WEEKLY REPORT: VIOLENCE REDUCTION REMAINS A TOP COUNCIL PRIORITY FOLLOWING INCIDENTS NEAR SCHOOLS, ON SEPTA

In Cindy Bass, Council News, Curtis Jones, Jr., Darrell L. Clarke, David Oh, Helen Gym, Jamie Gauthier, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Kendra Brooks, Kenyatta Johnson, News by PHL Council

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LATEST FATAL SHOOTING NEAR HIGH SCHOOL PROMPTS DEBATE IN COUNCIL OVER TACTICS TO REDUCE GUN VIOLENCE

After yet another fatal shooting near a Philadelphia school earlier this week, opinions and ideas boiled over during a debate in City Council on Thursday, about what is being done to confront gun violence, what isn’t being done – and what should happen next moving forward.

Earlier this week, as students left for the day outside Abraham Lincoln High School in Northeast Philadelphia, gunfire rang out outside a pizza shop. When it was over, an motorist driving by the scene by chance was fatally shot, a 16-year-old youth at the shop was critically wounded, and a 21-year-old suspect was in custody.

This incident comes on the heels of multiple shootings in 2021, including increasing incidents of shootings involving young people under the age of 18 – and other fatal shootings near other schools.

Councilmember David Oh (At Large), after praising his colleagues who work constantly on the gun violence issue – specifically Councilmembers Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District) and Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District) – lamented that whatever the city was doing to combat gun violence, much more needed to be done to stem the senseless, ongoing tide of shootings and bloodshed.

Councilmember Helen Gym (At Large) was next. After noting that Philadelphia police are targeting and providing more intensive patrols in 25 zones near 35 city schools where gun violence has taken place in nearby areas, Gym said the School District of Philadelphia needed to be held much more accountable for student safety.

Councilmember Cindy Bass (8th District), whose North-Northwest Philadelphia district has been plagued by some of the highest number of shootings over the past year, said she believed that many of the shootings stem from “beefs” and disputes among young people that start inside schools, and she too wondered whether school officials are doing enough to intervene and prevent these disputes from escalating into gun violence when schools let out for the day.

Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District) noted the significance of both Council’s exchanges on Thursday as well as the broader issues of ongoing gun violence confronting the city. “I know I’m not supposed to speak from this chair,” Clarke noted, “but sometimes I have to. The reality is, even with everything that we’re doing – and will continue to do – to prevent gun violence – some of these people committing these incidents need to go away. They need to go away.”

Through Thursday, 1,886 people have been shot citywide this year, 8 percent more than last year. Homicides are up 14 percent, and now stand at 443. That is more homicides than all but three other years since the 1970s – and 2021 still has two months and 10 days left to go.

35 young people aged 18 and under have been shot since school buildings re-opened, city officials said this week. 

City Council has taken a wide array of actions to try and reduce and prevent gun violence, including appropriating $22 Million in June, in concert with the Kenney administration, to be allocated to community-driven strategies and neighborhood groups who know their communities best; to funding more high-technology surveillance cameras near recreation centers; to a lawsuit against the state legislature, alleging it has failed to protect Philadelphia and other cities by refusing to enact stronger gun laws. That lawsuit is pending in Commonwealth Court.

AFTER A RAPE ON A TRAIN, COUNCILMEMBER OH CALLS FOR HEARINGS ON THE SAFETY OF SEPTA FACILITIES, VEHICLES

Following an incident last week in which a woman was raped aboard a SEPTA train by another passenger, while some passengers aboard the train looked on and did nothing – an incident that has drawn national attention – Councilmember Oh this week introduced a resolution for Council to hold public hearings into the incident and examine the issue of public safety aboard SEPTA vehicles.

The alleged rapist has been charged and remains in custody.

COUNCILMEMBERS GAUTHIER, GILMORE RICHARDSON LEAD HEARING ON TANGLED TITLES

Councilmembers Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At Large) and Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), chair of the Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development, and Homelessness, held the hearing. According to 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 owner of a property dies. If unremedied, tangled titles can force a resident to leave their home, or to cope with hazardous living conditions. Homes with tangled titles are more likely to fall into disrepair or become abandoned, creating blight in neighborhoods and decreasing the availability of affordable housing.

“Over a billion dollars in generational wealth is currently caught up in tangled titles and that is a low estimate,” said Councilmember Gilmore Richardson. “Thousands of Philadelphians have struggled to gain title to a family home, including me. Based on the Pew report, we know more than 10,000 families are currently living in a home of a deceased loved one. With today’s hearing we have a better understanding of how residents are impacted, how local government is addressing this crisis, and the types of assistance available. This will help us further identify solutions to prevent future tangled titles and to better serve those already in need.”

“Tangled titles make it impossible for residents to qualify for resources, like loans and city-run repair programs, that can be a lifesaver when it comes to maintaining a property – especially for low-income homeowners,” said Councilmember Gauthier. “As a result, homes with tangled titles often fall into disrepair, and are sometimes even abandoned – in turn creating conditions that make communities vulnerable to divestment and increased levels of violence. If safe, stable neighborhoods are the goal, then addressing our city’s tangled title crisis is a necessary step in the right direction.”

Witnesses included residents who have lived experience untangling titles, experts who have researched the economic impact of this crisis, and practitioners who address these issues every day.

As a follow-up from the hearing, Councilmembers Gilmore Richardson and Gauthier will lead a working group comprised of local experts on tangled title to identify solutions for this growing concern. Additionally, Councilmember Gilmore Richardson’s bill requiring probate information to be shared along with death certificates will be heard in Council’s Committee on Commerce and Economic Development on October 25 at 9 AM.

SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA…

IN OTHER NEWS…

Council Passes Resolution Designating October 21st as Conflict Resolution Day. With so many shootings in Philadelphia fueled by beefs and feuds among young people, Councilmember Gilmore Richardson introduced a resolution which was approved to not only highlight the need for conflict resolution training – but to require its use in city schools. Gilmore Richardson had introduced an earlier resolution approved in Council that prompted the School District of Philadelphia to initiate conflict resolution instruction for every student in its schools. The goal of the instruction is to help students “learn to develop awareness of their own responses to conflict, understand the diversity with which others respond, learn and practice the principles of conflict resolution and the skills of peaceful problem-solving processes, empower themselves to be individually and cooperatively responsible for resolving conflicts and integrate these responsibilities into their daily lives,” the resolution states.

OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK

Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development and the Homeless 10-20-2021

Committee on Intergenerational Affairs and Aging 10-20-2021

Stated Meeting of Philadelphia City Council 10-21-2021

PHILADELPHIA FACTS AND FIGURES

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer “Philadelphia is one of America’s most diverse cities — and one of the most divided.”

The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, October 28, 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: C. Kao for Visit Philadelphia

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