Robert Kirby records a video message to the candidates. (Photo by Sue Ann Ryback)

by Sue Ann Rybak

“This job must be taken seriously,” is how one of the attendees of Monday night’s WHYY sponsored voter forum summed up the Eighth District Councilmanic election in six words or less.

The meeting, which was held at Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church, 8855 Germantown Ave. was one of a series of public forums designed to give Eighth district residents an opportunity to identify the key issues in this election. Moderators from the Penn Project for Civic Engagement led the program . The Eighth District race has attracted a number of candidates interested in replacing Donna Reed Miller, who announced her retirement from the seat after 15 years in office.

Seven candidates remain of the 10 who filed petitions earlier this month:

Cindy Bass, Bill Durham, Andrew Lofton, Greg Paulmier, Robin Tasco, Howard Treatman and Verna Tyner.

Residents from across the eight district discussed qualities they desired in the new .

“We need someone who can be an uniter, not a divider,” said Allison Weiss, a Germantown resident.

“Someone who cares about the civic process, added Janet Ries Stern, a Chestnut hill resident. “If you have a fair process, you can get a good result. If you have a corrupt process, you can’t get a good result.”

The next councilperson should be “someone who has an eye for developing the business corridor in Germantown,” said John Churchville, a Germantown resident.

Gay Johnson, who lives in East Germantown, says she sometimes feels like East Germantown is the “forgotten neighborhood.” She wants a councilperson who can pull things together.

Pamela Bracey said she came to the public forum because she wanted to see and hear the concerns of her fellow neighbors in the Eighth district. “Transparency is what we need in a councilperson,” Bracey said.

Robert Kirby, who is a Mt. Airy resident, videotaped his statement to the new councilperson.

“Politicians need to stop cutting funding for after school programs and other recreational programs,” he said. “We need to give kids options besides alcohol, drugs and crime.”

Three candidates were also present at the public forum — Treatman, Paulmier and Tasco. All praised the opportunity for dialogue and participation.

“This is an experiment in local democracy,” Treatments said regarding the hyperclocal coverage of, WHYY’s news site. “It is an opportunity to hear from the voters and let them know we are here to listen.”

“People want to be part of the process. Paulmier said.  :I think it has been a critical element that has been lacking,” Paulmier.

“The open forum allows constituents the opportunity to voice their opinions and address what changes they would like to see,” Tasco said.

In addiyion to discussing the qualitites of the ideal candidate, attendees identified and addressed three key issues: Accountability, Zoning Enforcement and Parks and Recreation. They developed three questions for the candidates to answer on-line or during the debate on April 27.

Accountability: What plans do you have to keep the community informed on the council district budget allocations and where those dollars are spent? How will you organize your time to attend community meetings?

Zoning enforcement: Please explain the current zoning structure and how it impacts our diverse community. What plans do you have to gather community input on all development/zoning/ legislative issues before giving your approval.  How do you plan on enforcing the current zoning overlays to protect the historical integrity of our community?

Parks and Recreation : How do appropriated funds get allocated fairly to all properties?  How do we ensure account ability in the use of money? How will council engage with communities to meet and realize authentic needs?  Define relative roles of Park and Recreational personnel and police.

Other issues that were discussed included: Public safety, Reentry of Ex-offenders, DROP program, Education, Term limits, Tax reform and Affordable housing.

The next Newsworks voters’ forum is at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 5 at the Commodore Barry Club, 6815 Emlen St.