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The Howl 2/23

Need help? Let us know. Email: Phone: 215-854-5855

Dear reader,

Welcome to the first City Howl newsletter. This is a newsletter for people who care about their neighborhood and quality-of-life issues, whether you're a block captain, a civic association member, or the guy who routinely cleans up his block just because.

Every week, we publish a column in the Daily News called the "Help Desk" that tries to fix neighborhood problems the city seems to ignore. We've gotten sinkholes filled, vacant lots cleaned up, abandoned vehicles towed and lots more, often with the help of our partners at Fox29 and WHYY's Newsworks.

In this letter, we'll catch you up on what we've been working on lately, offer tips on how to get problems fixed and help connect you with other community-minded people in Philadelphia.

We're good listeners, too: Let us know if you're dealing with a problem you'd like us to look into. Also let us know what you think of the newsletter and if there's something else you'd like to see in this space. Thanks for reading.

Juliana Reyes

If you're looking for help or answers regarding a city service issue, call me anytime at 215-854-5855 or email

City Howl is part of It's Our Money, a project of the Daily News and WHYY funded by the William Penn Foundation, that keeps tabs on where your taxpayer dollars are going.

What's bugging you?

Here are some problems we've been hearing about. Have you noticed similar issues in your neighborhood? Let us know at or 215-854-5855:

- Ambulances idling with no one in the driver's seat
- Hazardous buildings were destroyed by fires, but haven't been torn down.
- Broken benches in parks.



Here's a look at the kinds of problems we try to fix.

A Yard Eats Up a Sidewalk. One family extended its yard by fencing off the sidewalk next to its house. When neighbors called the city, nothing happened. We got the city to ticket the property owners and order the fence to be taken down.

What to Do When Your Water Gets Mysteriously Turned Off. One Sunday, a whole block mysteriously got its water shut off without any notice from the city. We got information on what you can do if this happens to you.

In Need of a Cop? Maybe You Could Rent One. Readers wondered about the cop that's always stationed in the Apple Store and TD Banks. We explained the Philly phenomenon of cops-for-hire.

(Play)Ground Zero: Where Can Dogs Run? Dog-owners in Point Breeze were surprised when a "No Dogs Allowed" sign went up in their neighborhood park. They couldn't get a straight answer from the city about it's dog policy, so we got answers for them.

Read more Help Desk columns here.

Good ideas from neighbors

This month: The East Falls Community Council

Almost two years ago, East Falls resident Steve Bell got some new neighbors: five Philadelphia University students. Then came the parties -- on weekends late at night, and even on weeknights. For Bell, a Spanish professor at Temple University, the noise was a problem.

There were other issues, too: litter, fistfights, vandalism. East Falls Community Council executive vice president Meg Greenfield says college kids can often damage the community.

"We've had neighbors leave because they couldn't deal with this kind of behavior," Greenfield says.

So, about two years ago, the EFCC reached out to Philadelphia University's Dean of Students, Mark Govoni, and 39th District Police Captain at the time, Stephen Glenn, to talk about the problem.

"The response was tremendous," says neighbor Helen LaRue.

Govoni and Glenn welcomed the opportunity to meet and discuss what the residents were going through. Govoni actually hosted the meeting at his house, and then made behavior in the community an issue with his students.

Today, the meetings continue quarterly. LaRue says she thinks many of the student behavior problems have been resolved.

The lesson? Try to partner with institutions to get problems solved.

Tip: Create a Resource List

Tom Sauerman, President of EFCC, created a resource list for neighbors, loaded with numbers to call and advice on how to tackle neighborhood problems. Some tips include: Post on SeeClickFix (what EFCC executive vice president Meg Greenfield calls "a public shaming site"), call the 39th District's Community Relations Officers and keep detailed records of problems. He sent it out with the Fallser, East Falls' community paper, so it would reach every home in the neighborhood. He also reaches out to people through SeeClickFix, directing any East Falls complaints to the resource list.

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