District 17 Debate – Potential Councilmembers Contend Issues

District 17 Debate – Potential Councilmembers Contend Issues|District 17 Debate – Potential Councilmembers Contend Issues
Silvio J. Pacifico|Silvio J. Pacifico

The race for a new Bronx councilmember is on, with 10 candidates seeking the coveted open seat in District 17.

On Wednesday, January 27, the job-seekers participated in a debate-like forum hosted by non-profit community development corporation, Nos Quedamos, who advocates for the south Bronx.

The winner of the special election will complete the remainder of the term, which ends December 31, 2017, of Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo, who stepped down from her position to take a high-paying job with the non-profit Acacia.

The debate began at 6 p.m. at Pregones Theater and was streamed live by Bronxnet.

Viewing parties were arranged throughout the area for the overflow of residents who wanted to attend the event, but couldn’t due to capacity limitations.

Jessica Clemente, president and chief executive officer at Nos Quedamos spearheaded the task of increasing citizen awareness and involvement by creating this forum with the help of her team.

The fact that this void in leadership comes at a time when challenges facing the community are at an all-time high motivated Clemente even more.

“This forum is basically so the community can get to know the candidates better, and be informed about who they are voting for,” said Clemente, “At a time when issues like housing, gentrification, and high levels of poverty in the district are so serious, we want to hear directly from the people who want to represent us.”

The forum was moderated by Erin Clarke, reporter for NY1, who said she was happy to be part of an event introducing the community to the men and women who may become their next council person.

“This opportunity for residents to pick new leadership has excited a lot of people.. who have been calling and pushing for change for a long time,” said Clarke, as she prepped for the forum.

Upon arrival candidates selected numbers at random, which corresponded to a set of questions, ensuring fairness at the debate. “The point of this [debate] is not to ‘get’ people,” said Clemente, “It’s to inform.”

All the candidates appeared at the forum, and responded to questions from panelists Madeline Anthony, Bronx Times Reporter staff writer, Stevan Lynn, Bronx Chronicle, Eddie Small, DNAinfo, and Sharon Nelson, from the National Women’s Political Caucus.

Questions ranged from health care to education, but the core focus was on community development and land use, with one real question at the heart – ‘How do you define predatory development, and how will our community be protected’.

In regards to how this will effect planning of neighborhoods, preservation, and the many developments underway in the area, this issue is of utmost concern to residents.

Candidates appeared to be on the same page with respect to many issues – gentrification (preserve the south Bronx, but don’t oppose all development), education (give our children more), parks (very important), but it wasn’t all polite.

When the topic turned to political corruption, the crowd made their opinions known as each candidate declared their stance on the issue – cheering and booing depending on the answer…and the candidate.

Julio Pabon, Helen Foreman-Hines, and Elliot Quinones were outspoken about corruption in the Bronx Democratic party, each reiterating that the party has failed the community for years.

“You are never alone if you are with your community,” said Amanda Septimo, after declaring that she would be more than willing to take unpopular stances within the party if that meant getting things accomplished.

The special election for District 17 will take place Tuesday, February 23.

The council district includes Longwood, Hunts Point, Crotona Park, Concourse, Concourse Village, Melrose, Morrisania, Mott Haven, North Brother Island, Parkchester, Port Morris, and Soundview.

This debate can be viewed online at Bronxnet.com.

Madeline Anthony and Steven Lynn asked the questions.
Silvio J. Pacifico