WEEKLY REPORT: COUNCIL’S FALL TERM BEGINS WITH EMPHASIS ON NEIGHBORHOOD INVESTMENT, EQUITY

In Cherelle Parker, Council News, Curtis Jones, Jr., Darrell L. Clarke, Derek Green, Helen Gym, Isaiah Thomas, Jamie Gauthier, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez, News by PHL Council

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CITY COUNCIL INTRODUCES FUNDING PLAN FOR $400 MILLION NEIGHBORHOOD PRESERVATION INITIATIVE

City Council has introduced a funding plan for the Neighborhood Preservation Initiative (NPI), a $400 Million plan for massive, citywide investments in affordable housing production, home repairs, small business revitalization and neighborhood preservation.  NPI was approved in Council last year, along with financing to pay for it. Last week, Council leaders introduced a detailed spending plan for NPI in legislation. Its programs will include:

  • Affordable Housing Production ($113 Million)
  • Preservation of Affordable Housing ($64.6 Million)
  • Support for First-time Home Buyers ($58 Million)
  • Basic Systems Repairs to Existing Homes ($38 Million)
  • Infrastructure Improvements in Neighborhoods ($26.6 Million)
  • Permanent Housing for Homeless ($15.2 Million)
  • Neighborhood Small Business Support & Revitalization ($15.2 Million)

NPI’s four-year budget also includes Shallow Rent Assistance ($15.2 Million), Eviction Prevention ($11.4 Million), and Tangled Title support ($7.6 Million.)

Council leaders held a news conference in West Oak Lane days before the spending plan was introduced, where they were joined by a small business owner who symbolizes the kind of commercial corridor investments envisioned under NPI.

“Thanks to the city, our storefront and sidewalk are clean and orderly, and our signage is attractive to our customers,” said Crystal Bradley, owner of Gilben’s Bakery and Specialty Sandwich Shop on Stenton Avenue. “It makes them feel comfortable to come and shop

here. I’m very glad to hear the city plans to invest in commercial corridor revitalization all across Philadelphia.”

Ms. Bradley was joined at the news conference by Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District), Cherelle L. Parker (9th District), Council’s majority leader, and Councilmembers Maria D. Quiñones Sánchez (7th District), Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) and Helen Gym (At Large).

Clarke called NPI “the largest, single investment in Philadelphia neighborhoods in city history.” Parker said, “NPI will spend close to a half-billion dollars to help those in poverty, prevent those living on the margins from falling further behind, create sustainable jobs and assist small businesses – which need help the most right now.”

Quiñones Sánchez said, “City Council has developed a better New Normal and will aggressively invest in neighborhoods and our residents to ensure real inclusion and equity in our recovery and our growth.”

COUNCILMEMBER THOMAS’ DRIVING EQUALITY LEGISLATION TO PREVENT RACIAL DISPARITIES IN POLICE CAR STOPS RECEIVES PRELIMINARY APPROVAL

An ordinance introduced by Councilmember Isaiah Thomas (At Large), intended to remove Philadelphia police from certain kinds of traffic stops received preliminary approval in Council this week. The intent of Councilmember Thomas’ legislation is to prevent racial disparities with policing without risking public safety.

“We need to rethink police-community relations in a way that does not infringe on public safety. I believe my Driving Equality Agenda does that,” Councilmember Thomas said. “A person of color’s first exchange with a police officer shouldn’t be during a discriminatory traffic stop. By working closely with the Police Department, we were able to identify traffic stops that do nothing to keep people safer and remove the negative interaction.”

Councilmember Thomas’ legislation received a public hearing this week in Council’s Public Safety Committee, and then first-reading approval in Council’s Meeting on Thursday. The bill’s approach to reducing police-community tension, which has received widespread support, seeks to redirect police time and resources towards keeping Philadelphia safe while removing negative police interactions. Driving Equality will reclassify certain traffic violations so that a traffic stop is no longer warranted, including a busted taillight or a loud muffler. Additionally, a second bill will require Philadelphia police to collect and publicly report data relating to traffic stops.

