I hope the 36th Ward can now exceed expectations!

We have had a tumultuous last few years in the 36th Ward of the Democratic Party in Philadelphia.  The need for an engaged ward is more crucial now that Republicans have taken over the Presidency, House and Senate on a national level.  The jobs of committee persons are to help get out the vote, circulate petitions and ensure fair and equitable elections.  In spite of one person's claim of massive voter fraud, we work to ensure that only registered voters participate in the system.

Anna Verna had been our ward leader for almost thirty years.  I actually put my hat into the ring to try to run for the ward leader position at the reorganization meeting in June 2014.  It was a rude awakening to the entrenched role that she played in many committee persons lives.  I never got a chance to call for a roll call vote as the anger in the room was more than palpable.  Charlie Bernard, of the City Democratic Committee, sat at the front and never introduced himself to the crowd.  Anna was reelected by a voice vote and began a brief tenure.

The honorable former Councilwoman Verna resigned her seat early in 2015.  It was discovered by a reporter that she no longer lived in the ward.  Maybe it was her ego that led her to run again knowing that living within the ward is one of the requirements to be a ward leader.  It was also revealed that Anthony Clark and Alan Butkovitz do not live in their respective wards either.  The ward Chairman, Harold James, campaigned hard to become the ward leader.  He called numerous committee persons and was elected in a close vote against George Upshur.  I did not throw my hat back into the ring for this position.

I was so proud of our progress early in Harold James tenure.  We had a major Fish Fry Fundraiser during the petition signing period in 2015.  We hosted another Fundraiser later that year.  I started to have concerns due to the lack of timely financial reporting soon after these events.  We had a block party that was not supposed to cost the ward any money.  The Executive Board spent almost $2,000.00 on this event without requesting expenditures from the Ward.  Purchases were made for almost anyone who passed away.  Harold started spending money on rent for his office without signing a lease with the ward.  The ward became his personal piggy bank.

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I was informed that Kevin Hannah was going to be the person to take over after Harold completed the term that starts in May 2018.  Unfortunately, Kevin passed away in December 2015.  He was a 1963 baby like myself.  He had a Homegoing service worthy of a dignitary.  He even has part of a street renamed as Kevin Hannah way.  Rest in Peace Mr. Hannah.  His legacy lives on because his sister has assumed his duties as a Committee Person.  The situation with Harold James and the lack of reporting never improved though.  He had to plead guilty to a theft of service charge that was part of a sting that ensnared numerous elected officials.  Asking him about reports was like pulling teeth.  He zoned out and acted like he didn't understand English. 

We had another raucous meeting last Tuesday.  Harold sent out an email citing his health as the reason he could not continue in the role of ward leader.  We all know that his sudden change of heart was due to the almost $4,000.00 that is unaccounted for from the fundraisers.  According to the by laws, when a special election is called, it should be the only order of business.  Harold bought three copies of a financial report to a meeting attended by forty people.  Typical.  No one from the Executive Board read the report and it was not voted on or approved.  I guess this is the was that business is done throughout the Democratic City Committee.

Louis Ager was there representing the Democratic City Committee.  He added no intrinsic value to the process that occurred.  There was no need for an election as the present Executive Board could have all moved up a slot and we could have elected a third vice Chairperson.  City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson was elected in absentia.  He was there at the beginning of the meeting but left by the time that the vote was forced on the Committee persons.  The lack of financial reports and accountability by Harold James and the Executive Board were no impediment to this flawed process.
I wish the Councilman well going forward.  Many other elected officials also are ward leaders.  Let's see how this process works. 

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