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2014 Board Election FAQs & Candidates' Statements

posted Nov 7, 2014, 7:36 AM by Wash West   [ updated Nov 9, 2014, 6:25 PM ]
Next Tuesday, November 11th,  WSWCA members in good standing and present at the board meeting will have the privilege of voting to elect five people to the board of directors (each membership is entitled to one vote). The meeting will take place on Tuesday, November 11, at 7pm at Jefferson Alumni Hall, (1020 Locust Street) Room 207.

November 11, 2014 General Meeting

Board Member Election –

Election Procedure and Answers to Frequently Asked Questions 

At the general meeting on November 11, an election will be conducted to fill five expired board seats.  WSWCA members in good standing and present at the board meeting will have the privilege of voting to elect five people to the board of directors.

Four current board members are running for reelection:  Judy Applebaum, Meg Berlin, Justine Haemmerli, and Rick Spitzborg.

Four individuals who are not currently Civic Association board members are seeking election:  Roger Berlin, Roneil Jackson, Rishi Madhok, and Bob Sher.

Membership Committee Chair Andrew Freedman will determine eligibility to vote from a list of current members.  You must be a member in good standing to be eligible to vote. People wishing to join after November 10 must bring their membership payment in cash to ensure the orderly procedure of the vote.  Mr. Freedman will resolve all issues related to membership at his sole discretion.

Each candidate will have two minutes to make a statement.

Following the candidate statements, the board will allow 15 minutes total for questions for the candidates, to be moderated by board secretary Robert Taylor.  Questions must be civil and respectful.

Ballots will be distributed to members.  The ballots will allow for members to vote for up to five people.

The ballots will be collected and distributed to board members Adam Klein, Judy Ron, and Robert Taylor.  These three individuals will count the votes.  Mr. Taylor will announce the number of votes received by each candidate.  The top five vote getters will be elected.  A run off will be conducted in the event of a tie.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who is eligible to vote during the November 11 election?
A: Members of the Washington Square West Civic Association are eligible to vote.

Q: Do my spouse and I each get to vote or is it one vote per family/household?
A: One vote will be permitted for household memberships.

Q: I have a household membership, and a business membership. Can I vote twice?
A: No person may vote more than once. However, another representative, who has been authorized to do so in writing, other than a household member, may vote on behalf of the business.

Q: I own several businesses and have obtained several business memberships. Can I vote on behalf of each business?
A: No. No individual may cast more than one vote. However, another authorized representative, who has been authorized to do so in writing, may vote on behalf of the business.

Q: Some members have indicated that they have other commitments on November 11 but still want to vote, having already read the candidate statements. They would like to be able to cast their votes and leave the meeting without sitting through all the procedural issues and listening to the candidates read their statements in person. Can they turn in their ballot at the beginning of the meeting and leave?
A: No. The vote will not be conducted until after the candidates have an opportunity to make in-person statements, and the community will be given the opportunity to ask a limited number of questions of the candidates.

Q: Can I become a member on November 11th if I am not currently a member, or renew my membership if it is not current? 
A: We will try to reasonably process new memberships, but the meeting begins at 7:00, and as a volunteer organization, our resources are limited. If you intend to vote on November 11, you should get your membership resolved as soon as possible with Andrew Freedman, who can be reached at affromwashwest@gmail.com. People wishing to join after November 10 must bring their membership payment in cash to ensure the orderly procedure of the vote. In regard to “new residence” memberships, people have to list their prior address and the date they moved to the new address. Mr. Freedman will resolve all issues related to membership at his sole discretion.

Q: Will the ballots be tabulated during the meeting in a public forum and the results announced?
A: Yes.

Q: I am unable to attend the meeting on November 11. Can I vote by proxy?
A: No. You must attend the meeting on November 11 in order to be able to cast a vote.


