WEEKLY REPORT: COUNCIL REACTS TO SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT’S PLANNED DEPARTURE

In Allan Domb, Bobby Henon, Cherelle Parker, Cindy Bass, Council News, Darrell L. Clarke, David Oh, Derek Green, Helen Gym, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Kendra Brooks, Kenyatta Johnson, Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez, News by PHL Council

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COUNCILMEMBERS OFFER RANGE OF VIEWS AS SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT ANNOUNCES HIS PLANNED DEPARTURE IN 2022

After a decade at the helm of the School District of Philadelphia, Superintendent Dr. William Hite has announced his plan to depart from the district next year, and his contract will not be renewed. That significant news elicited a wide range of reactions from Councilmembers this week.

Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District) and Education Committee Chair Maria D. Quiñones Sánchez (7th District) issued a joint statement, saying “Dr. Hite came to Philadelphia at a difficult time, with looming budget deficits, structural challenges, and little support from either Harrisburg or Washington. He earned our confidence and helped steer the path towards local control and fiscal clarity. Dr. Hite offered stability, and now will help lead the District through a critically important transition to a new leader next year.”

“The school district faces many challenges – from the academic performance of its students, to the condition of its aging school infrastructure, all while grappling with the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We look forward to Dr. Hite’s work over this next year, and to improving the educational opportunities and futures for every child in our schools.”

At Large Councilmembers Helen Gym and Kendra Brooks, in separate statements, had different reactions to the news of Hite’s plans to leave.

“The announcement that Dr. William Hite will not renew his contract with the School District comes as a relief to many of our school community members who have been repeatedly failed by the District’s leadership over the past decade,” Councilmember Brooks said in a statement. “During Hite’s tenure, Philadelphia saw an unprecedented number of neighborhood schools shuttered, a sharp rise in the tide of school privatization, and repeatedly botched attempts to remediate toxic building conditions across the city. My sincere hope is that this change in leadership can be more than just symbolic and spark real change in the District’s approach to decision-making and to school-community relationships.”

“It is essential that the search for a new superintendent include the voices and experiences of school community members and not take place behind closed doors. It is essential that the new superintendent have real experience in schools that serve working class and poor neighborhoods, a demonstrated track record of listening to these communities, and a commitment to transforming the status quo, which has been failing communities like mine for generations.”

Councilmember Gym said, “The rough start to this school year demonstrates the underlying failures of the current administration to fulfill their basic roles — it’s clearly time for new leadership.”

“Dr. Hite’s tenure was book-ended by massive crises. While some were out of his control, the devastating closure of two dozen public schools and the loss of thousands of school staff drove me to seek public office to change the way we both envision and invest in our schools. And while our schools seem more fiscally stable, too much of the District’s surplus dollars came at the expense of tragic under-staffing that has jeopardized basic school operations and immoral budgets that stripped our children not only of their basic education, but the very safety they deserve to feel in our schools.”

“We now have the opportunity to pick a leader that shares our transformative vision for public education and works to implement it in partnership with us all. The health and future of our city depends on the strength of our school system.”

Joyce Wilkerson, President of the Philadelphia School Board, said at a Tuesday news conference the search for a new superintendent of schools would begin immediately, would include public engagement and process, and would lead to a new leader in charge prior to Dr. Hite’s planned departure next August.

COUNCILMEMBER DOMB INTRODUCES BILL TO ESTABLISH PERMANENT OUTDOOR DINING CITYWIDE

Councilmember Allan Domb (At Large) has introduced a pair of bills that would establish new regulations to allow for permanent outdoor dining across every city neighborhood, providing oversight and enforcement for sidewalk cafes and streeteries.

The emergency licenses that allowed for the initial outdoor dining options are set to expire at the end of 2021. Councilmember Domb’s legislation would update the city’s code by putting in place permanent regulations to address public safety, traffic flow, transit needs and bike lanes for all streeteries, providing guidance for the Streets Department (Streets) and the Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) to enforce as needed.

“With the emergency approvals expiring at the end of 2021, we need to establish legislation that would continue this great city amenity that we’ve enjoyed as a result of the pandemic,” said Councilmember Domb. “Restaurants of all sizes across the city utilized this opportunity and because of it, they were able to keep their doors open and employees working — all while continuing to overcome the challenges with maintaining a safe and healthy environment.”

The legislation will require new applicants to publicly post their applications for at least 10 days prior to obtaining a license, allowing citizens and neighborhood organizations an opportunity to relay concerns to Streets and L&I prior to a decision on licensure. Additionally, the legislation will give the city the authority to remove any structures that are not up to code and/or not being used as a streetery or sidewalk café.

The bills’ co-sponsors are Councilmembers Cherelle Parker, Kenyatta Johnson, Bobby Henon, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Derek Green, and Kendra Brooks.

These bills were developed in coordination with the Kenney administration, the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association (PRLA), Business Improvement Districts and business corridor managers and other stakeholders.

“Councilmember Domb and his office have worked closely with PRLA, restaurants and bars throughout the city, and dozens of other stakeholders like our public utility companies to craft comprehensive legislation that provides a practical solution to continuing Philadelphia’s outdoor dining scene,” said Ben Fileccia, PRLA director of operations and strategy.

