Dennis M. O’Brien is Councilman-At-Large for the City of Philadelphia. He is a lifelong Philadelphian, public servant and tireless advocate for justice, public safety and individuals with disabilities. Since joining City Council in 2012, Councilman O’Brien has passed legislation and moved initiatives to make
Philadelphia a better and safer place to live, work and visit.
In a response to the 2012 York Street fire that killed two fire fighters, Councilman O’Brien introduced and passed legislation that established a protocol to inventory, inspect, secure, mark, and track large vacant commercial and industrial properties. This proven approach will save lives and neighborhoods.
In 2014, Councilman O’Brien introduced and passed a legislative package, including adoption of national standards, to protect the constitutional rights for abused and neglected children and litigants in the criminal justice system. He was also awarded a U.S. Department of Justice grant for a cursory study of the City’s delivery of indigent legal services. In early 2015, the 6th Amendment Center released their Status Report Right to Counsel Services in Philadelphia, which states intensive analysis is needed to better understand the system’s complex and systemic problems. Councilman O’Brien is in agreement and is pursuing funding for a comprehensive study to guide development of an appropriate and constitutionally sound indigent counsel model for the city.
Last year, Councilman O’Brien introduced and passed landmark fraud protection legislation in the area of immigration assistance services. This measure gives consumers confidence, defines allowable and prohibited acts and establishes penalties for those committing fraud. It gives clarity about how immigration services should be handled, promotes ethical practices and holds service providers accountable.
Councilman O’Brien introduced and passed legislation that identifies organics composting and anaerobic digestion as forms of recycling. It tightens up and simplifies the law as it applies to dumpsters. This measure, which was enacted in March, gives a “green” financial incentive to food businesses choosing to recycle organics and it promotes the use of modern waste management methods while continuing to safeguard against unsanitary food waste disposal.
Councilman O’Brien serves as the Chair of the Committee on Disabilities and Individuals with Special Needs and has advanced some meaningful issues. Earlier this year, the committee examined the state of education, career development and housing for people with physical, psychiatric, sensory, intellectual and developmental disabilities in a series of hearings.
In 2014, he launched the Philadelphia Autism Project and empowered a task force of 135 stakeholders to examine the quality and access to services for individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families. This effort represents the first of its kind at the municipal level. In February, the task force published a strategic plan to streamline connections to critical services. Implementation is underway, including an on-line resource hub and an under-served community outreach partnership with the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Councilman O’Brien also passed legislation to remove the words “mental retardation” from The Philadelphia Code and replace it with the more appropriate term of “intellectual disability.” This new language recognizes and celebrates the abilities of those individuals with intellectual disabilities.
In January, Councilman O’Brien introduced a bill to establish a policy that requires the posting of missing and endangered person alerts on all City websites and social media sites. By utilizing already existing technology the City can efficiently and effectively circulate life saving information at no additional cost to the city.
In addition, Councilman O’Brien has attacked the problem of tax delinquency, investigated state probation and parole practices in the city, advocated for an equitable contract and fair workplace practices for city firefighters, continues to seek the expansion of the focused deterrence violent crime reduction strategy and worked with the Phillies to make Citizens Bank Park the nation’s first autism friendly ballpark.
Prior to serving in City Council, he served as a State Representative for more than 30 years. During the 2007-2008 legislative session, he was elected by his peers to serve as Speaker of the House. Serving as the first ever minority party Speaker in Pennsylvania’s history, he passed meaningful government and criminal justice reforms and enacted the state’s first-ever Autism insurance legislation.