The members running for a three year term are as follows:



Judith Kaplow Applebaum (incumbent)

In 1998 I moved to Washington Square West and joined the Civic shortly after.  I served as secretary for a year and president for nine years.   As president I secured the funds to allow the initial lighting study of Wash West to be completed.  Working with the Mayor, the councilman, our senator and the police, I secured the funds necessary to install the pedestrian friendly lighting you see in our neighborhood.  In addition to the lighting effort, I began the sidewalk cleaning that continues to this day.

I have formed positive working relationships with our elected officials as well as the heads of various city departments and their staffs. These relationships allowed me to work with the councilman, the legal department and Licenses and Inspections to realize the redevelopment of the Oddfellows building and more recently the Lincoln, where I represented the neighborhood during the many court hearings.  I organized our residents when parts of Wash West flooded, held public meetings and worked with the Water Department to resolve the problems that created the flooding.

Knowing how important the introduction of the AVI real estate tax system would be to our community I served on a coalition of civic associations. Our goal was to educate the council members on the impact the new system would have on our residents and to try to legislate as fair a system as possible with protections for our vulnerable residents.  This required many hours of meetings with the OPA, members of council as well as testifying in front of city council and organizing community meetings on the AVI.

In addition to the coalition, I represented the neighborhood on the Central District Plan and the planning commission’s study of Market East as well as giving input to the Zoning Code Reform Commission. I have built and maintain positive working relationships with the William Way Community Center and the Mazzoni Center.

During my entire tenure on the board I have been a member of the zoning/governmental committee, serving for the last three years as chair of governmental affairs and continue to serve as the WSWCA rep to the Crosstown Coalition where I am on the Zoning/Land Use committee and the Tax and Finance Committee.  Both committees purpose is to monitor and impact legislation and city ordinances which will affect the lives of our residents and businesses.

I am running once more for the Board of Directors so that I can continue to serve the community that I have called home for the past 16 years, working on already existing projects and  initiating new projects that will allow our community to continue to thrive.



Meg Berlin (incumbent)

The importance of the WSWCA is the ability to serve all of the residents and businesses in our neighborhood.  Openness and transparency are required to earn the trust and confidence of our neighbors, so that the WSWCA can be as effective as possible.

As President this year, I’ve established new relationships with other community groups who had not been in contact with WSWCA, so that we are now able to work together for the same goals. I’ve created a Policy Committee, so that we will have published guidelines, more practical than the bylaws, for how we conduct ourselves. I’ve opened up the board meetings to allow for more community input than ever before.  We’ve sent out a survey to see who wants to participate and how. We’re having a community meeting for the express purpose of engaging our stakeholders.  As Membership Chair of the WSWCA (2011-12), I worked successfully with my committee to double the number of members of the WSWCA to assure that they felt they had a stake in the decisions made by the board.  People and businesses who had dropped out previously came back to support the Civic Association, believing that their voices would be heard.

I oppose the holding of closed meetings, and believe that when our members give us their money in dues and contributions, they have the right to know what their elected board members are proposing. I believe that on a matter involving the expenditure of a large and previously unplanned sum of money, we need to move more deliberately and cautiously.  Approving unbudgeted WSWCA funds to a project without allowing for deliberation and public comment is something I strenuously oppose.  I want to continue on the board to ensure openness and transparency, so that decisions the board makes are ones which are supported by our community.   You should be able to know that board members truly want to hear from you, and will listen respectfully to you—even if they don’t agree with you.  I believe that if the public trusts and approves of us, our membership will grow, and we will be financially successful. This success will allow us to continue, improve and initiate new programs for the benefit of our community.



Justine Haemmerli (incumbent)

My name is Justine Haemmerli, and I have been a member of the WSWCA board since January 2013. In that time I have worked to bring equanimity, respect, commitment to our mission, innovative programming that responds to the community's needs and wants, and camaraderie to my work. I have strived to be in service to our community and organization however I best could; in addition to my board service, I served on the Events Committee; I was the Marketing Committee Chair; I edited the Post, and the E-Post; I founded and chair the Young Friends Committee; and I participated in the Membership Committee. Through these experiences, I came to learn what I could best offer the Civic Association: a passion for convening neighbors; creating warm, welcoming events; developing entry points for residents and members to become involved in the Civic in meaningful, sustainable ways; working to create collaborations, specifically with other non-profit and social service institutions in our neighborhood.

