As one of the most active wards in the city, the 12th Ward Democratic Committee frequently hosts community forums where constituents can hear from candidates in upcoming elections. Each time the constituents hear the candidates’ platforms and are able to ask questions in the hope of gaining future ammunition to hold officials accountable if they are elected.
|WARD CHAIR—Rev. Jacque Fielder, 12th Ward Democratic Committee chairwoman, encourages her constituents to ask questions and hold elected officials accountable.
However, at the most recent forum on March 3, many constituents had grown tired of the song and dance.
“No one stood out. They all played on the same things—veterans, heath care, education,” said Robert Germany. “To me it just seems like they talked about what they accomplished in the past, but we’re in the here and now.”
Represented at the forum were candidates for governor, lt.-governor, U.S. Senate, state Senate, state House, Congress and the Democratic Committee. Adding fuel to the fire was although most of the candidates participated in the forum, they did not appear themselves but sent representatives.
“I think sometimes if the candidates themselves could’ve been here it would’ve helped,” Karen Miles said. “I think it shows they care about the voters.”
Many people were bothered by the vagueness of the representatives’ statements and said the only way to know the truth would be to wait until the candidates were in office. Others felt the representatives didn’t address the issues most relevant to the African-American community.
“I really didn’t see too many candidates, I saw representatives,” said John Logan. “None of them talked about the economy. They mentioned the stimulus (plan), but not how it’s actually creating jobs. In the future I’d like to hear what the money is doing for the unemployed.”
“They gave a nice short summary, but there’s really no way to know. You don’t know until they get into office,” said Betty Frazier. “All you can do is see their face and meet them. They do sound ambitious.”
Other than candidates for the Democratic Committee, Rep. Joe Preston Jr., who is running unopposed, was the only candidate to attend the forum. He spoke briefly about plans to build a minority-owned hotel and improvements of the state veterans home.
“All of the dollars coming into this area have been state money,” said Preston. “For the first time in my elective life there are four of us who work well together.”
The constituents varied on whether they approved of Preston and the work he had done for the district. Some felt he had produced results for his constituents while others said he was mostly “all talk.”
“I don’t think anything was said that would sway me one way or another. They could’ve sent the representatives a little better prepared,” said Eugenia Brown. “Joe Preston was able to speak with some vigor because he’s actually done the work. He’s a lifelong politician.”
Candidates who sent representatives to the meeting were Jim Ferlo (state senator), Joe Sestak (U.S. senator), Arlen Specter (U.S. senator), Joe Hoeffel (governor) and Doris Smith-Ribner (lt.-governor).