Looking for fairness and accountability in the 8th District

Posted 3/30/23

We are writing in response to last week’s Chestnut Hill Local article about Councilwoman Cindy Bass facing a challenge from Germantown resident and union organizer Seth Anderson-Oberman.

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Looking for fairness and accountability in the 8th District


We are writing in response to last week’s Chestnut Hill Local article about Councilwoman Cindy Bass facing a challenge from Germantown resident and union organizer Seth Anderson-Oberman in the May 16th Primary. Councilwoman Bass said: “People know me. People know the work that I've done…This is not the time to change directions and say that expertise doesn't matter.”

We, the undersigned, know a great deal about the Councilwoman’s work and how she has treated – often mistreated – Germantown during her tenure. We believe the key issue in this race is not experience but one of good government, and the obligation of council members to treat their entire district in a fair and equitable manner.

Councilwoman Bass definitely does not treat all neighborhoods, organizations and individuals in District 8 fairly. Evidence shows that Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy get far better treatment than Germantown. Could this be because they are more affluent, better organized and have a higher voter turnout than Germantown? Or perhaps they have simpler “quick-fix” problems, unlike our neighborhood where the overwhelming majority of residents are low-income renters and financially stressed homeowners.

When Chestnut Hill residents complained about noise and lights coming from pickleball courts at Water Tower Rec, Bass responded. When residents of E. Mt. Airy recently voiced concerns about Rodriguez Supermarket covering its windows and installing gambling machines, the Councilwoman immediately organized a community meeting with the new owner. 

But in Germantown, on countless major issues around development, blight, affordable housing and the state of the business corridor, the Councilwoman has not listened to the community. In fact, she often opposes us. 

The long-vacant Germantown YWCA is a perfect example. In 2014, local developers presented a sound proposal to repurpose the YWCA into low-income senior housing. Bass blocked that proposal with the undemocratic use of “Councilmanic Prerogative.” In Hidden City [1/21/15], she said “that she didn’t care for the idea of having ‘low-income senior housing on a commercial corridor that we’re working hard to revitalize … I have a two-pronged appeal … seal up the building and get a better developer.’” Drive by and you’ll see the building is still sealed up. KBK Enterprises, the out-of-town developer approved by Bass in 2016, has yet to demonstrate financial capacity to proceed, yet Bass still backs them. Did we mention KBK has given $8,500 to her campaigns? 

Since 2021, Friends for the Restoration of the Germantown YWCA Building has asked the City to find another developer for the Y. At a December 7, 2021 Friends’ public meeting, after the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA) agreed to issue a new RFP (request for proposals), Bass accused the PRA of racism and riled up the crowd with divisive remarks. Half of the attendees left when Bass supporters disrupted the meeting and threatened people. Would this happen in Chestnut Hill or Mt. Airy? (You can still see that meeting on The Chestnut Hill Local’s Facebook page.)

In the above-mentioned article, Chestnut Hill developer Richard Snowden who, with his family, donated $33,000 to recent Bass campaigns, said “Bass has obtained funding to upgrade much of the Chestnut Hill business district’s infrastructure, including the replacement of historic pedestrian street lights.” Yet, recently in Germantown, getting six burnt-out lights replaced in a two-block area on the same avenue proved a Herculean task. Cleaning the sprawling commercial corridor has also been a challenge. In January 2019, the Special Services District (GSSD), authorized by Bass for this purpose suddenly went broke; it was discovered that there were no audits for years and a Board member was found guilty of misusing $125,000. Bass told WHYY in 2019 “The Germantown Special Services District was really effective…Then it hit a speed bump and these folks decided they just wanted to kill it.” She also told WURD Radio that she did not control the board, yet, it was her job to approve all of its members and two were on her staff. Would this happen in Chestnut Hill or Mt. Airy? 

We could write a book with similar stories – about Germantown Town Hall, the shuttered high school, Lower E. Germantown Settlement Properties, cronyism and favoritism with the Councilwoman’s Special Activities Fund grants, but Op-Eds have word limits. 

In conclusion, we want to strongly say that Germantown and all of District 8 deserve and need a new representative on City Council. Respect, fairness and responsiveness to constituents matter far more to us than the experience and expertise of the incumbent. 

Ann Marie Doley, Garlen Capita, Donna Jean Revière Dorman, Bernard M. Lambert, Karen Singer, Lisa Jo Epstein, Robin Lowry, Patricia Burks, Joe Gray, Lillian Hightower, Robert E. Lane, Don Maedche, Uhura Russ and Kaitlin Orner.

Germantown residents, activists and business owners