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One day before his first debate with incumbent U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pa. Senate primaries, U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak reached out to West Philadelphia residents through a rally at 40th and Walnut streets Friday.

Although at the event, held in front of local restaurant Crown Fried Chicken, Sestak focused on economic concerns for local businesses, he also spoke on issues regarding Penn students.

“I think [students are] a little disappointed with politicians,” Sestak said, explaining students’ general decline in interest with the 2010 election versus 2008.

“A lot of Americans lost their trust with that healthcare process where special interest prevailed … My take is it’s understandable why not just students but others are saying ‘wait a minute,’” Sestak said.

He also said he was “impressed” with Penn’s political student group Students for Sestak, explaining that their campaign efforts, which have recently included off-campus campaigning, are mostly self-directed.

“We invite them to events but they’re reaching out on their own and generating things,” Sestak said.

An attendee at the event raised concerns about the existing tension between Penn and neighboring West Philadelphia residents. “For the last 30 or 40 years, the University of Penn has been buying up all the properties out here. And it’s a serious problem … They expand, and their police are running the neighbors off,” a local resident said.

Sestak responded by commending Penn for its involvement in West Philadelphia in the last decade, but brought up that “if you’re buying all the property, where are people going?”

“We don’t want to move,” affirmed the resident, adding that Penn’s expansion drives up property prices and reduces job opportunity.

Sestak said he later got the man’s contact information in hopes of opening a line of communication.

“We’ve been aware … there is tension between the University expanding and trying to do what’s right for the community. But also residents there don’t have the same opportunities that some of the students have, so there can be miscommunication between the two," Sestak said. "I think if you get groups to sit down and work with one another you can resolve some of the issues and tension.”

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