When we adjourn the Stated Meeting of City Council later today, it will mark the end of a term that has been extraordinary in legislative achievements and policy advances on behalf of the citizens of Philadelphia.
We will also be saying farewell to four people we have been proud to call our colleagues. They have served this body and our city’s residents with integrity, commitment and dedication.
Councilmember Jannie Blackwell (3rd District)
Assumed Office: 1992
Though her surname was well-known to this body when she joined it in 1992, to us she will always be better known as “Jannie from Cheyney.” The boxing gloves hanging in her office are your first clue of her fierce, fighting spirit. In her years in Council, as a staffer and as a member, she has fought tirelessly for Philadelphia’s youth, for its educators, for her constituents and, notably, for Philadelphia’s most vulnerable: new immigrant communities and those experiencing homelessness. Jannie’s advocacy for marginalized and vulnerable populations in the 1970s laid the groundwork for the much of the advocacy work being done in our city today.
Her time in this Chamber may be coming to an end, but no one who truly knows her believes that she is hanging up her boxing gloves anytime soon.
Councilmember Bill Greenlee (At Large)
Assumed Office: 2006
The Councilmember you could set your watch by: reliable, knowledgeable and understated. Bill Greenlee was never the loudest person in the room, but he was often the person in the room you turned to when you needed the right answer. A progressive leader who focused on results over headlines, Bill led the seven-year fight for Philadelphia’s Paid Sick Leave law and sponsored- or co-sponsored other landmark progressive legislation including: Wage Theft, Fair Workweek, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and last spring’s ban on Cashless Retail. After 40 years in City Hall as a staffer and a Councilmember, it’s difficult for many of us here to imagine conducting hearings without his straight-forward leadership at the head table.
Councilmember Blondell Reynolds Brown (At Large)
Assumed Office: 2000
Seeing the absence of women, especially women of color, at the table in Pennsylvania is what motivated Blondell Reynolds Brown to seek elected office 25 years ago. Since that time, she’s made it her priority to find ways to diversify all industries in our region, not just government. Pity the city department head or CEO who crossed Blondell’s path without a concrete plan for building a workforce that looks like Philadelphia.
Beyond this vitally important work in increasing racial and gender diversity, Blondell has made tangible, far-reaching improvements in the way the City of Philadelphia provides supplementary funding to public schools, manages its parks and recreations facilities, protects children from lead poisoning, minimizes its impact on the environment and so much more.
Councilmember Al Taubenberger (At Large)
Assumed Office: 2016
Long before he became an At Large member of this body, Al Taubenberger was well-known to Philadelphians as an advocate for locally-owned small businesses. Drawing upon his experience as a Council staffer, Al focused his constituent services work in Council on vulnerable communities such as seniors and persons with disabilities, ensuring their unique needs are heard and understood by local government. During his time in Council, Al sponsored legislation to help small businesses better plan for local tax expenses, expand Philadelphia’s hate crimes code, assist small businesses in investing in energy retrofits, and increase payouts to families of fallen first-responders.
It’s hard to imagine a person being prouder to be a member of Philadelphia City Council than Al Taubenberger. It’s been clear every day in which he has served.
Please join me in thanking our departing members for their leadership and service. To Jannie, Bill, Blondell and Al, I remind you that President John F. Kennedy said,
“Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
To that end, I urge you to enjoy the opportunities that the future brings you as a result of this change.
Darrell L. Clarke, President
Philadelphia City Council