After he won the right to replace Frank DiCicco at the top of the First District in City Council, Mark Squilla (D-1st dist.) promised voters in the River Wards that he would do all he could to support the areas in his district north of City Hall.
Locals had long been concerned, at least while DiCicco was in office, that their councilman didn’t often appear in the community.
But Squilla promised to change that, and with the new effort to station someone from his office in a ward office in Port Richmond, the councilman said he hopes his constituents will see that he means to keep his promise.
“We’ve always heard that nobody ever comes north of Center City,” said Squilla at the Democratic Party’s 25th Ward office, at 2637 E. Clearfield St. “Well, we are trying to make a difference. We will be here, we will be in South Philly and Center City. We want to be all over the district.”
In an effort to serve the river ward community, Sean K. McMonagle, a legislative assistant to the councilman, will be staffing the desk in the ward office every Friday.
McMonagle, 42, is a Port Richmond native. In fact, he lives only a few blocks away, near Aramingo Avenue at Ann Street.
“I’m planning on walking here,” said McMonagle.
To Squilla, having McMonagle working in the ward office serves as something of an “old-school 3-1-1,” in reference to the city’s information hotline. By having a staffer in the community, Squilla said he believes local residents will not only be able to have a direct line of contact to his office, but he will know more about what’s happening in the community.
“This is all old school,” said the councilman. “Of course there’s always email and internet, but there are people that don’t use that.”
Walking through the ward office is something of a trip through the history of Philadelphia politics. On every wall of the office are photos of Philadelphia politicians including former mayor Wilson Goode, City Councilwoman Marian Tasco (D-9th dist.), former state senator Vince Fumo, Congressman Bob Brady (D-1st dist.) and former Governor Ed Rendell.
Many of the photos picture 25th Ward leader Tom Johnson. He’s been a ward leader since 1994 and has been working for Congressman Brady since 2008.
“This place is like a history museum,” said Johnson.
According to Squilla, the office will be a place where residents can come to express their concerns or request a city service. He pointed out that this time of year, he fields a lot of requests for block parties.
“We need to do more to reach out. Some people rely on a bus or they just walk. They don’t want to walk to City Hall,” he said. “We want to be seen.”
Squilla said he hopes the office will show the community that he stands by his commitment to service to the River Wards.
“I really hope this helps people get involved,” said Squilla. “I think if we can’t get everyone down to City Hall, we have to bring City Hall to them.”
In order to best serve residents, McMonagle will be working closely with Johnson and Peg Rzepski, ward leader for the 31st ward.
Hayden Mitman can be contacted at 215-354-3124 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.