My focus for the past year has been to build the WSWCA's connection with young members. To this end, I have tabled at the UArts Student Activities Fair, partnered with Young Involved Philadelphia to co-host happy hours for new Philadelphians living in our neighborhood, as well as represented the Civic Association annually at the citywide InLiquid Young Friends event. Through the WSWCA Young Friends group, I have helped to organize Witches & Woofs, an annual Halloween event that has raised over $1200 to support our local shelter, Morris Animal Refuge; I coordinated a service day that renovated the intake room of Mercy Hospice, used by hundreds of homeless women & children each year; as well as organizing social events for our members to help foster friendships within our neighborhood.

In recent months, I have become increasingly alarmed by the ways in which the WSWCA board is fragmented -- both internally, and externally. Board members do not work as a cohesive team, and neighbors do not feel they are on the same page as the board. As a board member, often I find that much gets in the way of our work towards bringing the WSWCA's mission fully to life - personal arguments, animosity, and a lack of systems and policies have stood out most notably of late. A community organization is no place for ego, personal politics, or psychodrama. It is a place for collaboration, service, respect, innovation, and stewardship. As a board member, I have remained committed to these principals, and I hope to continue to work to represent and manifest these values through my continued tenure on the board.

There are many programs I am interested in exploring with my community and neighbors, which are successful in other nearby Civic Associations - such as forming an Education Committee, creating programming around the arts, and creating a Community Impact committee that provides scholarships/microgrants, organizes resource drives, etc.. The only reasons that Wash West does not enjoy these same resources as other adjacent neighborhoods, are that we think they are not possible; 
we allocate resources to other projects arbitrarily and/or based on somewhat opaque reasons; or we are reluctant to try new things. It is my intention, if I am elected to continue to serve as a WSWCA board member, to continue trying to listen to my neighbors and pushing the Civic to innovate, in these ways and others which I look forward to learning about and hearing from our constituency, in order to truly bring our mission to life.



Rick Spitzborg (incumbent)

I have been a resident of Wash West for 19 years and a board member of the Civic Association for the past 5 years.

My tenure on the board has enabled me to make a contribution to our community, particularly in the areas of public horticulture and environmental stewardship. As chair of the Greening Committee I have brought about several changes that are a benefit to our neighborhood.

In 2011 I revitalized the Civic’s moribund Tree Tenders Group. In just 4 years there has been a significant impact on restoring our tree canopy - more than 60 new trees have been planted. Thank you to the many neighbors who volunteered, with shovel in hand, to plant.

Our 3 community gardens are among Wash West’s greatest assets. Not only do they provide an opportunity for about 120 residents to garden, they also give us green, open spaces in an otherwise densely developed area. So my goal has always been to protect and preserve the properties on which we garden from commercial development. And this year the goal was achieved: the Department of Parks and Recreation has started to convey these parcels into their land inventory. I am proud to have shepherded that process.

Two years ago I recommended a graffiti abatement program for Wash West, which the board approved and I continue to manage. The effect is clearly visible; today there is significantly less graffiti on public spaces throughout the neighborhood.

I have also bolstered the Association’s fund raising efforts. Since I joined the board I have been the catalyst for about $20,000 in donations, from business, foundations and individual giving.

Though much has been accomplished there is more that can be done. So I am seeking another term as board member and hope that you will give me the opportunity to continue serving Wash West.



Roger Berlin

The Civic Association is important to improving life in our community. I am running for a seat on the board of directors to help make the board more effective through data driven decision making, transparency, inclusion of the community and a reaffirmation that the basis of the association is voluntarism not coercion, a fact illustrated by the rejection of the Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) proposal during this year. 

