One Urban Salon Down and One DA Race to Go
“What do you want in Philly’s next District Attorney (DA)?”
It was the first question that kicked off a night of passionate, policy-driven conversation at Philly Set Go’s first Urban Salon this past Tuesday, hosted at the Workshop at Bok in South Philadelphia. And as citizens of all ages and diverse backgrounds enjoyed beer and Pat’s Cheesesteaks, they called out ideas for qualities that matter to them in the next DA candidates while Philly Set Go board members recorded the responses on a chalkboard.
Many of the responses centered on the themes of:
1. Transparency and integrity in office;
2. Providing more people with second chances;
3. Prosecutorial discretion and sentencing;
4. Taking the time to get a pulse on the city and its needs;
5. Ensuring more people have access to fair and equal trials, regardless of their zip codes, and;
6. Looking at issues through multi-faceted lenses, like through the perspective of public health.
Tom Wyatt, former candidate for City Council and South Philly resident, moderated the discussion for the 100+ community members in attendance from across the city.
“This is a model for what is possible – entrepreneurship, innovation, taking something broken and turning it into something new,” said Wyatt.
As Wyatt fielded questions and opinions from the group, the conversation moved around issues of mass incarceration and potential solutions to reintegrating men and women back into society –– from workforce development in prisons to opportunities in trade schools.
But as the dialogue continued and ideas covered the chalkboard from top to bottom, Wyatt posed a new question: “Does everyone know what the DA’s role is supposed to be?”
This is a major issue, not just among millennial voters, but also for Philadelphia voters as a whole. Though our nation will inaugurate a new president this coming January, 2017 is an off-year for Philly elections, which means many Philadelphians – including millennials – won’t vote.
But, every election is an important one –– especially those that impact community members at the local level.
So, what does the DA’s office do? According to the City website, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office “provides a voice for victims of crime and protects the community through zealous, ethical and effective investigations and prosecutions.”
To break it down, the DA’s office in Philadelphia is organized into six divisions: Executive/Administration, Trials, Investigations, Juvenile, Law, and Special Operations. The DA manages approximately 600 individuals – lawyers, detectives, and other support staff – who communicate between the state and attorney general. They handle about 75,000 cases per year. In addition, the DA’s crime prevention initiatives range from the Youth Aid Panel diversion program to the Gun Violence Task Force.
It was a small yet meaningful way to bridge the information gap and to help spread important information about the responsibilities of our future DA.
When we come together as a community to share knowledge and raise our voices, we can inform and energize more voters and even change the outcome of an election.
At the close of the event, Wyatt asked participants to raise their hands if they plan to vote after having participated in Philly Set Go’s Urban Salon. The room was full of open palms – a pledge to learn more, get connected, and make a difference.
Want to bring Philly Set Go’s next Urban Salon to your neighborhood? Let us know! [linked].
Thank you to everyone who joined us –– including Philly Set Go followers, new supporters, members of the press, candidates for elected office, and elected officials.
Special thanks to Tom Wyatt, Pat’s Cheesesteaks, and all other supporters and board members who donated resources to help make this evening a success.
Follow the evening's Tweets: #urbansalonphl.