Under the Home Rule Charter and Philadelphia Code, City Council plays an active role by legislation in deciding whether or not to allow sidewalk cafes and streeteries. The legislation introduced this week in Council would alter that existing legislative process.  The bill will be subject to a public hearing in Council.

CITY COUNCIL INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO FUND SAFE PLAY ZONE SECURITY CAMERAS NEAR REC CENTERS AND PLAYGROUNDS

Council has introduced legislation to increase the city’s capital budget by $1.8 Million to pay for new security camera technologies to be deployed near city recreation centers and playgrounds that have experienced incidents of gun violence.

The new “Safe Play Zone” security cameras will be equipped with 360-degree views and technology to better assist Philadelphia police in their efforts to safeguard city recreation centers and playgrounds.

The legislation, introduced Thursday by Councilmember Cindy Bass (8th District) at the request of Council President Clarke, would amend the city’s Fiscal 2022 Capital Budget and Program to add $1.8 Million to the capital spending plans.

Council President Clarke said conversations this Summer with police officials, along with ongoing gun violence at or near recreation centers and playgrounds across the city, led to the introduction of the legislation to fund security cameras with enhanced technologies and abilities to view surrounding areas in a 360-degree arc.

“Any gun violence or shooting anywhere in our city is a terrible thing,” Council President Clarke said. “But it’s particularly reprehensible when gun violence happens anywhere near a city playground or recreation center – which has happened too frequently over the past year. We need our playgrounds and rec centers to be safe havens for children and families.”

“This bill can only make the City of Philadelphia better,” said Councilmember Cindy Bass. “As Council’s Parks & Recreation Committee chair, I know how much our neighborhoods need better cameras, allowing residents to feel safer while enabling police to do better for our communities. In areas where violent gun crimes occur in public parks near our children, putting resources, such as this $1.8 million, is a step we’ve been waiting for and it’s a step we need.”

“The safety for all that use our City’s playgrounds and Recreational Centers are paramount to the Philadelphia Police Department,” said Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw. “Recently, we have witnessed brazen shootings at or near recreational sites with no regard to those in the vicinity. In an effort to curb and deter future violence, the installation of 360-degree cameras will support and increase our existing SafeCam efforts. Enhancing security camera coverage and technology serves as an important crime prevention and investigation tool to ultimately keep our City a safer place for our youth and families.”

SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA…

COUNCILMEMBER PARKER INTRODUCES RESOLUTION SUPPORTING EMPLOYEES FACING ALLEGED DISCRIMINATION BY FEDERAL CONTRACTOR

Councilmember and Majority Leader Cherelle Parker (9th District) introduced a resolution on Thursday supporting the workers of Federal contractor Triple Canopy, Inc., several of whom are facing alleged discrimination based on race and religion. Triple Canopy employs security officers who protect federal government buildings throughout the city, including the IRS, Social Security, Federal courts, Immigration, FEMA, and Customs House. The resolution calls out Triple Canopy’s alleged actions against workers including for “promoting an atmosphere of harassment by demanding workers prove their religion and chronic medical conditions every four months” in order to keep their facial hair.

“Government contractors must be held to the highest standard of workplace conduct,” Councilmember Parker said. “I, and my City Council colleagues, will not stand by as a government contractor intimidates workers in direct violation of Philadelphia law. Discrimination based on the way someone wears their hair or chooses to wear facial hair violates a bill we passed in 2020, which clarifies that hair texture and hairstyles are protected under characteristics commonly associated with race.”

Councilwoman Parker spearheaded the Philadelphia CROWN Act (Bill #200252), which became law in November 2020. CROWN stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. The law clarifies that unlawful discrimination on the basis of race includes discrimination based on characteristics commonly associated with race, such as hair texture and hairstyles.

Congressman Dwight Evans, PA-3, voted for the federal version of the CROWN Act, which passed the House but was rejected by the Senate in 2020.

“Workers should never have to endure religious discrimination, as alleged by security officers protecting Federal buildings throughout Philadelphia,” Congressman Evans said. “Thank you to Councilmember Parker for championing the CROWN Act in Philadelphia. I am committed to redoubling our efforts to ensure these same worker protections are encoded in Federal law.”

IN OTHER NEWS…

Councilmember Oh Offers a Plan to Create Financial Incentives for Philadelphia Film & Movie Industry. Councilmember David Oh (At Large) offered legislation creating financial incentives for film, video or digital media productions based in Philadelphia. The incentives would come in the form of tax credits offered to qualifying film, video or digital production companies against their real estate or BIRT taxes. The qualifying productions would have to be approved by the City Representative’s Film Office, and any films or videos produced under the law would also have to include a promotional logo thanking the City of Philadelphia for supporting the production.

OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK

Committee on Fiscal Instability and Intergovernmental Cooperation 9-29-2021

Stated Meeting of Philadelphia City Council 9-30-2021

PHILADELPHIA FACTS AND FIGURES

2021 Philadelphia Victims of Gun Violence, as of September 28, 2021 Source: Philadelphia Office of the Controller

The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, October 7, 2021 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.

Featured Photo: Elevated Angles for Visit Philadelphia

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