Henon looks toward November

It's sum­mer school for Bob Hen­on, the Demo­crat­ic nom­in­ee to re­place Joan Kra­jew­ski in City Coun­cil's 6th Dis­trict.

Bobby Hen­on

After more than 30 years in of­fice, City Coun­cil­wo­man Joan Kra­jew­ski (D-6th dist.) will re­tire next year.

For good this time.

She re­tired for a day in 2007 to col­lect about $300,000 fro the city’s De­ferred Re­tire­ment Op­tion Pro­gram, or DROP.

The most likely can­did­ate for 6th Dis­trict seat is 42-year-old, lifelong Phil­adelphi­an Bobby Hen­on.

Hen­on won the Demo­crat­ic Party’s nom­in­a­tion for the seat in the May primary elec­tion, beat­ing out Mar­tin Bed­narek, a former school board and School Re­form Com­mis­sion mem­ber. In the Novem­ber gen­er­al elec­tion, Hen­on is set to face off against Re­pub­lic­an Sandra Stew­art.

After a busy primary sea­son, Hen­on sat down with the Star last week to dis­cuss his likely as­cen­sion to City Coun­cil, his plans and the fu­ture of the wa­ter­front in Port Rich­mond, Brides­burg and the North­east.

If Hen­on, who cur­rently serves as the polit­ic­al dir­ect­or for Loc­al 98 of the In­ter­na­tion­al Broth­er­hood of Elec­tric­al Work­ers, wins in the fall, he will rep­res­ent a dis­trict that stretches north­east from Al­legheny Av­en­ue, in­clud­ing much of Port Rich­mond and all of Brides­burg.

When asked last week about the prob­lems fa­cing the dis­trict that needed the most at­ten­tion, Hen­on said he hopes to fo­cus on bring­ing in new busi­nesses for the tax rev­en­ue and job cre­ation as well as as­sess­ing loc­al con­cerns over ab­sent­ee land­lords.

“We don’t have a broad enough tax base,” he said. “Too many [loc­al busi­nesses] are pulling up their stakes in­stead of plant­ing roots here … We need jobs. We need to cre­ate jobs; we need to have an at­mo­sphere where people will want to come here to cre­ate neigh­bor­hood jobs.”

Hen­on said he’d work to cre­ate a more busi­ness friendly en­vir­on­ment in the dis­trict to at­tract new busi­nesses and help res­id­ents to open their own small busi­nesses.

In talk­ing about the re­cent primary elec­tion, Hen­on said he wanted to learn about loc­al con­cerns, in­clud­ing is­sues of blighted prop­er­ties and ab­sent­ee land­lords.

Here, Hen­on said he likes state Rep. John Taylor’s (R-177th dist.) ef­forts to tackle blight and, if elec­ted, would look to work with Taylor in the fu­ture.

Taylor has been pro­mot­ing land bank le­gis­la­tion in­ten­ded to clean up va­cant and aban­doned prop­er­ties and keep prop­er­ties from fall­ing un­der the own­er­ship of ab­sent­ee land­lords by let­ting com­munit­ies to take over large blocks of blighted homes.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to be­ing his com­pan­ion here in the city,” said Hen­on, say­ing he was look­ing for­ward to work­ing with Taylor to con­front the con­cerns. “It’s not about party; it’s about get­ting things done.”

Over the sum­mer, Hen­on will be pre­par­ing for the Novem­ber’s gen­er­al elec­tion and meet­ing with busi­ness and com­munity lead­ers and vari­ous as­so­ci­ations in or­der to “have a broad view of how things op­er­ate and how things work and how I can kick it in the butt a little bit to get things done.”

But, that doesn’t mean he can’t have a little fun.

In fact, he joined Taylor for Brides­burg’s an­nu­al Me­mori­al Day Parade.

Hen­on was asked about would sup­port Port Rich­mond and Brides­burg, where a com­mon com­plaint is that res­id­ents’ con­cerns aren’t heard in City Hall.

Hen­on said he had heard that com­plaint of­ten dur­ing his cam­paign and, if elec­ted, he plans to open an of­fice in the dis­trict — no loc­a­tion has yet been de­term­ined — to provide res­id­ents with a dir­ect line to his of­fice.

“I was knock­ing on doors in Brides­burg and I had sev­er­al people tell me as I walked on their door­step, ‘you’re the first politi­cian that has knocked on my door,’” he re­called. “They do feel neg­lected and you can take a look at it by the voter apathy. People wer­en’t com­ing out to vote … They feel like they have been for­got­ten, and I’m not go­ing to for­get them.”

In the primary, Hen­on got just 611 votes in the en­tire 45th Ward, which cov­ers Port Rich­mond north of Al­legheny, Brides­burg, and parts of Kens­ing­ton, Har­rowg­ate and Frank­ford.

Still, that was more than enough to beat Bed­narek’s 315 votes.

Over­all, Hen­on beat his Demo­crat­ic op­pon­ent 8143 to 4325 and out-fun­ded Bed­narek with cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions 3-to-1.

How then would he hope to com­bat this apathet­ic view to­ward polit­ics?

“I’m com­mit­ted to put­ting some en­ergy back in­to this dis­trict,” he said.

Hen­on said he’d hope to do this by go­ing door-to-door, meet­ing voters who may have felt dis­en­fran­chised in the past and talk­ing to them about loc­al polit­ics.

The 6th Dis­trict also has plenty of wa­ter­front — roughly 8 miles between Al­legheny Av­en­ue in Port Rich­mond and Grant Av­en­ue in the North­east.

While much at­ten­tion has been fo­cused on a city-com­mis­sioned plan for the Delaware River wa­ter­front — re­cently un­veiled as the Mas­ter Plan for the Cent­ral Delaware — that de­tailed vis­ion ends right where the south­ern most part of 6th Dis­trict starts.

Hen­on said he is cur­rently in the pro­cess of re­view­ing earli­er plans for the north­ern Delaware River com­piled by the Delaware River City Cor­por­a­tion.

In­cluded in those ideas is an 11-mile walk­able gre­en­way, which Hen­on be­lieves could be good for the com­munity, as long as it doesn’t hurt loc­al busi­nesses or keep small busi­nesses from be­ing able to op­er­ate in the com­munity.

Claim­ing that between 90 and 95 per­cent of busi­ness in the dis­trict is small busi­nesses, Hen­on said, he doesn’t put much stock in plans like the Mas­ter Plan for the Cent­ral Delaware River Wa­ter­front.

“The prob­lem with mas­ter plans is, I don’t know if they work … What I want to do is get things done,” he said. “We’re not go­ing to sit around and have aca­demia from the Uni­versity of Penn telling me what the prop­er use [of land] is with­in the con­fines of the dis­trict. People want res­ults. They don’t want to sit around and wait for things to hap­pen. You sit around and wait, you miss op­por­tun­it­ies.”

The re­cently un­veiled plan got its start in 2006, when the Wil­li­am Penn Found­a­tion teamed with the city and the Uni­versity of Pennsylvania to fund a study and rough out­line of what res­id­ents wanted along the Delaware.

After dozens of com­munity meet­ings — with some 4,000 res­id­ents in at­tend­ance — the plan­ners passed their work and an “ac­tion plan” on the city-ap­poin­ted Delaware River Wa­ter­front Cor­por­a­tion.

That non-profit spent 17 months fi­nal­iz­ing the draft un­veiled last month. 

Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­man@bsmphilly.com 

You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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