Op-ed: Northeast neighborhoods need a boost

Pete Smith

By Pete Smith

A recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer revealed that the poverty level of Holmesburg has increased a staggering 17% since 2013. The claim itself was from an article based on a five-year federal study of poverty in Philadelphia. Spending most of my life in Tacony, it was hard to see that my neighbors directly to the north were singled out by the census in this category. What was more surprising was the decline in the median income across the entire Northeast, considering the nation is in an economic upswing. While digging a little bit deeper, the city as a whole has dramatically increased its numbers in poverty and reductions in median income. As one of the top 10 cities in the country, Philadelphia is ranked No. 1 as the poorest city in America. This is something that must be reversed and an integral part of my candidacy’s platform.

Poverty has also grown significantly in neighborhoods like Mayfair and Rhawnhurst, which show a 6% and a 5% increase, respectively, as more-developed areas around Center City and South Philly have shown significant double-digit declines. Once a bustling area for middle-class workers, economic issues in the Northeast and the city have slowly been overlooked by its elected officials, instead focusing only on certain special interests while our neighborhoods suffer. It’s inexcusable to see the poverty rates of our local communities increase as the rest of the nation reaps the benefits of the nation’s booming economy. As a candidate for City Council, this is something I believe I can help improve.

We need to start holding our elected officials accountable. It’s important for our city officials to start taking care of their people. Our communities cannot overcome the aforementioned poverty rates if we do not attract a diverse mix of businesses to our city. I firmly believe our local community is bursting with vast unfulfilled potential that is being led down the wrong path because of our city’s current leadership. Each and every one of us in our community has the innate ability to positively reform our area so that we will not be left behind in the future the way we are in the present. We need to be more welcoming to businesses, especially those large companies that can offer many jobs at all levels of qualification. We need to stop burdening our small business owners with over taxation, regulations and bureaucracy. We need a Licenses and Inspections agency that will hold violators more accountable, including unlicensed businesses and absentee landlords.

Additionally, our public education system is in need of desperate repair. Our children deserve a curriculum that sets them up to economically benefit in the future. Starting from my first day in office, I will work to revamp our entire public school system and include more programs for non-college bound students to enter the workforce after high school graduation. As student loans continue to plague our country with high debts, we must change society’s stigma on trade careers. Trade jobs represent one of the largest areas of growth in our country’s job front and can do much to elevate our community out of the poverty-stricken standards we have been forced to accept by our current politicians’ apathy toward our communities. Additionally, we need a complete audit of the school system and all city agencies to eliminate wasteful spending, corruption and mismanagement. This is a major focus of my campaign.

Furthermore, one of the main contributing factors to the deterioration of our community is the opioid crisis. Despite what detractors say, drugs are all over our neighborhoods. It’s not just a Kensington or North Philadelphia issue, it’s happening all around us. Drugs impact all quality-of-life issues such as nuisance crimes, violence, prostitution and trash. Children walk to school passing drug dealers, users and prostitutes on a daily basis. Seniors cannot walk the streets due to fear of being victims of violent crime. Small businesses are closing, or they become the hub for bad behavior. Gunshots are becoming a daily occurrence. Yet, our elected officials do nothing as the standards of our once-proud community descend into this chaos. Those in office have had their time to produce and have yielded only disastrous results. The time has come for immediate change and that is the crux of my candidacy for City Council

Albert Einstein is widely credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” We have been following the same trends for over 60 years now, and it’s not working. “Nothing Changes, if Nothing Changes.” We need to attack the opioid crisis, not enable it. We need harsher penalties and more advancement in eradicating the supply and empowering our police to do more against those who sell these dangerous drugs. We need a comprehensive plan in place to assist those affected by it with a strong emphasis on intervention, detoxification, treatment and real rehabilitation with a long-term solution in place to reenter society. We can no longer put these people on a 30-day carousel.

Philadelphia is known as the birthplace of the most powerful nation in the world. We need to always remember that and act like it. Philadelphia should set the example for the rest of the nation, not try and copy from other cities. Philadelphia is known as the city of neighborhoods, and everyone should be proud of theirs. I’m Pete Smith and I’m your neighbor from Tacony. ••

Pete Smith is the Republican candidate in the 6th Councilmanic District.