honest and will speak to our issues honestly. I am concerned about education because our real estate taxes keep going up, but we don’t have a superintendent. I want to ensure that we get someone in that position who will be invested in improving the Philadelphia School District,” Duncan said.
Ben Trail brought a list of the things he felt Bass should address. High on his list was ensuring that whenever there is new development the contractors use community people for their sub-contracting. As a business owner he hopes that he is among those who will secure sub-contracts as Chelten Avenue and other commercial corridors are revitalized.
“We really need to have some type of program to show young men in the community how to become handymen,” said Trail. “Let’s face it, not everyone is going to go to college. Some of these young guys are on the corner because they don’t know how to do anything. They are killing time, and they don’t even know how to use a screwdriver. Yet we have people always saying they can’t find a good handyman.”
Laurene Toppin and Doug McBride shared with Bass their needs for their Meals on Wheels. This initiative feeds the unemployed, underemployed and seniors. They pointed out that even in the more affluent areas in Northwest Philadelphia there are those who need their services.
Not everyone was singing praises of Bass, however. Connie Winters challenged Bass to include her on committees that are spearheading the redevelopment of Germantown. Since she has revitalized several historic buildings she felt that she “was being excluded from having a seat at the table.” Bass said that there is an interim committee that she appointed who will be making the selection of those seats.
The breakfast meeting came on the heels of a standing room only community meeting hosted by Bass. This was the councilwoman’s first neighborhood session. It was held at the Deliverance Evangelistic Church in North Philadelphia on Tuesday, March 6.
“These are constituents who want to be heard and are actively looking for ways to improve their community,” said Bass. “During my campaign I heard over and over again that accessibility to the councilperson is a major issue. Meetings like this are a great opportunity to find out the issues and concerns of constituents.”
The next community meeting will be held at LaSalle University on April 17, and then at Triumph Baptist Church on May 10.