Candidate Profile: Cindy Bass
Patch profiles Cindy Bass, one of seven candidates running for Philadelphia City Council from the 8th District.
Editor's Note: This is the first in a series that will run throughout the week in which we publish question and answer sessions with each of the seven candidates in the 8th District City Council race. Each candidate will answer the same five questions. We'll also run videos of the candidates talking specifically about Chestnut Hill issues.
Today's featured candidate is Cindy Bass. Watch her video here.
Talk about your background and about why you're running for City Council.
Originally, I'm from North Philadelphia, and even when I was a young person growing up in the community, I always felt like, 'Why was my community like it was? Why didn't we have better streets, safer streets, better neighborhoods and access to recreation facilities that were of a better quality?' Even as a young person it just drove me to want to do more and be more involved and find out how I could get more for my community, so I've always had a background of service in different areas. Whether it was community cleanups as a kid, or working in the neighborhood, or being a candystriper, or being a Girl Scout, these were all roles that helped me to do more and give for the community.
So that was something that was ingrained in me at a young age and really drove me to become the person that I am, which I feel is someone who is very much interested in service. And it's really been the driving force in who I have been for a long time—so that's how I got to be where I am today.
It's really always been, for me, about service, about making communities better, about making lives better and making sure everyone has opportunities, no matter what community you come from.
How would you, as a City Council member, work with the School District of Philadelphia to improve students' performance?
As a member of City Council, some of the things you can do—you can advocate and you can investiagte. And as an advocate for the schools, we need to make sure that we have a safety advocate. I know that we did have someone who was fulfilling that role, and we no longer have a person in that role. And I would be very much supportive of making sure that we have someone who is going to be a safe schools advocate. I think it's critical.
We need to track what the levels of violence and anti-social behavor are in our schools. We need to have an accurate accounting of what those numbers are so that we can then do something about what the problem is. So that's the first step, and then, once we figure out what the level of the problem is, we can take corrective action from there. So this is something where we just need to have more non-teaching assistants in the schools. This is something where we can get more community volunteers to provide safe corridors (and be) walking home to reduce the fights and violence on the way home for our young people and exploring all of our options.
So these are some of the things that I think we can do. In terms of investigation and advocating and putting things into action, once you have the data—so it's got to be data driven—it's got to be based on information. And that's how we should make our decisions about what to do about the safety in our schools.
Clearly it's a problem. It's been a problem. Like I said, I'm a proud graduate of Philadelphia public schools. It's been a problem for a long, long time. Violence in our schools was a problem when I was a kid, when I was going to school. I've seen it over the years. I have a nephew that went to public schools, and I've seen the effects on him and I was obviously very worried, as a caregiver, for his safety coming home. I have a two-year old daughter now who's going to be going to school very soon, and I want to make sure she has an opportunity to go to a safe school, so I'm very much invested in and concerned about this issue and have been for a very long time.
Where do you think funding should increase in the city budget and where do you think cuts can be made?
I'd like to see more funding in revitalizing our neighborhoods. I think that's going to be critical, and I don't think the funding is always the answer. I think some of this is organization. Some things don't require funding, so, for example, when we have issues around blight and abandoned properties and short dumping, these are things that require a combination of some funding, but also some reorganizing by the city and the way we handle these problems. When it comes to abandoned properties vacnat properties, one of the things that I really want to recommend is a very simplistic idea. All of the city's abandoned properties, whether they're homes, or lots, or commercial or residential, should be on a list. The list should be every property that fits this category listed by property address.
And you could go up online and you can get a newsletter from the agency that would handle this issue. You could go and get the information and see exactly the property address, what the status of it is, what the complaints were to the city, what the resolution was from the city. If it's past due on taxes, (you could see) who the owner of record is. Is it up to date in taxes? All this information should really be available, and it's not hard to do. This is something that's really simplistic, and it's not difficult, and it's a priority, because one of the common complaints that I hear when I go out and talk to folks is—they want to know, 'Well, there's a property next door to me. What can we do about it? What's going on with it? I called this department, I called that department, and it really has turned out to be much more complicated than it needs to be. And so that's something that I'd like to work on in terms of simplifying that process. And that, along with additional funding to address the blight in our communities, I think it will go a long, long way toward making sure our communities are stronger, that they're more stable, that they have an appearance in terms of (being a) neighborhood that people want to live in, that they're desirable neighborhoods. And those lead to vibrant communities and stronger community corridors.
So it's all part of an overall plan to make neighborhoods and communities safer and more attractive and to do something about a big issue that's existing in our city right now.
What do you think about the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP)?
I don't support DROP. The state Supreme Court has made a new—or this state has made new members of City Council ineligible to participlate in the program. Even if I could participate, I would not participate in the program. I don't believe it was for elected officials. I do believe it was for the rank and file working members of the city's workforce who worked for 25, 30 years give their service to the city. And they retire without any cost of living increase. They retire with five years of health benefits, and they retire with a very limited pension that they have to survive on for the duration of their lives. That's who it was intended for. I support it for those people, only I do not support it for elected officials. And I want to be perfectly clear on that.
How would you, as a City Council member, work to fill vacant properties and revitalize commercial areas in the 8th District?
As I mentioned, I've got a plan that would address this issue, working with the city and coordinating all of this. I'd like to have an active role in that, working with maybe the (Redevelopment Authority) or (Office of Housing and Community Development), or whatever city agency felt that it would fit within their parameters. But this is something that's got to be done. It's got to be a priority, and the people of the city of Philadelphia are really reaching out and yearning for this, no matter what part of the city you go to. It's not something that's just an issue in the Northwest. It's throughout the entire city. And it's got to be addressed, and it's got to be a priority.