COURT DISMISSES FOP LAWSUIT OVER CITY COUNCIL’S DRIVING EQUALITY LAW
A city law introduced by Councilmember Isaiah Thomas (At Large), to prioritize certain kinds of police traffic stops over other kinds of stops, passed an important legal test this week when a Common Pleas Court judge rejected a lawsuit brought by the city’s police union that sought to invalidate the law.
In February 2022, the FOP Lodge 5 filed suit against the mayor and the police commissioner, arguing the city’s Driving Equality law was unenforceable due to the state’s preemption statute (leaving such powers to the Commonwealth).On Wednesday, Common Pleas Court dismissed the FOP’s lawsuit, with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled.
The lawsuit had not impacted implementation of the Driving Equality law, which went into effect on March 3, 2022. Data collected during the first year of implementation reinforced that the Driving Equality law was not making the city less safe, as the FOP claimed. The Driving Equality law has led to Philadelphia police officers prioritizing traffic stops associated with public safety (such as a driver ignoring a red light or a stop sign) and a higher success rate of illegal contraband recovery.
“Driving Equality passed with a majority supporting in City Council,” said Councilmember Thomas. “Driving Equality was followed by an Executive Order from the Mayor. And now, Driving Equality has been affirmed and upheld by the court. I want to thank everyone who has contributed to the success of Driving Equality – the Philadelphia Police Department, the Mayor, the Defender Association of Philadelphia, the Driving Equality Accountability Group, and countless Philadelphians who have shared their traumatic stories – for working to create this collaboration, national model for police reform and community progress.”
The Common Pleas Court found that Driving Equality was not preempted by the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code, and was within the city’s discretion over local law enforcement.
MEMBERS DENOUNCE SHOOTING DEATH OF A 15-YEAR-OLD ON HIS WAY TO SCHOOL IN NORTH PHILADELPHIA
Philadelphia’s epidemic of gun violence is never far from Councilmembers’ minds; this week was no exception. Earlier this week, a 15-year-old youth was accosted by four other youths as he was walking to school at Simon Gratz Mastery High School. He was shot and killed, the 18th youth fatally shot in Philadelphia so far this year.
Councilmember Cindy Bass (8th District), who represents the North Philadelphia neighborhood where the latest shooting occurred, lamented the terrible act of gun violence, noted the youthful age of the alleged perpetrators, and she urged parents to become more attentive, mindful and involved, asking them to be on the lookout for firearms brought into their homes. Her comments struck a chord in her fellow members.
“Every shooter has a door key,” Council’s Majority Leader Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District) noted pointedly.
Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District and Chairman of Council’s Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention), followed his colleagues’ comments. Johnson noted that the city is currently spending far in excess of $200 Million on various gun violence prevention programs, many of them community-based, yet still the shootings and homicides continue.
Johnson referenced the need for more assistance from both Harrisburg and Washington in developing a more comprehensive, wholistic approach to gun violence in Philadelphia, one that takes into account a wide list of factors impacting public safety, including the city’s high rate of poverty, public education and other issues.
SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA…
Philadelphia’s water remains safe to drink and use and will not be impacted by the spill in Bucks County. Based on latest water sampling results, PWD is confident that tap water from the Baxter Drinking Water Treatment Plant remains safe: https://t.co/g0jrCcy17q pic.twitter.com/6oNkPbVKE3
— Philadelphia Water (@PhillyH2O) March 28, 2023
COUNCILMEMBER BROOKS OFFERS RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF TRANSGENDER RIGHTS
At a time when the rights of people who identify as transgender are under assault in many locations around the country, Councilmember Kendra Brooks (At Large) this week introduced a resolution declaring Friday, March 31, as International Transgender Day of Visibility in Philadelphia.
“We celebrate transgender, non-binary, and gender expansive Philadelphians,” Brooks’ resolution states in its opening paragraph. “We honor their vibrancy, their resilience, and their ability to imagine, to live, and to lead us to a life outside of the stringent gender binary. We denounce growing efforts to criminalize the existence and care of our transgender, non-binary, and gender expansive neighbors.”
