WEEKLY REPORT: COUNCIL, POLICE COMMISSIONER FOCUS ON GUN VIOLENCE VICTIMS; WAGE TAX RELIEF & CIVIL SERVICE PREFERENCE BILLS ADVANCE

In Allan Domb, Cindy Bass, Council News, Curtis Jones, Jr., Darrell L. Clarke, David Oh, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Kendra Brooks, Kenyatta Johnson, News by PHL Council

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Council Calls for Video Cameras Near Schools to Protect Children, Following Quadruple Shooting near North Philadelphia School

Another day, another senseless shooting, another life lost to gun violence. One day after a shooting erupted yards from an elementary school in North Philadelphia, injuring three adults and leaving a 19-year-old innocent bystander fatally shot, City Council on Thursday called for more video surveillance cameras near schools and the creation of School Safe Corridors to better project children.

Wednesday afternoon, someone in a group of men began shooting at another group of people congregated near a rowhome near 11th and Thompson Streets – just yards from Saint Malachy’s elementary school. When the gunfire stopped, three young men were wounded, one critically, and a fourth person, 19-year-old Yaniyah Foster, shot in the head during the incident, died Wednesday evening at Temple University Hospital. No schoolchildren were injured.

After visiting the shooting scene, Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District) gathered Council colleagues Thursday morning, and had a resolution introduced calling for hearings to consider dozens of new video surveillance cameras at school locations throughout the city. Clarke and his colleagues are calling for the creation of School Safe Corridors citywide, to make it safer for children, school personnel and neighborhood residents.

“We have to do more to protect students coming to and from school, teachers and others who work in schools, and residents who live in neighborhoods plagued by all the gun violence,” Council President Clarke said. “We need to establish School Safe Corridors around these schools and we need to do it as soon as possible.”

Councilmember Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District), who chairs the Committee on Public Safety that will jointly preside over the video cameras hearing with the Committee on Education, said children and caregivers need to feel safe as they walk along corridors to and from school, and need to know Philadelphia police are monitoring those corridors to keep them safe.

“We have existing cameras in place, and we have Town Watch volunteers in neighborhoods working to keep our children safe,” Councilmember Jones said. “But we need to do more, and enhancing our video camera network near schools is an important public safety measure.”


Jones will conduct the hearing with Councilmember Maria D. Quiñones Sánchez (7th District), chair of the Education committee. They were joined by Councilmember Isaiah Thomas (At Large) in sponsoring the resolution.

Clarke’s office has been working on the video cameras issue for some time. The Philadelphia Police Department had already produced data showing how at least 85 additional video cameras, placed strategically near 24 schools citywide, would assist police in detecting, reducing and preventing gun violence.

Police Commissioner Outlaw Makes First Public Appearance Before Council, Outlines Her Agenda to Reduce Gun Violence

An hour after Council introduced its resolution on video cameras, deterring gun violence remained its focus, as the Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention held a hearing to listen to victims of gun violence, and to hear for the first time from the city’s new Police Commissioner, Danielle Outlaw.

Outlaw exuded competence and command as she addressed a Council chamber overflowing with victims of gun crimes, police officials, Council members, and citizens curious to see the city’s new “top cop” for the first time in Council.

“The Philadelphia Police Department firmly believes all victims of crime deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, courtesy and sensitivity,” Commissioner Outlaw testified. “Keep in mind that many times, crime victims are often the most vulnerable people in our communities, so they deserve nothing less.”

Thursday marked Commissioner Outlaw’s ninth official day on the job, in her second week in Philadelphia.  Already, she is confronting the death of a man on narcotics while in police custody, Wednesday’s quadruple shooting near an elementary school, and a running homicide total that has reached 51 so far this year, a 21 percent increase over last year at this moment.

Councilmembers attended Thursday’s hearing, to hear victims’ testimony as much as to publicly demonstrate their support for the new commissioner, the first African-American woman to lead the Department.  Councilmembers Cindy Bass, Helen Gym, Curtis Jones Jr., Derek Green, Kathrine Gilmore Richardson, Kendra Brooks, Allan Domb, joined Special Committee Chairman Kenyatta Johnson at the hearing.