COUNCILMEMBER JONES INTRODUCES RESOLUTION TO INVOLVE  HBCUs IN RECRUITMENT TO HELP MAKE PHILADELPHIA POLICE DEPARTMENT MORE DIVERSE

Councilmember Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District) introduced a resolution in Council this week to hold hearings to explore how the region’s historically Black colleges and universities can be involved in recruiting candidates to join the Philadelphia Police Department, with the goal of increasing the department’s diversity.

Councilmember Jones’ resolution states that Council’s Committee on Public Safety, which he chairs, will hold hearings to examine ways to create curriculum and degree programs within Pennsylvania’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), including Cheyney University and Lincoln University, to become feeders of recruitment to the Police Department with the goal of diversifying the city’s police force – a struggle for the department in recent years.

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IN OTHER NEWS…

Council President Proposes Reforms to Zoning Board of Adjustment and to the Neighborhood Zoning Process. In one bill, the Zoning Board would be increased from five members to seven members, subject to Council approval, and members would also be required to have professional qualifications to serve on the board, such as being an architect, or an urban planner, or an attorney with real estate zoning expertise. No such qualifications exist currently. The bill was introduced by Councilmember Derek Green (At Large) on Council President Clarke’s behalf. Community organizations wrote to Mayor Kenney earlier this month, urging the mayor to support similar reforms to the ZBA, claiming the board is biased towards developers at the expense of community groups and neighborhood residents.

In other zoning legislation, Councilmembers Quiñones Sánchez and Gauthier on Thursday introduced an amendment to Bill No. 210474-A, which concerns various bonuses and credits which developers may receive dependent on support and contributions into the city’s Housing Trust Fund, which supports the development of more affordable housing.

“Mandatory inclusionary zoning is a big piece of the puzzle when we talk about equitable development and giving Philadelphians equal access to amenity-rich neighborhoods—both of which are core components of my agenda,” said Councilmember Gauthier. “The mixed income housing bonus has been successful—but the time has come to see where it can be taken further, and how we can ensure affordable units are available in neighborhoods where new developments are built.”

“Diverse, mixed income neighborhoods need strong public policy that incentivizes and promotes equitable development,” Councilmember Sánchez said when the bill was first introduced earlier this year.  The amended ordinance will be considered at a subsequent meeting in Council.

Councilmember Green Introduces Resolution to Explore Ranked-Choice Voting System in Philadelphia. Ranked-choice voting, a voting method allowing voters to rank candidates on their ballots, is an idea that should be considered in Philadelphia, under a resolution introduced by Councilmember Derek Green.

“Ranked-choice voting, sometimes called instant runoff voting, allows voters to rank candidates on their ballots, so that if one candidate does not secure a majority of votes, election officials can eliminate candidates with the fewest first-choice votes and immediately re-assign those voters to their next-choice candidate, until one candidate is favored over the remaining alternatives by a majority of voters,” Green’s resolution states, calling for public hearings in Council’s Law & Government Committee.

Ranked-choice voting was used in the New York City mayoral primary earlier this year. One state (Maine) has implemented ranked-choice voting at a state level, and eight other states have implemented ranked-choice voting at some level, according to the resolution.

Councilmember Gilmore Richardson Introduces Legislation to Help Prevent Tangled Titles in Philadelphia Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At Large) has introduced legislation to help prevent tangled titles in Philadelphia. The Tangled Title Disclosure Bill requires funeral homes to share information, provided in partnership by the Department of Records and Register of Wills, about probating estates and avoiding tangled titles when they provide a death certificate. According to recent research from the Pew Charitable Trusts, Philadelphia has at least 10,407 tangled titles, and half of these titles became tangled within the last decade. The vast majority of these tangled titles result from heirs not acting after the record owner of a property dies.

“Over a billion dollars in generational wealth is currently caught up in tangled titles and that is a low estimate,” said Councilmember Gilmore Richardson. “Once a title is tangled, it is much harder to resolve, and many Philadelphians are unaware that they are not the legal record owner of a property until they run into a problem. By providing information about probating estates and how a title becomes tangled with death certificates, we will be educating residents about the proper next steps and reducing the number of people who end up with a tangled title.”

OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK

Stated Meeting of Philadelphia City Council 9-17-2021

Committee on Public Safety 9-22-2021

Stated Meeting of Philadelphia City Council 9-23-2021

PHILADELPHIA FACTS AND FIGURES

 

The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, September 30, 3021 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.

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