Ready for Revitalization

Run­ning as a demo­crat, Kens­ing­ton nat­ive Rich­ie An­ti­puna says he has what it takes to be state rep­res­ent­at­ive in the 177th dis­trict.

Rich­ie An­ti­puna has a vis­ion to clean up the neigh­bor­hood he loves so much.

And as he mounts a cam­paign to run for state rep­res­ent­at­ive in the 177th dis­trict, which in­cludes Port Rich­mond, Fishtown and An­ti­puna’s neigh­bor­hood of Kens­ing­ton, the pro­spect­ive can­did­ate said he knows he is tack­ling a mo­nu­ment­al chal­lenge, but it’s one he is fa­cing head-on.

An­ti­puna likes to em­phas­ize one oth­er thing. Des­pite his re­cog­ni­tion around Kens­ing­ton, he says he is not a politi­cian.

An­ti­puna has nev­er served in pub­lic of­fice. He did start a run for city com­mis­sion­er last year but it swiftly fell apart — he changed parties too late in­to the race and had to aban­don his plans.

This time around, as he mounts his cam­paign for the state House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives, An­ti­puna will con­front a tough op­pon­ent if he emerges vic­tori­ous in the Demo­crat­ic primary. It’s Rep. John Taylor, a 27-year vet­er­an of the Phil­adelphia polit­ic­al scene.

An­ti­puna plans to face Demo­crat Wil­li­am Dun­bar in the primary, cur­rently sched­uled for April 24.

An­ti­puna is col­lect­ing pe­ti­tion sig­na­tures to get his name on the Demo­crat­ic bal­lot. He hopes to have more than 500 sig­na­tures by the Feb. 26 dead­line.

As for why voters should look his way, An­ti­puna says he has the mo­tiv­a­tion to de­liv­er change to an area rav­aged by crime. And, he adds, he has the plan to back it up.

“I have a strong fol­low­ing in Kens­ing­ton, as well as in many of the oth­er neigh­bor­hoods that make up the dis­trict,” An­ti­puna said dur­ing a Sat­urday af­ter­noon chat from a diner booth at Fourth and Spring Garden streets. “My reas­on for run­ning is to get things back to the way they should be, be­cause it’s any­one’s right to run for whatever of­fice they want to, wheth­er they have a polit­ic­al back­ground or not.”

A sim­il­ar vis­ion of re­viv­al has been out­lined by newly elec­ted City Coun­cil­man Mark Squilla (D-1st dist.). He is tout­ing a “Clean and Green” ini­ti­at­ive that en­lists com­munit­ies in the battle against blight, crime and vi­ol­ence in some of the city’s hard­est-hit neigh­bor­hoods.

One of those neigh­bor­hoods is An­ti­puna’s home base of Kens­ing­ton, which has de­clined from a bust­ling in­dus­tri­al cen­ter in the 1960s to a drug-addled neigh­bor­hood that is among the city’s worst.

As someone who grew up in Kens­ing­ton and is rais­ing a fam­ily there (he has two teen­age daugh­ters), An­ti­puna is well aware of the prob­lems in his neigh­bor­hood, as well as in oth­er areas of his dis­trict.

If he’s the Demo­crat­ic choice in the up­com­ing primary, he’ll need some ser­i­ous help to over­take re­spec­ted in­cum­bent Taylor. An­ti­puna in­tends to keep re­mind­ing neigh­bor­hood voters how things used to be.

“At one point or an­oth­er in my life, I’ve lived and worked in every neigh­bor­hood in the dis­trict,” An­ti­puna said. “When I was a kid, and well in­to my teens, every­body knew every­body in the neigh­bor­hood. We said ‘hello’ when we passed each oth­er on the street … it was a true com­munity. There’s no com­munity spir­it any­more.”

When that fab­ric of the neigh­bor­hood star­ted to fray is tough to pin­point, An­t­puna said, but he is clearly un­happy that fam­ily val­ues now must be pre­served in an en­vir­on­ment of drug deal­ers, pros­ti­tutes and vi­ol­ence.

When man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs left the area, waves of res­id­ents went with them. Over time, the loc­al eco­nomy suffered. Ac­cord­ing to an ana­lys­is un­der­taken last year by Phil­adelphia magazine, Kens­ing­ton and neigh­bor­ing Fairhill are home to all 10 of the city corners with the most drug activ­ity.

Part of his plan, An­ti­puna said, is to set up com­munity pro­grams that fo­cus on chil­dren and seni­or cit­izens. He’d also like to team with city of­fi­cials and com­munity act­iv­ist groups to clean up va­cant lots and de­cay­ing prop­er­ties, as well as turn his at­ten­tion to re­viv­ing the busi­ness dis­trict to cre­ate jobs.

An­ti­puna has been a re­cog­niz­able face in the com­munity. He also cre­ated the pop­u­lar Rich­ie An­ti­puna Show, a for­um to dis­cuss com­munity is­sues, that has aired on Com­cast and the In­ter­net.

His cam­paign man­ager, An­thony Samacicia, is on board with the mes­sage of neigh­bor­hood re­vital­iz­a­tion.

ldquo;It needs to be a co­oper­at­ive ap­proach. It’s up to the com­munity to get on board with the ini­ti­at­ive, but at the same time, it’s im­port­ant to know they have someone to go to in or­der to seek sup­port,” Samacicia said.

An­ti­puna is look­ing for all the cam­paign vo­lun­teers he can find. He hopes to raise $100,000 to fund his elec­tion run.

His mis­sion, if elec­ted, is to press for state fund­ing that will aid anti-crime ef­forts and neigh­bor­hood re­vital­iz­a­tion, he said.

ldquo;I’ve been an ad­voc­ate of Kens­ing­ton for a long time, but I’m also an ad­voc­ate for hu­man­ity,” An­ti­puna said. “Some­where along the line the city for­got about Kens­ing­ton, and cur­rently there’s no rep­res­ent­a­tion in the area to get things done.”

An­ti­puna is well aware of the chal­lenge he faces to take on that job.

“Win or lose, I want to keep the politi­cians in of­fice on their toes,” he said. “Even if I don’t win, I’ll still be the biggest ad­voc­ate for my com­munity. What these cur­rent politi­cians are do­ing is a slap in the face to the people that live in these neigh­bor­hoods. I’ve seen neigh­bor­hoods like Fishtown and Port Rich­mond band to­geth­er to change for the bet­ter, and Kens­ing­ton can do that too.” ••

For in­form­a­tion, vis­it An­ti­puna’s cam­paign Face­book page at www.face­­Anti­punaFor­StateRep/

Re­port­er Ed Mor­rone can be reached at Ed­ward.mor­

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