Candidate Seth Anderson-Oberman, moderate Sam Searles, and Councilperson Cindy Bass at Tuesday’s debate. (GIH | Rasheed Ajamu)

Councilwoman Cindy Bass and challenger Seth Anderson-Oberman shared their stances on hot-topic issues in the last 8th District city council debate, hosted by G-Town Radio and Germantown Info Hub, ahead of primaries next week. 

WHYY’s Sam Searles moderated the forum while the candidates covered topics such as affordable housing, gun violence prevention, and small businesses, as well as strengthening investments in communities through youth-centered programs and public spaces. 

Attendees were split between entrusting Bass for another term because of her political experience and credentials or giving a new labor organizing candidate, Anderson-Oberman, an opportunity to represent the community. 

Cynthia Devoe, of Germantown, a self-employed childcare provider, is concerned about the growing affordable housing crisis, especially among senior citizens in her neighborhood. 

“They’re allowing them to destroy the homes that we are living in, and no one’s coming out and doing anything about it,” says Devoe. “And I wanna know why.” 

Community members in attendance were worried about the rapid changes happening in Germantown, with crime and affordable housing being their biggest concerns. 

“​​You know, it’s making me want to move to Jersey,” said Gary Hines, 67, of Germantown,  “I won’t do it, but I’m thinking about it, you know.” 

The debate also happened a day after a canvasser for the progressive political group OnePA was fatally shot in East Germantown. Both candidates agree that divestment from the city in neighborhoods most affected by gun violence remains a significant factor in the epidemic. Both cited investment in youth programming. 

When discussing investing in communities, Anderson-Oberman referenced what urban developers call the“15-minute-city”, a concept in which grocery stores, daily necessities, and local businesses are within a 15-minute walking distance from residents’ homes. His plan includes well-lit business corridors and investment in outdoor spaces. 

Bass said the city’s surplus of funds at the end of the year could produce more affordable units, referencing her work with the Philadelphia Housing Authority and the Philadelphia Industrial Corporation. Bass also stressed the importance of community feedback for development that includes more than just homeowners, citing the renovation of Maplewood Mall that started in 2019. 

When asked about their four-year plans for the 8th district, Bass’ focus includes more development opportunities for local African American and Latino developers.  Oberman-Anderson’s four-year plan includes fully funded public schools and recreation centers and providing green job opportunities. 

In their closing remarks, Bass emphasized her local roots and experience. 

“I show up,” said Bass. “My opponent has not shown up. When we were working to keep Germantown High School open, I could tell you who was there, and I could tell you who wasn’t. I show up in rooms where I’m wanted and one’s I’m not.”

In his closing remarks, Anderson-Oberman responded to Bass by pointing out vacant community spaces. 

“You say you have experience, you’ve tallied yourself as the candidate who gets things done, yet we YWCA and Town Hall are still sitting vacant.”

Rep. Chris Rabb (D-PA), who recruited Anderson-Oberman to run against Bass, showed his support for the Anderson-Oberman campaign. Rabb noted his support of a challenger instead of an incumbent is novel in politics. 

“Even if we don’t like each other, even if we don’t agree with all issues, we have to come together, put together our differences, and come together,” says Rabb. “But, she crossed the line. She crossed the line, and she’s let the people down. Myself included, I’m a voter. I’m a constituent and resident, and we deserve better.”