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Henon looks toward November

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

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