Mayor Jim Kenney stopped by the Greater Bustleton Civic League and answered neighbors’ questions on the beverage tax, the opioid epidemic, the old Budd plant and more.
Those who attended the Sept. 26 Greater Bustleton Civic League meeting were visited by surprise guest Mayor Jim Kenney.
The mayor took questions from neighbors on a variety of topics, including concerns raised about District Attorney Larry Krasner and the old Budd plant. Before he took questions, he talked about the beverage tax and efforts to fight the opioid epidemic.
“I know one of the issues people are not happy with is the beverage tax,” Kenney said. He said this area benefited from the tax by turning George Washington High School into a community school and helping revitalize Hayes and Gifford playgrounds.
Kenney cited the work of Kevin Hughes, the former Bustleton Bengals president who recently passed away. Hughes was instrumental in creating the John Marynowitz Gymnasium in Hayes Memorial Playground.
“I recognize there’s been a major loss in the community,” Kenney said.
Kenney said “for too long” playgrounds like Gifford and Hayes have faced a “severe lack of investment.”
“That’s about to change with the first round of rebuilds, and that should be sometime in the fall or early spring, according to the weather,” he said.
He also talked about the city’s efforts in combating the opioid epidemic.
“I recently had surgery about a year or so ago. It was a minor surgery but I left the hospital with 30 Oxycodone,” he said. “I asked the doctor why I needed 30 Oxycodone, and that’s how people wind up addicted.”
Kenney highlighted that addiction is present in all areas of the city, saying, “They get addicted at home and follow the trail of heroin to Kensington.”
A resident asked about the prospect of having safe injection sites in the city. Kenney clarified the city would not operate the site. The city’s stance is that it would be open to supporting a nonprofit or organization that steps forward to open one.
“We don’t even know if we’re going to have one yet,” he said.
He said it’s a “touchy” issue.
“My personal problem is, as far as I’m concerned morally, I just can’t stand by and do nothing,” Kenney said. “These are people’s kids and family members. I’ve heard people say to me, oh, just let them all die.”
Another neighbor asked about the former Budd plant at 1 Red Lion Road.
“I usually try to work with the city councilperson as best I can as opposed to trying to oppose them, so I will be working with [Councilman Brian O’Neill] to try to figure this out,” Kenney said.
Residents raised concerns that Philly.com published plans for three buildings taking up 1.6 million square feet on the site several months ago, but no information has been released since.
“We are not opposing this project. We are scrambling to learn about it, and that’s been a real challenge,” said GBCL president Jack O’Hara.
Kenney said he would look into it and try to get more information.
When a resident asked about crime, Kenney said that shootings and homicides are up compared to last year, but all other crime is down.
“The problem is, I have to fight shootings and homicides in a culture where the state loves guns, the president loves guns, Congress loves guns, and that’s why the shootings are up,” he said. Kenney said he isn’t a “no-guns” person, but said the number of kinds of guns people are obtaining are the problem.
“Our problem is illegal handguns,” he said. “If the federal government wants to help us with two things, they should help us with heroin coming in and help us control the flow of guns.”
One resident asked Kenney what he thought of Krasner.
“I don’t know yet,” Kenney said. He said Krasner makes serious charges on serious crimes, but on smaller crimes like retail theft, “he’s not charging.”
“We have to get a year or so of perspective,” Kenney said.
In other news from the meeting, 7th Police District Capt. Robert Ritchie gave a crime update.
He talked about the sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl on the 13000 block of Cardella Place that happened after the school district announced an early dismissal due to the hot weather. The suspect, believed to be about 17 years old, approached her and told her he’d kill her if she screamed. Police have released a sketch of the suspect, highlighting his crooked nose.
Another incident involved a non-fatal shooting after a road rage incident. The suspects fired a shot at another vehicle on the 1700 block of Tustin Street. They were driving a gray Pontiac Grand Prix, believed to be made from 2004–2008. Ritchie described the wheel spokes as distinct because they formed a star or asterisk.
GBCL meets the fourth Wednesday of every month at American Heritage Federal Credit Union, 2060 Red Lion Road. ••