International Transgender Day of Visibility takes place annually on March 31 to celebrate transgender and non-binary people and raise awareness of discrimination and oppression faced by trans people worldwide.
“In the face of these hardships, transgender people continue to inspire the world
with their mere existence, as well as with their manifold achievements and their powerful spirit. Tremendous trans community members and leaders from Philadelphia, including Janis Stacy, Ebony Ali, Tatyana Woodard, Madelyn Morrison, Ovid Amorson, Deej McCoy, Elizabeth Coffey Williams, Lia Thomas, Valentina Rosario, Kendall Stephens, Breighton Golphin, Jaci Adams, Henry Sias, Deja Alvarez, Dawn Munro, Kathleen Padilla, Sharron Cooks, Charlene Arcila, Naiymah Sanchez, Hazel Edwards, and many other unsung heroes, serve as role models and inspirations to every community that intersects with who they are and the experience they have,” the resolution states.
“In Philadelphia, we are steadfast in affirming our commitment to uphold our municipal laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in housing, employment, and public accommodations, and our intention to vigorously uphold protections for transgender and non-binary young people that were recently passed into law. We believe in the inherent value of each and every person, including our transgender, non-binary, and gender expansive community members, without exception.”
IN OTHER NEWS
Council President Clarke Resolution Naming North Philadelphia Street in Posthumous Honor for Temple University Police Sgt. Fitzgerald is Approved. The resolution, introduced by Majority Leader Curtis Jones Jr. on behalf of Council President Clarke, ceremoniously names the 1700 block of West Montgomery Avenue, as “Christopher Fitzgerald Way” to honor the life and sacrifice of Temple University Police Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald, who was tragically killed in the line of duty on February 18, 2023.
Councilmember Vaughn Introduces Resolution Urging Congressional Support for a G.I. Bill Restoration Act. The Federal legislation, known as the Sgt. Issac Woodard Jr. and Sgt. Joseph Maddox G.I. Bill Restoration Act, seeks to extend access to the VA Loan Guaranty Program and Post-9/11 G.I. Bill to surviving spouses and descendants of World War II veterans who were denied access to the original G.I. Bill due to racial discrimination.
“The original G.I. Bill lifted up a generation of World War II veterans by empowering them to purchase homes and earn degrees, but the discriminatory practices of the mid-20th century effectively closed these benefits off to Black veterans, thus denying them the opportunity to build the generational wealth that comes from homeownership and higher education,” Vaughn’s resolution states, urging passage of the congressional legislation, sponsored by Congressmen James E. Clyburn and Seth Moulton.
For example, in 1947, only 2 of 3,200 home loans administered by the VA in Mississippi went to Black veterans, and in the suburbs of New York and New Jersey, less than 1% of G.I. Bill-insured mortgages went to Black borrowers. In addition, only 6% of Black veterans earned degrees using G.I. Bill benefits, compared to 19% of white veterans.
The congressional legislation would establish a Blue-Ribbon Panel to study inequities in the distribution of benefits and assistance and make recommendations on how to repair them.
OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK
Joint Committee on Public Safety and Education 3-27-2023
FY2024 Budget Hearings – Five Year Plan and Capital Program 3-28-2023
FY2024 Budget Hearings – Mayor’s Office 3-28-2023
FY2024 Budget Hearings – Finance Revenue OPA BRT 3-29-2023
FY2024 Budget Hearings – Sinking Fund, Board of Pensions City Treasurer 3-29-2023
Stated Meeting of Philadelphia City Council 3-30-2023
The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, April 13, 2023 at 10 a.m. in Philadelphia City Hall, Room 400 and will air on Xfinity Ch. 64, Fios Channel 40 and stream at www.PHLCouncil.com/watch.
Featured Photo: Jared Piper/PHLCouncil