Eight weeks ago, over 30 Frankford residents began a free course titled “Citizens Engagement Academy”. Always willing to take a leadership role within their city and neighborhood, these citizens responsded enthusiastically to this opportunity. Manny Citron, the Assistant Managing Director for Philadelphia, attended many meetings with various neighborhood civic organizations to explain and register “students”. His efforts resulted in the largest registration and turnout from any neighborhood for this program. We applaud your efforts, Manny, and we thank you for all you and your staff do for our Frankford community. Manny, along with Amanda Finch of PhillyRising Americorps Vista, were present each week to introduce us to our speakers and to help in identifying the particular needs of our Frankford community.
The Citizens’ Engagement Academy aims to improve our understanding of how our city government works and how we can use that knowledge to improve and strengthen our neighborhoods by working together with our city departments. Each week a key representative from the various city departments or agencies came to talk, share the function of their office and answer questions regarding the best way to better access their services.
We first learned about the Neighborhood Liaison Program. Have you ever called 311 or accessed the website at www.phila.gov/311 to report a concern or issue? We can all do that now. What makes being a Neighborhood Liaison important is that you are given a special login and can report issues for your neighbors and then track all these issues that have been reported to see what steps are being taken and to assure that they get resolved.
Town Watch Integrated Services (TWIS) showed us the importance of being alert and watchful on our own neighborhood block. Town Watch is not just about active patrols through the neighborhood but also that concerned neighbors keep an eye out and look out for each other. Everybody working together makes a better and safer block and neighborhood. Alicia Hernandez-Mette is the liaison for our area. You can reach Alicia at 215.685.4518. She is waiting for your call. Very knowledgeable and helpful, Alicia can help you and your neighbors promote safety and crime prevention in your area.
The Public Nuisance Task Force operates out of the District Attorney’s office and this is the place you need to contact regarding drug and alcohol related properties. During the course of this meeting, it was revealed that quite often drugs and other illegal activities are operated out of neighborhood homes. This office has the authority to close and seize those properties if the complaint is well-founded. The 24 hour hotline for this office is 215.686.5858 However, if the nuisance is a bar, you must contact Licenses & Inspections.
Another popular topic was the grant that has allowed the city to provide 6 Financial Empowerment Centers. These are open to anyone wishing to view their credit report and credit score, too. You can meet with a financial counselor to help you plan your budget, manage your bills or debts and repair your credit report and increase your credit score. You can find out more information and make an appointment (services are free) at http://www.phila.gov/fe/Pages/default.aspx or by calling 1-855-346-7445. Gary McLaughlin, a financial counselor, with Clarifi, who is managing this project. Gary is a very active local resident who gave us some straight talk about the need to know not just what’s on our credit report but what credit score we have as well since that can be used to determine your credit card interest rates and evev if an employer wants to consider hiring you. Take advantage of this free opportunity! Of course, everything is confidential.
Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee (PMBC) is part of the Streets’ Departments Sanitation Division. Helping citizens to take charge of cleaning and beautifying their neighborhood is their mission. Block captains organize their particular street and PMBC supplies materials and has contests and awards to encourage the beautification of Philadelphia. Willie Brown, our Clean Block Officer, wants to partner with you and your Block Captain to take care of trash that seems to be everywhere. Willie can be reached at 215.686.3991 to see when your area has been scheduled for cleaning or to get on the schedule for next year. If you are a Block Captain, or would like to volunteer, cleaning days for District 15 (the districts are based on police districts), Saturday, 6/29 and Saturday, 8/17. Please get in touch with Willie immediately before supplies run out.
Our program concluded with the awarding of diplomas by Mayor Michael Nutter. If this program is ever offered again in our neighborhood, sign up as soon as you hear about it. It is well worth your time and your interest. Frankford needs engaged citizens! Philadelphia has been on the leading edge of believing that you can transform a city one neighborhood at a time.
Thank you to all who are involved in this program! Congratulations to the graduates of the Citizens’ Engagement Academy! We look forward to all that you will do to make Frankford an even better place to be!