COUNCIL VOTES TO APPROVE REFORMS ON PUBLIC HEARING PROCESS AND BAN ON CHOKEHOLDS
Reforming the Police Department remained a top priority for City Council in its second session of the Fall. Legislation requiring a public hearing process before the city enters into any contract with its police union, and a bill banning police from using chokeholds as a matter of law were overwhelmingly approved by Council on Thursday.
Bill 200364-A, offered by Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At Large), would require a public hearing before any changes are made to the city’s contract with the Fraternal Order of Police. The bill was amended last week at the Kenney administration’s request, to clarify that this reform applies to the city’s main contract with the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 5, and to spell out a process by which the mayor must notify Council of the contract’s status.
“This is a long overdue reform,” Councilmember Gilmore Richardson said in floor remarks before the bill was approved by a 15-2 vote (Councilmembers Henon and O’Neill voted nay). “It is intended to bring accountability and transparency to the police contracting process in Philadelphia. For too long, the police union has used the contract as a sword and a shield. No longer will it be negotiated behind closed doors.”
Immediately after that vote, Council took up Bill 200368-A, which bans any use of chokeholds by police or law enforcement as a matter of city law. (Police department policy already prohibited chokeholds as agency policy). The legislation, named the “Let Philly Breathe” law, was offered by Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District) and it passed unanimously.
“The life of George Floyd was not taken in vain,” Councilmember Johnson said.
COUNCIL APPROVES RESOLUTION TO DECLARE STATE OF EMERGENCY ON GUN VIOLENCE
The morning after yet another night of gun violence in Philadelphia, as four young people were shot, two fatally, near a playground in the city’s Spring Garden neighborhood, these issues remained on the front of Council’s agenda.
A resolution sponsored by Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), urging Mayor Kenney to declare a state of emergency in Philadelphia around gun violence, and to direct more resources at neighborhood violence reduction strategies, passed Council easily. It was co-sponsored by 14 Members.
“Just last night, there was a mass shooting on a basketball court in our city, where over 55 shots were fired and two young men lost their lives,” said Councilmember Gauthier. “This is just the latest indicator of what we already know: we need to do much more than we’re currently doing to address this crisis. That is why we are calling on Mayor Kenney to lead a coordinated effort that treats this deadly epidemic – which is traumatizing Black and Brown communities across Philadelphia – with the urgency it deserves.”
The resolution offers specific guidance on the City’s response to this emergency, including greater transparency on the implementation of gun violence initiatives, enhanced coordination and planning among City agencies, and leveraging the resources of Philadelphia’s private sector, nonprofit community, academic institutions, and healthcare organizations.
As of last night, Philadelphia has experienced 323 homicides this year – a 32 percent increase over last year. Shooting incidents have hit 2,463 – a 54 percent increase, and actual shooting victims are at 1,448 people – 45 percent more than last year.
Seen on Social Media…
Last week, Public Health Emergency Leave passed in @PHLCouncil.
You could qualify for two weeks’ worth of paid sick time if you are a:
✅ gig economy worker
✅ worker for a company with > 500 employees
✅ healthcare worker
✅ independent contractorhttps://t.co/Xl2oCu4dnp
— Councilmember Kendra Brooks (@KendraPHL) September 14, 2020
Task Force on Disadvantaged Communities Continues Outreach
Councilmembers Isaiah Thomas (At Large) and Gilmore Richardson are chairing the Disadvantaged Communities Task Force to listen to Philadelphians from all walks of life to better understand how COVID-19 has impacted them and how City Council can help.
The task force has hosted virtual town halls for young people, working parents and the arts community. Last night, the task force was joined by Councilmember Derek Green (At Large) to moderate a discussion with the city’s small business community.
Next week, the task force will hold a town hall with health experts and social workers. Contact [email protected] for questions or to join the conversation.
In Other News…
With Voting and Mail-In Voting in the News, Commemorating the Voting Rights Act. Councilmember Kendra Brooks (At Large) sponsored a resolution commemorating the 55th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark accomplishment of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Census Week in Philadelphia Comes to a Close – Deadline Looming. Council had declared the week ending tomorrow as “Census Week” in Philadelphia. The country has until September 30th for residents to complete census forms and return them to the federal government. Every resident who is not counted in Philadelphia will cost the city $21,000 in federal funds it will never receive. Residents should visit 2020census.gov or call 844-330-2020 to make sure their households are counted.
As COVID Batters Small, Minority-Owned Businesses, Council Recognizes Minority Enterprise Development Week. Councilmember Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District), long a champion of minority business economic development, sponsored the annual resolution, which recognizes October 5th through Oct. 9th as MED Week in Philadelphia, to provide critical information, resources, opportunities and inspiration to the minority business community across the city.
Philadelphia Facts and Figures
The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, September 24th, at 10 a.m. The Meeting will be held remotely due to the ongoing pandemic, and will air on Xfinity Ch. 64, Fios Channel 40,and stream at www.PHLCouncil.com/watch.