MAYOR DELIVERS $5.2 BILLION FY2022 BUDGET PROPOSAL TO COUNCIL, RELIES ON $1.4 BILLION IN FEDERAL FUNDS TO RECOVER FROM COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Like every other State and municipality, Philadelphia’s proposed FY2022 spending plan will rely heavily on the infusion of federal funds from the American Rescue Plan approved by Congress and the Biden-Harris administration last month.
In his annual budget address to City Council – his second delivered to a virtual Council because of the pandemic – Mayor Jim Kenney called his virtual address “surreal” and said it comes after “the most challenging year in Philadelphia’s history.”
City Hall, like much of private industry, has been closed to the public for more than a year, and the impact of the pandemic-influenced shutdown had Philadelphia facing a giant budget deficit, precipitated by plummeting tax revenues.
The American Rescue Plan changed that dire outlook dramatically, and led the mayor to announce a budget on Thursday that includes a return to pre-pandemic service levels for some city services, $19 Million more in spending on anti-violence programs, and even proposes a resumption of modest wage and business tax cuts which were suspended last year due to the pandemic.
“I, for one, have never lost hope,” the mayor said in his speech, which was delivered via a pre-recorded video that played during Council’s live, virtual session. “Hope for our City’s ability to rebound, hope for our capacity to overcome, and hope for an eventual return to all that makes Philadelphia great.”
Councilmembers reacted in measured fashion to the mayor’s proposed budget, with some members saying it needed to be bolder, others echoing his call for tax reductions, and Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District), indicating his focus during upcoming budget hearings would be singularly focused.
“My top priority and I believe the priority of my colleagues on Council is going to be investing in the people of Philadelphia,” Clarke said. “We need investments in neighborhood groups focused on stopping this unacceptable level of gun violence. We need investments in people and jobs-creation strategies that offer a viable way of lifting our residents up.”
“We need jobs to help lift people out of poverty, and we need opportunities for our youth to turn them away from negative paths that can lead to conflict. We need more equity in these strategies as well, as we seek to confront and dismantle systemic racism in Philadelphia.”
Councilmember Derek Green (At Large), who chairs Council’s Finance Committee, said while he welcomed the mayor’s budget proposal and its return of some services to pre-pandemic levels, he thinks the city needs to act “bolder” as it seeks to recover from a pandemic that essentially shuttered the city for over a year and put many out of work.
Councilmember Allan Domb (At Large), who last week introduced business and wage tax cuts that go deeper than the mayor’s proposals, agreed with his colleague, and said the city must do more to regain its competitiveness after so many businesses now have employees working from home locations.
Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At Large), said her focus during upcoming budget hearings would be on gun violence prevention, support for small businesses, workforce development and jobs, environmental justice, and arts and culture funding.
“We need a broad vision that prioritizes equity, sustainability, and economic opportunity in every neighborhood, and I will be preparing to ask tough questions of departmental leadership about their goals and metrics to ensure that everything we fund moves us one step closer to the safe, healthy, equitable, climate resilient city we all deserve,” Gilmore Richardson said.
COUNCIL, COMMUNITY ADVOCATES OUTLINE MULTI-FACETED AGENDA FOR VIOLENCE PREVENTION AND JOB CREATION
Earlier this week, Councilmembers unveiled a multi-faceted violence prevention and job creation agenda in response to decades-high incidents of shootings and homicides in Philadelphia in 2020 that have continued unchecked in 2021.
Headlining these initiatives: the recently approved $400 Million Neighborhood Preservation Initiative, which will invest deeply in neighborhood revitalization, jobs training and other strategies to stabilize neighborhoods and mitigate the conditions of deep poverty strongly linked to high incidences of gun violence.
Other initiatives on Council’s Violence Prevention and Opportunity Agenda include programs and legislation to promote more efficient use of law enforcement resources, engage at-risk youth through community organizations, and support stronger, commonsense regulation of deadly weapons. Council’s agenda will also include the creation of a new Special Committee to Strategize Job Training as a key part of gun violence prevention policy citywide.
“The levels of gun violence seen in our city today are unprecedented and unacceptable,” said Council President Clarke, who convened the news conference at the NoMo Foundation. “We must think and act differently. We will prioritize programs that offer young people hope and the opportunity to put their energies to more constructive uses – in jobs and fulltime employment.”
