COUNCILMEMBERS AND HEAD OF THE CITY’S POLICE UNION CLASH ONLINE OVER REFORMS
In years past, it would seem unusual if not rare for a member of City Council to engage in a public dispute, even one centered on policy, with the city’s influential police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 5. But 2020 is no ordinary year.
Earlier this week, Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At Large) took to social media to passionately defend legislation that she led and which Council approved last week, which requires a public hearing be held before any changes are made to the city’s contract with its police union.
Bill No. 200364-A, approved overwhelmingly by Council, was proposed by Gilmore Richardson to introduce transparency and accountability into the city’s contract process with its police union, a labor negotiation that historically has taken place behind closed doors.
Earlier this week, FOP Lodge 5 President John McNesby published a letter on social media addressed to the union’s rank-and-file. It referenced “two-bit politicians” looking to “pile on” the union. It said City Council has done nothing about rising gun violence in Philadelphia, but now was intent on “shoving their greedy hands into your (union members) pockets.”
Councilmember Gilmore Richardson took to social media to respond, point-by-point, to the accusations in the union leader’s letter.
“On the day we learned we would not receive justice for the murder of Breonna Taylor in her home, John McNesby, the head of our city’s Fraternal Order of Police called ME and the members of the Police Reform working group, two-bit politicians,” Gilmore Richardson posted on Facebook.
“He is essentially saying,” her response continued, “black elected officials are insignificant, cheap or worthless and don’t matter. I have news for John McNesby, whether he believes it or not, black elected officials DO MATTER.”
Gilmore Richardson’s response went on to explain that her City Council legislation has no legal bearing on Act 111, the state law governing the police arbitration process, and that Bill 200364-A simply provides a public hearing in Council before the city submits its initial contract proposal and before the process goes into mandatory arbitration under state law.
Significantly, other Councilmembers also posted on social media to support and defend their colleague and the legislation in light of the police union leader’s broadside.
Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) termed the union’s leader post “a grown-man temper tantrum in response to Gilmore Richardson’s bill to add a public hearing to the city’s process of negotiating the police contract, as a means of ensuring public input and accountability for policing in our city.”
In Council’s first three sessions since returning this month, it has approved three reforms related to policing. In addition to Gilmore Richardson’s bill, legislation has been approved banning the city of chokeholds as a matter of law (Bill No. 200368-A, Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, 2nd District), and requiring that applicants for the police force and other city positions be city residents for at least one year prior to employment (Bill No. 200363, Councilmember Cherelle Parker, 9th District, for Council President Darrell L. Clarke).
MEMBERS REACT TO THE BREONNA TAYLOR DECISION
One day after the Kentucky Attorney General released a controversial decision not to charge police officers with murder or manslaughter charges in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor following a police raid that went badly awry, Councilmembers made it clear in Thursday’s Stated Meeting and elsewhere that they were paying close attention.
As he was introduced during Council’s introductory roll call, Councilmember Johnson lamented the “lack of justice” in our country for Breonna Taylor.
During closing remarks, Councilmember Derek Green (At Large) went further. “I want to say her name – Breonna Taylor,” Green said. “This is a sad day for our country.” Green continued, weaving his remarks into an update for colleagues into his ongoing work around economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, noting a hearing that will take place next Wednesday, September 30, to continue examining the pandemic’s devastating impact on local businesses, particularly small businesses.
Meanwhile, Councilmember Kendra Brooks (At Large) posted about the decision in the Taylor case. “To be a black woman in America is to carry the weight of generations of oppression and hardship in your body. … As the Combahee River Collective said, until Black women are free, none of us will be free.”
COUNCIL HONORS SUPREME COURT JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG
As Justice Ginsburg laid in state at the Supreme Court, City Council united in honoring her life in a resolution sponsored by Councilmember Allan Domb (At Large) and supported by all members of Council.
Highlighting passages from the resolution:
“While working with the ACLU, Justice Ginsburg persistently argued for an end to the use of differential treatment based on gender and her efforts led to structural changes that reduced gender discrimination for Americans everywhere. …
“In 1996 the United States filed a suit against the Virginia Military Institute (“VMI”), arguing that the gender-exclusive admissions policy violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. In a landmark decision by the Supreme Court stipulating women could no longer be excluded from the state-funded school based on their gender, Justice Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion stating, “generalizations about ‘the way women are,’ estimates of what is appropriate for most women, no longer justify denying opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description.” …
“Justice Ginsburg was revered nationally for her belief in equal rights for all Americans and her dissenting opinions in cases related to civil rights, equal pay, contraceptives, and voting rights helped lift her to that of a cultural icon in the United States.”
SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA…
If your #vote didn’t matter, they wouldn’t try to stop you from using it. Whether by mail, an early voting center or in person on Election Day – make a plan to vote this #Election2020. It’s too important to sit out. #VoteReady pic.twitter.com/a8TSy7HahK
— Councilmember Isaiah Thomas (@CMThomasPHL) September 22, 2020
IN OTHER NEWS…
Urging State Officials to Do Better Job Delivering Unemployment Checks to Pennsylvanians during Pandemic. Councilmember David Oh (At Large) has advocated with the PA Department of Labor & Industry to improve the job it is doing getting badly-needed unemployment compensation to state residents hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, which has left nearly 100,000 Philadelphians out of work. Council supported a resolution sponsored by Oh urging the state to “resolve ongoing complications within the State’s unemployment system to ensure all eligible Pennsylvanians receive their entitled compensation in a timely manner.”
Calling on the School District of Philadelphia to Negotiate a New Contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. This resolution, sponsored by Councilmember Johnson, urged the District to reach a new agreement with the PFT that prioritizes the health and safety of school staff and students, and acknowledges the contributions of teachers and staff, particularly during the ongoing pandemic.
Committee on Rules, held 9-22-2020
Committee on Fiscal Stability & Intergovernmental Cooperation, held 9-23-2020
Stated Meeting of Philadelphia City Council, held 9-24-2020
PHILADELPHIA FACTS AND FIGURES
The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, October 1st, 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.