After Mural Honoring Civil Rights Icon is Defaced, Swift Action by Council and City to Clean and Restore Mural

Last Saturday, during President’s Day Weekend, someone defaced a city mural honoring Cecil B. Moore, a former City Councilmember and one of the leading civil rights leaders in Philadelphia history.  The mural, located off Jefferson Street near 17th Street in North Philadelphia, was defaced with offensive slurs.

When constituents alerted Council President Clarke, whose 5th District includes the mural site, Clarke notified officials in the Managing Director’s Office, who in turn notified Mural Arts Philadelphia. By Saturday night, some of the offensive graffiti had been removed, and by Tuesday, the mural had been cleaned and restored.

The defacing of the mural struck a resonant chord, as news media descended on the corner to record the graffiti, and interview neighbors as well as Clarke. Many neighbors remembered Cecil B. Moore and what he stood for.

“This act sent a signal that we could not and did not tolerate in the City of Philadelphia,” Clarke told a local TV station at the mural site. “We’ve made progress as a city, but it’s clear we still have a ways to go.”

Other Legislative Action in Council This Week …

  • What is the Future for the Refinery Site in South Philadelphia? Eight months after a devastating fire at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery, the future of this gigantic industrial site, home for over a century to a major oil and gas refinery, will be the subject of a Council hearing. Councilmember Kathy Gilmore Richardson (At Large), chair of Council’s Committee on the Environment, will hold hearings with the Committee on Transportation and Public Utilities, chaired by Councilmember Johnson, whose 2nd District includes the now-shuttered refinery.
  • Will a Councilmember’s Bill to Cut the Wage Tax for the Working Poor Become Law in Philadelphia? For many months, spanning last session and the new one, Councilmember Allan Domb (At Large) has championed legislation to slash the city’s wage tax for lower-income workers, saving workers an estimated $800 annually, and helping to lift some out of poverty. However, Domb’s legislation, supported unanimously by Council last year, and supported by the business community and advocates for workers too, has so far not been supported by Mayor Kenney and his administration. Late last year, after the bill passed Council, the mayor exercised a rare “pocket veto” and the legislation died as the session ended.  Domb reintroduced the bill last month, and it moved through a committee hearing this week. The Kenney administration continues to raise questions about the bill, and would prefer to take it up during the budget process starting next month.
  • Should Graduates of CTE Programs Receive a Preference on Civil Service Exams? Councilmember Gilmore Richardson (At Large) a first-term member brimming with energy and experience (as a longtime former chief of staff to a since-retired Councilmember), has an idea: Provide graduates of CTE programs in city schools with a credit or preference on civil service exams, as a way of giving young people a pathway to employment. However, as soon as the Councilmember’s legislation was introduced recently, it ran into opposition from Councilmember David Oh (At Large), and a sizable segment of the city’s Veterans community. Veterans already receive a civil service preference for city employment. Last week, Councilmember Gilmore Richardson held her legislation, saying she wanted to hear from more stakeholders. Earlier this week, at a committee hearing, she offered an amendment to the bill, increasing an existing preference for applicants to the Police and Fire Departments who have completed “explorer cadet programs” for those departments.

 Inside the Rail …

Harold Epps, Commerce Director during Mayor Kenney’s first term, announced recently he would leave public service and consider new challenges.  Epps, a longtime business executive who championed small-business growth throughout Philadelphia under Mayor Kenney, has a new home. Epps will join Bellevue Strategies, a government relations and strategic communications firm headed by Mustafa Rashed, as a senior advisor, it was announced this week.

Councilmember Derek Green, who co-chairs Council’s Special Committee on Regulatory Review and Reform alongside Epps, introduced a resolution honoring the Director for his service to the city.

The next Stated Meeting of City Council will take place on Thursday, February 27th, at 10 a.m. in Council’s chamber on the 4th floor at City Hall.

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