Clarke was joined by his leadership team on Council – Majority Leader Cherelle L. Parker (9th District), Whip Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District), and Deputy Whip Mark Squilla (1st District). Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, who chairs Council’s Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention, also participated, along with other Councilmembers.
“This has to be about hope,” Parker said at the news conference. “Jobs are a proven deterrent to violence. A good job for a young woman or a young man can be difference between a career that lasts for a lifetime or a life that is cut tragically short.”
“City Council’s Violence Prevention & Opportunity Agenda is a strong first step as Council and Mayor Kenney start discussions on gun violence prevention funding in the upcoming Fiscal 2022 Operating budget,” said Councilmember Johnson.
“Over the past few weeks, what I have heard clearly from Philadelphians is that the COVID19 coronavirus isn’t the only crisis impacting our city,” Johnson said. “We have reached an emergency status when it comes to gun violence, and all Philadelphians must work together to create short-term and long-term plans to address this senseless gun violence.”
To combat this rising tide of violence, Council’s Agenda includes a mix of actions focused on illegal guns, strategies targeting jobs creation, and other efforts designed to make Philadelphia’s neighborhoods more safe.
“There are many causes of violence, and the solutions will have to be multi-faceted as well,” said Curtis Jones, Jr., who chairs Council’s Committee on Public Safety. “One size does not fit all.”
Among forward-facing, longer-term strategies Council is undertaking:
- Neighborhood Preservation Initiative;
- New Normal Jobs Initiative. $10 Million invested in programs focusing on jobs and jobs training (Same Day Pay, environmental stewardship, neighborhood revitalization, health care workers);
- Curfew Centers, combining social services, community organizations and focused law enforcement in neighborhoods;
- Declaring a Citywide Emergency around gun violence, and treating it as a public health epidemic necessitating public health strategies and solutions;
- Hearings on the relationship between poverty, systemic racism and violence.
COUNCIL TO HOLD HEARINGS ON HOW TO USE FEDERAL FUNDS TO SUPPORT AFFORDABLE HOUSING, REDUCE HOMELESSNESS
As federal dollars flow to Philadelphia under the American Rescue Plan, one element – funding to address the need for more affordable housing and aid to reduce homelessness – led Council to introduce a resolution to hold hearings on how best to allocate those funds.
The resolution was introduced by Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) on behalf of Council President Clarke. It noted that Philadelphia will receive $42 Million for affordable housing and assistance to reduce homelessness.
“Homelessness continues to impact thousands of Philadelphians in the midst of a great need for permanent supportive housing to end chronic street homelessness,” the resolution stated. “Permanent solutions to homelessness in this City must be developed and implemented as an integral part of the City’s COVID-19 recovery plans.”
“Communities can use the [federal] funds to build affordable housing, or “supportive housing” which combines housing with services that people may need,” the resolution stated. “Grants could also go toward the cost of purchasing and converting hotels and other buildings into permanent housing units, or for short-term rental assistance.”
SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA…
We need both short-term actions to stem this violence, and longer-term strategies that invest in young people, providing job opportunities and hope.
— Darrell Clarke (@Darrell_Clarke) April 14, 2021
IN OTHER NEWS…
Councilmembers introduced a series of resolutions honoring a variety of public and non-profit leaders who have served Philadelphia for decades. Those resolutions and honorees included:
- Keir Bradford Gray, who has stepped down as Chief Public Defender in Philadelphia after 5 years of service to join a local law firm. Bradford Gray was honored by Councilmember Jones.
- Gail Harrity, who has retired after two-plus decades as President and COO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She was honored by a resolution from Councilmember Green.
- Dr. Carmen Febo, whose longtime service as executive director of Taller Puertorriqueno was honored by Councilmembers David Oh (At Large) and Maria Quiñones Sánchez (7th District).
- Paul Beideman, honored for years of service as President and CEO of Avenue of the Arts. His resolution was introduced by Councilmember Oh.
OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK
Committee on Children and Youth 4-8-2021
Committee on Appropriations 4-12-2021
Committee on Education 4-14-2021
Stated Meeting of Philadelphia City Council, 4-15-2021
Inside PHLCouncil Ep 18- Councilmember Kendra Brooks, published 4-9-2021
PHILADELPHIA FACTS AND FIGURES
The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, April 22, 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.