I want to begin by discussing my qualifications, and then some specific substantive proposals that I will work with the board to implement, if elected.

I am a physician scientist trained at Cornell and Stanford with business training from Harvard. I have led large R&D organizations where the ability to marshal and analyze data to make informed decisions was critical as was the ability to work with diverse constituencies. I have served on the board of directors of two companies, one publicly traded and the other private. I served on the non-profit board of BioNJ, the biotechnology industry organization. I have served on multiple advisory boards. Over the past three years, I have attended board meetings of the civic association, participated in its activities and spoken in public on key issues.

I have several specific substantive proposals intended to involve and inform the community and to improve board decision making. All should be incorporated into the by-laws of the organization, if agreement is reached on their implementation. Even if I am not elected to serve on the board, I hope the membership of the organization will consider supporting these proposals.

Voluntary organizations, such as the Civic Association, derive support only when their projects mirror the interests of their constituencies and there is trust and engagement. Failing to achieve commitment on a voluntary basis is not an excuse to attempt to impose a coercive governmental organization such as the NID. The organization’s by-laws should explicitly state that it opposes the creation of a NID.

All board and committee meetings should be open to the public, announced in advance and such announcement should include an agenda with sufficient specificity to inform the public as to the issue.  Appropriate AV equipment and room layout should be employed so that the community can see and hear the presentations and discussions. 

All substantive issues coming before the board should require a first and second reading. To make community input meaningful and so that the board is operating from fact, not opinion, all information relating to the agenda item should be posted electronically one week before the meeting. Included should be all pertinent items such as budgets, letters from other entities, proposals etc. Failure to provide this information should lead to an automatic deferral of the item.

All committee meetings should follow the same procedures for the electronic availability of data as I’ve discussed above. Committee reports to the board should be available electronically prior to each board meeting. 

Given that the Civic Association represents only a small fraction of the residents of the neighborhood, and that the board has been elected by a very small number of the members, the organization and especially the board should exercise extreme humility in not presuming that they know what the community wants. My proposals are designed to enforce that humility by providing the opportunity to the board and the community to make sure there is alignment of interests and direction. 

If elected, I look forward to working with the community, the membership and the other board members to make the community an even better place to live.



Roneil “Ron” Jackson

I served as a City Year Corps Member at Overbrook High School in West Philadelphia. My job was to personally provide academic & leadership skills for over a dozen students. I attended class with my students daily and provided after-school programming in order to keep my students safe and instill positive values including work ethic and perseverance. Many of my students did not have a stable place to live, food to eat or even family to care for them. This experience played a major role in my desire to root myself in Philadelphia and reach out to the Washington Square Civic Association in order to continue on with my mission of community service, development and foster genuine partnerships with my fellow neighbors. 

As a member of the board. I’d bring an abundance of community service, mentorship and voter outreach experience along with a unique perspective of our community, a passion for service and willingness to collaborate with all perspectives on issues that matter to the board and community members of Washington Square West. I am interested in being involved with several aspects of the Washington Square Civic Association including Public Safety committee, Young Friends committee, Government Affairs Committee and also the Development committee. However, I’d like to assist the Civic in any and all aspects of the Association as needed. Also, I am fully aware and respect that the Washington Square West Civic Association is a nonpartisan entity and despite my extensive political involvement in Democratic Party campaigns I will uphold all standards of board members according to the bylaws of the Washington Square Civic Association.

Thank you for considering my request for membership on the board for the Washington Square West Civic Association. I feel fortunate to be a resident of such an incredible neighborhood with neighbors who’re truly caring of their community. I tell my wife, friends, and colleagues that Philadelphia to me is the best place for those who are truly interested in service. As we grow and age deeper into adulthood and further into our careers, Philadelphia and Washington Square West is also continually growing. We are truly a part of an organic neighborhood rooted in proud American history and incredible promise. We have the unique opportunity of translating promise into an improved Washington Square West for our future and our children’s future.



