advocates celebrate after vote on lead safety bill

WEEKLY REPORT: COUNCIL APPROVES LEAD SAFETY BILL, MEMBERS INTRODUCE GUN SAFETY AND TAX REFORM BILLS

In Al Taubenberger, Allan Domb, Blondell Reynolds Brown, Bobby Henon, Cindy Bass, Council News, Curtis Jones, Jr., Darrell L. Clarke, Helen Gym, Newsby PHL Council

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Council President Clarke, Councilmember Bass Introduce Bill to Prohibit Guns at City Recreation Centers and Playgrounds

Following a summer of shooting incidents at city recreation facilities since summer, Council President Darrell Clarke (5th District), with Councilmember Cindy Bass (8th District), introduced Safe Havens legislation that would prohibit firearms at recreation centers or playgrounds.

Long impassioned advocates for common-sense gun violence prevention laws, Clarke and Bass are working in tandem on this legislation – and they have partners in Harrisburg too, where state enabling legislation will be needed to allow the Philadelphia law to take effect.

“We cannot sit idly by as gunfire disrupts our city recreational facilities during basketball tournaments, neighborhood get-togethers and just last week – a high school football game,” Council President Clarke said. “We’re taking action in Philadelphia today to make these recreation facilities the safe havens they are supposed to be, and our delegation in Harrisburg is focused on similar action.”

“Our City invests substantial sums of public dollars in the Rebuild program to revitalize our recreation centers,” said Councilmember Bass after introducing the bill. “If we don’t ensure our rec centers and playgrounds are safe, who will come and enjoy them? We need a Safe Havens law in Philadelphia.”

Clarke and Bass released data showing that 526 crimes were committed – including 18 gun crimes – at city recreation facilities last year. Two murders occurred at rec centers last year. This summer, in addition to the shooting outside the Simon Gratz-Imhotep game on Sept. 20, there were shootings at a playground in Southwest Philly in June (6 people shot, one fatally), an Overbrook playground in July (7 persons wounded), and several other playgrounds. In July, after Clarke, Bass and a group of legislators announced plans for a Safe Havens initiative at a Strawberry Mansion rec center, a shooting took place there that evening.

State Rep. Donna Bullock (D-195) is leading efforts in Harrisburg for a Safe Havens law.

Amending the Tax Abatement Law to Crack Down on Tax Delinquents

Amid claims that “the City is being defrauded” by property owners and developers who reap the benefits of the city’s real estate tax abatement law — despite being delinquent on other city taxes or not having required city permits and licenses, Councilmember Al Taubenberger (At Large), with support from Councilmember Bobby Henon (6th District), introduced a measure today to amend the abatement law to crack down on tax delinquents.

“If you’re delinquent on any city tax or not in possession of any required city license – you shouldn’t receive the real estate tax abatement – period,” said Councilmember Taubenberger.

“Our city’s in danger,” said Councilmember Henon, supporting Taubenberger’s legislation. “We need more L & I staff. You have developers out here using 1099s, not paying fair wages, not having required permits, not paying taxes. The city is being defrauded. There’s millions of dollars at stake for the city.”

Long-Sought Revision to the City’s Lead Paint Abatement Law Approved

Council members in session.After a drawn-out, years-long effort to monitor the effectiveness of the city’s existing lead paint abatement ordinance, and then a protracted process to revise the law to make it more enforceable, Councilmember Blondell Reynolds Brown (At Large) brought forward the amended ordinance, which passed Council today, 16-0.

Reynolds Brown, in detailed remarks, laid out the long process of passing the original legislation in 2012, despite resistance then and now from landlords and apartment building owners, and credited a number of leading individuals who worked on this law for many years, including longtime children’s advocate Shelly Yanoff, former Councilmember Marian Tasco, current member Maria Quinones Sanchez (7th District), and others.

The specifics of Bill 180936-A were detailed in last week’s Weekly Report.

“This is a good bill that adds to the quality of the residential housing stock in our city,” Reynolds Brown concluded, shortly before the bill received unanimous approval, to thunderous applause from dozens of advocates for children.

Councilmember Domb Offers Wage Tax Relief for Families in Poverty

Councilmember Allan Domb (At Large) introduced legislation today that will allow about 60,000 Philadelphia households living in poverty to be reimbursed annually for the Wage taxes they pay to the city.

Under Domb’s bill, the current reimbursement amount of half a percent would be increased beginning next year to 2.36 percent, the city’s portion of the Wage tax rate. This reform would allow a family of four earning an income of $34,250 to receive about $810 annually.

“We want to provide struggling families with any amount of relief in order to help with their financial needs,” Domb said. “Any little bit helps, and we have the authority in City Council to provide the maximum refund possible.”

Councilmember Gym, Promoting Transparency and Disclosure of City Legal Settlements, Moves Bill Toward Final Passage

Legislation championed by Councilmember Helen Gym (At Large) to increase transparency by requiring the city to publicly disclose monies paid to settle legal claims moved through Council’s Law and Government Committee earlier this week, and now moves toward final passage.

The city paid out $48 million last year, including $11 million for sidewalk falls and $16 million in civil rights claims against the Police Department. Between 2012 and 2018, the City paid $2.2 million to settle sexual harassment claims. The public or press generally doesn’t have access to this claims info without filing lengthy, complex “right to know” requests under state law.

In addition to requiring regular reporting of all settlements and judgments involving public funds in a searchable online format, Gym’s legislation creates an interagency group of City officials to review patterns and develop policies to help minimize risk and prevent future misconduct.

“Secret settlements erode public trust, skirt accountability, and thwart systemic reforms,” said Councilmember Gym. “Taxpayers deserve to know where and how their tax dollars are spent.”

… Inside the Rail

Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr. (4th District) introduced a resolution announcing MED Week – Philadelphia Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week, which provides information, resources and opportunities to the city’s minority business community. Jones has long been a champion of minority economic and business development. MED Week runs from Oct. 7 to Oct. 11.

Councilmember Reynolds Brown and others presenting resolution at Council.Councilmember Reynolds Brown, with support from multiple Council members, introduced a resolution honoring Deirdre Childress Hopkins on her election as the first African American President of the Philadelphia Public Relations Association.

The Philadelphia Puerto Rican Day Parade is Sunday, September 29. For more details, visit the parade website.

The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled for next Thursday, October 3, at 10 a.m. in Council Chambers on the 4th floor at City Hall.

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