Councilmember Helen Gym speaks at a podium

COUNCILMEMBERS GYM INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO FILL VACANCIES, IMPROVE BASIC CITY SERVICES

In Brian O'Neill, Council News, Helen Gym, Jamie Gauthier, Kendra Brooks, Mark Squilla, Michael Driscoll, News by PHL Council

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Bill would revise residency requirements to help accelerate hiring recruitment amid widespread municipal vacancies

PHILADELPHIA — Today, Councilmember Helen Gym (At-Large) introduced legislation to revise residency requirements for the city’s civil service positions to accelerate recruitment capabilities and improve the city’s delivery of basic services. The update will require every civil service employee to establish residency within the City of Philadelphia within six months of their appointment. The legislation earned the backing of the City’s major municipal unions.

“Filling city vacancies is a matter of public safety. This is about ensuring every city agency, every department, is functioning at full capacity to meet the needs of every neighborhood in our city,” said Councilmember Helen Gym. “It is vital that we continue to build a world class city workforce that both reflects our communities and delivers on basic city services. Today’s legislation will help us do just that, and place Philadelphia back among our peers in our ability to recruit and retain talent as a major city.”

The City of Philadelphia currently has over 4,000 vacancies, nearly 15% of the municipal workforce. In some departments, vacancy rates are even higher: one in five positions in the Fire Department remain unfilled and as many as a third of Library positions are vacant in certain communities, per reporting by the Philadelphia Inquirer. The updated requirements would apply to roughly 24,000 municipal positions, 81% of the city’s workforce.

“A third of city inspectors have resigned since 2019, but the Department hired zero replacements last year,” Gym continued. “These kinds of prolonged vacancies have a profound impact on the safety of our communities. ”

Previously, these positions required applicants to establish residency a year prior to appointment, making Philadelphia an “outlier” among the nation’s 30 largest cities, according to Larry Eichel and Katie Martin with The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Philadelphia research and policy initiative. A 2018 Pew report found “Philadelphia had some of the strictest civil service hiring rules of any large U.S. city.”

“We support this change because these requirements were not addressing the root intent – which was originally designed for police trainees, not the city’s entire workforce,” said April Gigetts, AFSCME District Council 47 President. “We support prioritizing Philadelphians for municipal jobs. That work must continue, but this residency law was not the solution.”

“The City of Philadelphia is in dire need of highly trained and skilled Paramedics and the current residency requirement has prevented and turned away countless applicants from joining the city,” said Michael Bresnan, IAFF Local 22 President. “These prospective applicants could help the Fire Department deliver the highest level of care possible to its citizens and visitors. Unfortunately, the city is not doing that now because mostly Firefighters are being used to staff Medic units due to the lack of Paramedics.”

“We strongly believe that city workers should be city residents, but the requirement that a prospective employee lives in Philadelphia for a full year before their appointment shrinks the applicant pool in the middle of a staffing crisis that’s affecting public services,” said Pat Christmas, Committee of 70 Policy Director. “We applaud Councilmember Gym for re-examining this important issue and taking action to help ensure Philadelphians get the most from their city government.”

“We support any legislative action that will help Philadelphia police and elected leaders to address our violent crime crisis by cutting red-tape to add additional officers to patrol our streets,” said John McNesby, FOP Lodge 5 President. “Our police force is down approximately one-thousand officers and we support Councilwoman Helen Gym’s proposal to roll back any city residency requirements to hire qualified police officers. Our city cannot move forward if our residents, children and business owners feel unsafe.”

The legislation is cosponsored by Councilmembers Mark Squilla (1st District), Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District), Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Michael Driscoll (6th District), Brian O’Neill (10th District), and Kendra Brooks (At-Large).

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