Rishi Madhok

My name is Rishi Madhok, and I am a physician, father, and proud homeowner in this community. As an Emergency Medicine physician and an informatics expert, I see our community through an extraordinarily unique lens. My decisions as a physician concurrently take into account the patient’s wellbeing and the evidence that supports such choices. In my opinion, being a Board member is not unlike being a physician. A board member must take the community’s wellbeing in consideration while assessing what evidence and data exist for the issues we confront. These are qualities I hope to bring to the Washington Square West Civic Association.  

Patients presenting to an emergency department not only come for medical needs; rather, their needs frequently represent a divide in our community. I hope to draw from this experience in order to provide for my community, and I envision the Washington Square West Civic Association as a vehicle to do so. Not only do I hope to bring a health and wellness perspective to our community, I also hope to improve communication between the community and the Board through my technological expertise.

The WSWCA has done a wonderful job in the beautification and maintenance of our neighborhood. However, a void which currently exists is the lack of focus on health and wellness within our community. Simple interventions, such has health maintenance promotion and wellness fairs are low cost and very high yield in keeping the members of Washington Square West in touch with their health. With the support of our many great community businesses, I would like to set up monthly fitness sessions and activities that would promote a healthy lifestyle and improve community relations. We could extend the Board’s focus on health by adding a health and wellness section to the E-Post, as well.

To further our efforts in crime reduction, I would also like to work more closely with the Philadelphia police department in order to reduce drug sales and use within our neighborhood. It devastates me when illicit drugs obtained by my patients come from within our neighborhood and even more disappointing to witness firsthand the sales of drugs within in our neighborhood, specifically nearby our community’s schools. Needless to say, illicit drug use and sales invite greater crime into our neighborhood. This is a trend we should actively combat. Furthermore, the practice of selling tobacco products and alcohol to minors by local business should not be tolerated.

The Civic Association and the Board exist to represent the interests of the community. In light of this, we must improve our communication with our constituents. Our meetings and agenda need to reach beyond the walls of our monthly meeting. I am experienced in arranging web meetings within the hospital, and I propose that we improve public awareness of our activities through webcasts of both our community and board meetings. In addition, I hope to bring my social media expertise to the Board and community by using it as a tool to improve the dissemination of information. We can improve how we leverage social media for fighting crime in our neighborhood.

As a homeowner, a professional, and most importantly a new father, the prosperity and safety of our community are paramount. The WSWCA provides a tremendous service but has much more potential. I would be honored to have the opportunity to support its current efforts as well as expand future endeavors.



Robert B. Sher, Jr.

I am a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Science Economics and Bachelor of Arts in English. I have been a part time resident of the Wash West community since 1996 and a full time resident since 2008. I have a strong interest in neighborhood development, experience in community real estate development and knowledge of zoning and building code issues. As many of you know I have taken an active interest in the Civic Association and have attended most of the monthly Board Meetings and Zoning Committee meetings for the past year, as well as many other Civic Association sponsored meetings and events. In the past year when the NID (Neighborhood Improvement District) was being proposed I gathered information from a variety of official public sources and created a website (www.washwestnid.info) to provide additional information to the community so that the community could make an informed decision regarding NIDs in general and specifically the proposed Wash West NID. As a result of the information I reviewed I strongly opposed the proposal to create a NID in the neighborhood due to issues of accountability and governance. During that time I spoke with many neighbors in the community who appreciated the additional information being made available for their consideration . I am interested in further increasing my level of community participation by joining the Civic's Board of Directors to represent the residents of the Wash West Community and to help continue the Civic's work in maintaining and improving the Wash West neighborhood. I am committed to working with all Board Members in a collaborative manner and representing the concerns of the community with respect to neighborhood issues. 

Thank you for your consideration.