CITY COUNCIL CLASHES WITH MAYOR’S OFFICE OVER VACCINE DISTRIBUTION
Conflict between City Council members and Mayor Kenney’s administration over the pace and substance of the city’s plans to distribute COVID-19 vaccine to Philadelphia residents burst into public view this week, through a news conference near the city’s sports complex, comments from the Mayor’s office, and speeches from Council members yesterday.
The conflict flared Wednesday, when Councilmember Allan Domb (At Large), joined by several other Councilmembers, former Congressman Bob Brady, and others, held a news conference in South Philadelphia, where Domb and the others unveiled their plan for mass vaccination of Philadelphians, dubbed “Operation Philly Special.”
In the news conference, Domb and his colleagues urged Mayor Kenney to use Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Eagles NFL franchise, to conduct mass vaccinations. Domb’s plans included other large sites as well, including several large Black churches in the city and other locations.
Mayor Kenney and his Health Commissioner, Dr. Tom Farley, had already indicated they don’t want to use sports stadiums at this time, expressing concerns about out-of-town or out-of-state residents coming in and using vaccines intended for city residents. The city is currently receiving about 24,000 doses of vaccine a week from the federal government – far below the amount needed to vaccinate a city of 1.6 million residents.
Following the press conference, a spokesman for the mayor fueled tensions between the executive and legislative branches, saying “We ask Councilman Domb and other supporters: Are you deliberately trying to ensure that white privileged suburban residents of other counties and states are prioritized for vaccination over Black and brown taxpayers of Philadelphia?”
Councilmembers took umbrage with that comment Thursday during Council Stated Meeting, starting with Councilmember Domb.
“I don’t know whether I am more offended or saddened by that statement,” Domb said. “Does our mayor really think so little of us as to believe that we would let out-of-state and out-of-county residents come and deplete our supply of life-saving vaccines for Philadelphians?”
“As a Black woman and elected official, I’m offended by that (mayoral spokesman) remark,” said Councilmember Cindy Bass (8th District), who chairs Council’s Public Health & Human Services Committee and conducted a long hearing last week into the troubling circumstances around the city’s use of a group of unqualified college students to administer vaccines. “I continue to be appalled and disturbed at how vaccines are being distributed here.”
Councilmember Derek Green (At Large) offered a different tone, noting that he too was a Black elected official, but was going to take “the high road. We must address this issue – together. We all are the City of Philadelphia, and we must solve this problem — together.”
Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District), who rarrely comments during floor remarks, did so Thursday, saying “We all have to remain focused on getting vaccine into peoples’ arms.”
As of yesterday, Philadelphia has 109,760 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 2,980 people have died of the disease during the pandemic.
Photo: A. Ricketts for Visit Philadelphia
COUNCILMEMBER GILMORE RICHARDSON RELEASES REPORT ON FINDINGS FROM FIRST PUBLIC HEARING ON POLICE UNION CONTRACT
Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At Large) released a report Thursday summarizing the findings and offering recommendations for action based on seven hours of testimony offered by the public during a November hearing on her Resolution 200546 concerning the city’s contract with its police union, Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police.
“As this was the first ever public hearing on the police contract proposal, I felt it was important to lay out exactly what we heard from the public and offer in a clear, concise manner what was asked of us by our constituents,” Gilmore Richardson said.
The report is available at on the Council website.
COUNCIL LAUNCHES $4 MILLION EFFORT TO SPARK EMPLOYMENT CITYWIDE WITH A NEW NORMAL JOBS INITIATIVE
Council on Thursday introduced legislation to provide $4 Million towards a number of employment programs across the city – a New Normal Jobs Initiative.
From funding a same-day-pay program putting people to work cleaning vacant city lots to workforce development in environmental stewardship projects, a jobs training program to provide home health aides with nursing certifications, and an employment training effort involving revitalizing neighborhood commercial corridors, the New Normal Jobs Initiative is the latest action by City Council to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Philadelphia. The ordinance was introduced by Appropriations Chair Maria Quiñones-Sánchez (7th District) on behalf of Council President Clarke.
“As we work to get the pandemic under control and get our residents vaccinated, we must be equally focused on the harsh economic consequences of this crisis and the Philadelphians who need help finding employment,” said Council President Clarke. “The programs being funded by this jobs initiative have a common denominator – they improve Philadelphia and they focus on finding people jobs.”
