WEEKLY REPORT: ONE MONTH INTO THE NEW TERM, COUNCILMEMBERS DIVE DEEPER INTO PUBLIC SAFETY, HOUSING, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

In Allan Domb, Blondell Reynolds Brown, Council News, Curtis Jones, Jr., Darrell L. Clarke, Derek Green, Isaiah Thomas, Jamie Gauthier, Kendra Brooks, Kenyatta Johnson, Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez, Mark Squilla, News, William K. Greenlee by PHL Council

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Appeals Court Upholds Council Legislation on Wage Equity

In an important ruling with national implications, a federal appeals court has reinstated a Philadelphia law that prohibits private employers from asking prospective employees their salary history – a reform initiated by City Council and intended to narrow the pay gap between women and people of color and their white counterparts in the workplace.

The ruling Thursday, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, upholds the constitutionality of the city’s Wage Equity Ordinance, which passed Council unanimously in 2016 and was signed into law by Mayor Kenney in 2017. The law has been subjected to a lengthy court challenge since its passage by the Philadelphia business community, led by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

The 67-page decision was authored by Circuit Court Judge Theodore McKee, writing for a three-judge panel. Judge McKee’s decision overturned a lower federal court ruling that held the city could not enforce the law’s ban on salary history questions on First Amendment grounds. Today’s decision overturned that earlier ruling, and validated the city law.

Reaction to the federal court ruling was swift.

“I’m very happy with the decision,” said former Councilmember Bill Greenlee, primary sponsor of the Wage Equity law. “Council’s goal throughout this process has always been that people be paid fairly. I’m very hopeful that this legislation can have an impact in reducing the persistent racial and gender wage gap by taking salary history out of the equation.”

Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District), spoke for his former colleagues, Greenlee and Blondell Reynolds Brown, the bill’s co-sponsor, and said he was pleased that Council’s original decision to move forward on  the wage equity issue has been ratified by the highest level federal appellate court shy of the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I think this decision is good news for Philadelphia workers, and I would hope that the business community understands the importance of wage equity in our larger, shared conversation about job creation in our city,” Clarke said.

Mayor Kenney said, “I am pleased that the Court saw this our way. We enacted this law to help close the wage gap that unfairly affects women and people of color in Philadelphia. If employers were to keep asking job applicants for salary history, they would simply perpetuate the wage gap. Taking steps to ensure that women and people of color are paid the same as their white male counterparts will have significant social and economic benefits. It is, quite simply, the right thing to do.”

A New Police Commissioner on the Horizon, Gun Violence Remains on Councilmembers’ Minds

Just days before Philadelphia’s new, widely-anticipated Police Commissioner, Danielle Outlaw, begins her service here, the topics of gun violence and what to do to reduce and prevent it remained omnipresent on Council members’ minds.

With homicides this year at 38 –31 percent higher than one year ago at this time – and every few days bringing another violent incident that impacts the city and Council members personally, the topic remains front and center.

Councilmembers Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District), Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District) and Derek Green (At Large) all spoke from the floor about the ongoing impact of gun violence in Philadelphia neighborhoods.

Councilmember Johnson spoke movingly about a young man whom he knew personally, a chef in a local restaurant, who was shot and killed Wednesday.

Councilmember Jones referenced the bigger picture of violence in Philadelphia, noting that over 1400 Philadelphians were shot last year. “These are life-changing events,” he said, “every single one of them.”

Councilmember Green noted that Council’s Committee on Public Safety will hold a public hearing Tuesday night in West Philadelphia to discuss the efforts of the anti-gun violence and peer-to-peer mentoring initiative, #ManUpPHL.  The hearing will take place at Christian Stronghold Baptist Church, 4701 Lancaster Avenue, and will start at 6:00 p.m.

Councilmember Gauthier Raises Questions About PHA Plan to Sell West Philadelphia Housing Sites

Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, the 3rd District’s new representative in Council, gave a significant speech in which she publicly questioned the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s plans to sell two of three public housing high-rises in her district to private developers.

