In Council News, Jamie Gauthier, News by admin

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Residents outside of Center City report receiving subpar City services, compromising health and safety and increasing likelihood of gun violence

PHILADELPHIA – Joined by West Philadelphia community members, advocates, and elected colleagues, today City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) launched the #JustServicesPHL campaign, which calls for immediate major investments to address quality-of-life concerns in neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia.

“The timely delivery of basic municipal services is at the core of a well-run city,” said Councilmember Gauthier. “But too often, here in Philly, those services aren’t carried out evenly from neighborhood to neighborhood – and low-income communities of color too often bear the brunt of the harm this causes. Conditions like illegal dumping, abandoned cars, broken streetlights, and blighted properties are directly correlated with lower property values, stunted commercial growth, and higher rates of gun violence – so we should be striving to tackle these issues head-on, in the neighborhoods that need the support most urgently.”

In recent years, Philadelphia has failed to provide neighborhoods outside of Center City with dependable, high-quality City services. In many communities, illegal dumping runs rampant, with repeat offenders hitting the same locations over and over again. Many residents go weeks on end without getting trash or recycling picked up. Streetlights burn out and leave pedestrians in the dark for months. Abandoned vehicles all over Philadelphia sit untouched, taking up valuable parking and creating an eyesore. Blighted properties dot the streets of disinvested neighborhoods, serving as havens for illicit activity.

Data from the City’s 311 system, compiled and analyzed by the Office of the Controller, bears this out. While a minute percentage of quality-of-life calls come from Center City, the vast majority come from other neighborhoods, suggesting that residents’ concerns aren’t being addressed appropriately.

“Disinvestment, as a result of historical racist policies such as redlining, left certain neighborhoods in our city negatively impacted. Today many of those neighborhoods bare the weight of the inequity in service delivery in our city – often not getting the same level of service as wealthier neighborhoods.  This needs to change. The data from my office shows the truth in what people in these neighborhoods have been feeling for years.  We need to change how our city government operates so that all neighborhoods receive quality basic services. I applaud Councilmember Jamie Gautier for her #JustServicesPHL platform to confront this issue head on,” said City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart.

Beyond aesthetics, these issues are an urgent matter of public health and safety. Uncollected trash attracts vermin, which carry disease. Disabled streetlights are correlated with higher rates of violent crime as well as property crime. Abandoned vehicles can be detrimental to local businesses, serve as targets of arson or vandalism, and leak hazardous fluids into soil and groundwater.

It is impossible for Philadelphians in underserved neighborhoods to ignore the conditions they are contending with. Research suggests that people in these communities internalize the feelings of neglect created by poor conditions, which in turn leads to all manner of negative mental and physical health outcomes. Through the #JustServicesPHL Campaign, the Councilmember is asserting that it is unacceptable that the needs of wealthier, whiter neighborhoods tend to get prioritized over those of poorer, Blacker ones.

“From West Philly to North Philly to South Philly, neighborhood issues like broken street lights, illegal dumping, blighted properties, and abandoned cars have an enormous impact on the safety and well-being of Philadelphia neighborhoods,” said Councilmember Kendra Brooks (At-Large). “To build a city where every person can live and thrive with dignity begins with meeting people’s basic needs. And meeting people’s basic needs means prioritizing quality of life services in our city budget. I commend Councilmember Gauthier for championing community safety by fighting for the resources that every neighborhood deserves, and she has my full support.”

“Lighting and clean streets are more than amenities. They are directly linked to the safety of our neighborhoods,” said Councilmember Helen Gym (At-Large). “No child should have to step over trash on their way to school in the morning or find their way home down dark streets at night. I am tremendously grateful to Councilmember Gauthier for her leadership and work to ensure every neighborhood has the clean and green environments they need to thrive.”

Part of the problem lies in the City’s operations. As they field complaints from residents on a daily basis, Council offices have a unique perspective into the City’s operations – and they report that disarray within the City’s operating agencies is a major aggravating factor in this matter. 311’s arcane protocols mean residents’ requests often get lost in the shuffle. Additionally, internal communication among agencies is severely lacking, which creates a bureaucratic morass and makes it infinitely more difficult to ensure that residents’ problems will be solved. Manpower is also a concern; many operating agencies do not appear to have the staffing necessary to carry out their mission effectively.

Considering this reality, the #JustServicesPHL campaign is calling for targeted investments in the FY2023 budget to address the following issues:

  • Streetlight replacement
  • Blighted properties
  • Traffic calming
  • Sanitation and illegal dumping
  • Abandoned cars
  • 311 system upgrades

Councilmember Gauthier will also host hearings to highlight the ways that the City of Philadelphia deploys its resources, and determine how the Council can use legislation and budget request to best move existing processes and systems in the direction of equity. The first hearing, on May 5 at 2:00 PM, will focus on illegal dumping. The second, on May 13 at 10:00 AM, will focus on abandoned cars.

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