The programs being funded through the New Normal Jobs Initiative:
Same Day Work and Pay program. $500,000 to continue supporting a same-day-pay employment effort putting people to work cleaning vacant city lots, under the supervision of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
Community Life Improvement Program. $1 Million for an existing city program under the Managing Director’s Office that focuses on quality-of-life issues in neighborhoods across the city.
PowerCorpsPHL. $1 Million for the Philadelphia Energy Authority to run a workforce development effort for at-risk youth. PowerCorpsPHL supports environmental stewardship projects and furthers the city’s youth violence prevention efforts. The program engages out-of-school or out-of-work 18-30 year-olds in an program to connect them to living wage jobs in energy and green infrastructure.
Upskilling Home Health Aides. $300,000 to fund a partnership between City Council, Philadelphia Works and District 1199c’s Training and Upgrading Fund. Advocated by Councilmember Gilmore Richardson, this partnership focuses on assisting home health aides, jobs often filled by women of color, to obtain training and certification to become nursing assistants, earning higher wages and opportunities with larger organizations offering better benefits and career opportunities.
“With high demand for nursing assistants and a significant skills overlap, there is a unique opportunity to target home health aides to receive a Certified Nursing Assistant credential, giving them the requirements to move into higher-paying jobs,” Gilmore Richardson said.
Jobs Training by Revitalizing Neighborhood Commercial Corridors. $1 Million to support a program that provides job training through the revitalization of neighborhood commercial business corridors. This program was conceived by Council Majority Leader Cherelle Parker (9th District).
“Revitalizing our neighborhood commercial corridors accomplishes multiple purposes – it cleans and uplifts local business corridors that are the lifeblood of our neighborhoods,” said Councilmember Parker. “It allows for on-the-job training efforts to bring people into the workforce who want to work, at a living wage. And it lifts our neighborhoods too – where most Philadelphians live. I fully support the New Normal Jobs Initiative and the needed resources it is bringing to the table.”
SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA…
Today, I introduced a 2021 Public Health Emergency Leave Bill that would reinstate the immediate availability of two-weeks’ worth of paid sick leave for Philly workers.
As we near the 1-year anniversary of the pandemic, worker protections must remain our top priority. (1/n) pic.twitter.com/Qw15P16SLN
— Councilmember Kendra Brooks (@KendraPHL) February 11, 2021
IN OTHER NEWS…
Council Moves Forward Appointments of Chief City Assessor, City Solicitor and Three School Board Members. Following a hearing the day before in the Committee of the Whole, Council on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a new Chief Assessment Officer (James Aros Jr.), a new City Solicitor (Diana Cortes), and three new members of the School District’s Board of Education (Cecelia Thompson, Lisa Salley and Reginald Streater, Esq.). Upon final votes next week, Cortes will become the first Latina Solicitor in Philadelphia history.
Councilmember Gym to hold hearing on creating Youth Services Ombudsperson. Councilmember Helen Gym (At Large) introduced a Resolution for the Committee on Children and Youth to hold hearings concerning recommendations to establish an independent Youth Services Ombudsperson office to investigate concerns from youth and families about safety or services for young people in congregate care, secure or any institutional facility. This follows documented instances of abuse and deaths of young people at various institutions in and near Philadelphia, including Wordsworth Academy, Glen Mills Schools and Deveraux Behavioral Health.
Councilmembers Honor a Series of Black Leaders, in Public Health, College Sports, and the News Media. It is Black History Month, and Councilmembers are honoring an array of Black leaders in Philadelphia. Councilmember Parker offered a Resolution honoring Dr. Ala Stanford, creator of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, a front-line non-profit that has tested and is now vaccinating tens of thousands of Black and brown Philadelphians.
Councilmember Derek Green offered a Resolution honoring John Chaney, the iconic, longtime coach of Temple Owls Mens Basketball, as known for his on-court successes as for his stewardship and role modeling for young athletes.
Councilmember David Oh (At Large) offered a Resolution honoring Ukee Washington, longtime anchor at CBS3 Eyewitness News. The station and Mr. Washington were recently featured in a Los Angeles Times story detailing a pattern of racial discrimination displayed by CBS station managers and supervisors.
OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK
PHILADELPHIA FACTS AND FIGURES
The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 10 am. 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.
Featured photo: A. Ricketts for Visit Philadelphia