Councilmember Gauthier publicly expressed serious concerns with PHA’s plans to market and sell the West Park Apartments complex at 46th and Market Streets to private developers.

Gauthier said, “PHA is working with a national for-profit firm to market these properties and the sale announcement reads “profit-driven”, expressing no preference for equitable development, or any commitment to avoiding displacement of vulnerable communities. West Park is a place that families and individuals have called home for over 55 years, and hundreds of residents could be displaced as a result of this transaction.”

“Publicly-owned real estate assets like the West Park development are the biggest tool that we in government have to thwart the negative effects of gentrification in our neighborhoods. This is why I am so deeply troubled that this sale is being rushed through, with inadequate thought and care given to the possible repercussions.”

Last fall, PHA President and CEO Kelvin Jeremiah said publicly that all of the public housing units in the sale would be replaced either on site or in nearby areas. The one remaining tower at West Park will be for senior citizens, he said. Jeremiah emphasized that any and all West Park residents displaced by the redevelopment will have the right to return when the authority and private developer selected complete new townhouses on the site.

In Other Council Action This Week …

Council President Clarke had legislation introduced on his behalf to create a North Broad Street Business Improvement District.  He told reporters he is committed to seeing the economic progress occurring on South Broad Street – the Avenue of the Arts – come to North Broad Street as well. “It’s already happening,” he said, “with the revitalization of The Met and many other businesses on North Broad Street. But we need more, and the Business Improvement District will be a catalyst for that to happen.”

Councilmember Jones led a Council delegation on Wednesday that toured the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center in South Philadelphia, a multi-agency law enforcement collaborative effort involving the Philadelphia Police Department and a host of other agencies, including the F.B.I., Homeland Security and others.

Jones, joined by Councilmembers Isaiah Thomas and Kendra Brooks (At Large) and staff members from other offices, learned from Philadelphia police officials about the various surveillance technologies that law enforcement are using in efforts to proactively detect and prevent crime.

Councilmember Thomas is continuing a creative outreach campaign, #BlackBusinessCrawl, that is spotlighting African-American-owned businesses across the city in a social media campaign in conjunction with African-American History Month.

“I have always advocated for the growth of Black and brown entrepreneurship,” Thomas said. “As a member of Council, I believe it is equally important to lift up communities of color without legislation; by shining a light on admirable black-owned businesses, we are reminded of the economic and social contributions from the black community. I look forward to visiting every neighborhood in support of black-owned businesses and encourage all Philadelphians to learn more about their local black economy.”

Today, Councilmember Thomas will take his #BlackBusinessCrawl to a business in Council President Clarke’s district in North Philadelphia – Compro Tax, located at 1618 Cecil B. Moore Avenue. They’ll be there at 2:30 pm Friday.

Finally, Councilmember Brooks welcomed students from Temple’s Urban Youth Leadership Academy to attend the Stated Meeting in Chambers this week, something she plans to continue with other youth organizations for future Council sessions. “I think it’s important that we continue to allow young people to be  part of the civic process,” Brooks said on the Council floor after she introduced the students to her colleagues.

Inside the Rail …

Last evening, the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau and VISIT PHILADELPHIA hosted a reception welcoming the new City Council.  Julie Coker, President & CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, joined Jeff Guaracino, President and CEO of VISIT PHILADELPHIA, in welcoming Councilmembers, including Council President Clarke and members Maria Quiñones Sánchez, Kathy Gilmore Richardson, Mark Squilla, Allan Domb and Derek Green.

PCVB and VISIT Philadelphia support the city’s growing hospitality industry, which encompasses 74,300 jobs in Philadelphia.

The reception was bittersweet for Councilmembers, who recognized Julie Coker for her considerable contributions to Philadelphia. Ms. Coker will leave next month to take on a similar post and new challenges with the San Diego Tourism Authority. The Weekly Report wishes Julie all the best.

The next Stated Meeting of City Council will take place on Thursday, February 13th, at 10 a.m. in Council Chambers on the 4th floor at City Hall.

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