The theme for the night was “Involvement” as five Philadelphia City Councilwomen gathered in Temple University’s Kiva Auditorium for a moderated panel discussion March 30.
About 145 Temple students, faculty and other members of the neighborhood greeted City Council President Anna C. Verna, Councilwomen Jannie Blackwell, Marian Tasco, Donna Reed Miller and Council At-Large member Blondell Reynolds-Brown. The event was hosted by The League of Women Voters (LWV).
Some audience members came armed with specific issues to address with the Councilwomen, while others came with expressions of appreciation and buttons to wear as tokens of encouragement. The council members answered questions pertaining to their motivation and inspiration for getting involved with politics.
According to LWV member Katrin Hillner, the League hosts two or three of these events each year. This meeting was different because it was not focused on a specific issue. It was an opportunity for the Councilwomen to reach out to their constituents and share a little about where they came from.
The League of Women Voters is a non-profit organization that began by promoting women’s suffrage. Their primary goal is to encourage public officials and candidates to declare platforms and take a stance on issues, then to report these stances to the voting public.
The discussion turned serious when the council members fielded questions from the audience. Two Temple Student Government (TSG) Representatives posed questions regarding the housing situation that is facing returning juniors and seniors at Temple. There has been a question as to how this situation will affect the enrollment of minorities, and the long-term effects it will have upon rent prices in the area surrounding Temple’s Main campus.
Dekwuan Postell, TSG Vice President of Student Affairs, was the first to address the issue with the Councilwomen, but the council could not make any definitive statements on the issue.
“We cannot make a stance right here and now,” Reynolds-Brown declared.
Postell did receive some sound advice when he addressed his concern that the housing situation could further the racial segregation that exists in North Philadelphia. Councilwoman Miller agreed with him on the urgency of the issue and Councilwoman Tasco encouraged documentation of the issue and possibly pressing the State Legislature with concerns.
Jessica Rodriguez, a junior at Temple University, said that she had concerns about the new housing policy and its potential to whiten the neighborhood, raise rents and push the long-term black residents out of the neighborhood.
The tone of the evening also appeared to be inspiring young people to gain an understanding of government, and perhaps a passion for getting involved. Reynolds-Brown, a member of the City Council for the past four years, encouraged young people with a with a passion to pick an issue and go with it.
“Get involved, stay involved and be involved,” Reynolds-Brown said.
Councilwoman Blackwell summed up her advice to young people by encouraging them to volunteer and reach out and introduce themselves to their local leadership.
“Involvement, involvement, involvement” is the key to initiating any career in politics, Verna said. “The greatest satisfaction any of us have is when we are helping people.”
Cheryl Ellis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.