WEEKLY REPORT: ONE YEAR LATER, CITY SETTLES WITH FAMILY OF WALTER WALLACE, COMMITS TO SPECIFIC POLICE REFORMS

In Council News, Curtis Jones, Jr., Darrell L. Clarke, David Oh, Derek Green, Jamie Gauthier, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Kenyatta Johnson, News by PHL Council

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FIRST IN THE NATION SOLAR JOBS TRAINING LAB OPENS AT FRANKFORD HIGH SCHOOL

Mayor Kenney, School District Superintendent Dr. William Hite and City Councilmembers joined the Philadelphia Energy Authority to celebrate a milestone in Pennsylvania’s equitable transition to clean energy – the opening of a new Solar Training Lab at Frankford High School. In partnership with the School District of Philadelphia, PECO and other industry partners, the lab provides training opportunities for high school students for careers in solar and clean energy. The lab is used by students in the District’s Bright Solar Futures program, a 3-year career and technical education vocational program, the first of its kind in the nation, that launches young people into jobs of the future.

Bright Solar Futures, funded with grants from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office and PECO, provides access to solar careers for young Philadelphians, growing a diverse, more equitable workforce that will help make national climate priorities a reality. The recently completed Solar Lab provides a state-of-the-art teaching and learning environment for Frankford High students.

“I am proud to see Philadelphia and the School District leading the way in creating a diverse, clean energy workforce,” said City Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District). “When we set out 5 years ago to invest $1 billion and create 10,000 jobs in clean energy, we knew we would have to work hard to make sure that those jobs reached communities that have traditionally been overlooked in this industry. Now, we’ve cut the ribbon on the jobs of the future, right here at Frankford.”

The mayor and Dr. Hite were joined at the announcement by Councilmembers Maria Quiñones Sánchez (7th District) and Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At Large).

“I am thrilled that Bright Solar Futures has a home at Frankford High School here in the 7th District. Our young people deserve access to the best training possible for the jobs of the future, especially when they are living wage, green jobs. Frankford’s new Solar Lab sets the bar high in terms of innovation and technology and helps ensure that communities of color will have access to the jobs and benefits of solar energy. Congratulations to Principal Calderone, the School District, and the Philadelphia Energy Authority under the leadership of Council President Clarke,” said Councilmember Quiñones Sánchez.

“We are so proud to be here today at Frankford with these partners and these students. Solar is the fastest-growing job in Pennsylvania, and this lab will ensure equitable access to these jobs,” says Emily Schapira, President and CEO of Philadelphia Energy Authority. “Bright Solar Futures students train in solar and battery storage installation, sales, and design, along with weatherization, construction basics, and job site safety, ensuring that Philadelphia has the best-trained clean energy workforce in the region.”

COUNCILMEMBER GAUTHIER INTRODUCES RESOLUTION RECOGNIZING LIFE OF WALTER WALLACE JR., RECENT POLICE REFORMS

One year ago this week, Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old father of nine children, was shot to death by Philadelphia Police following a mental health episode in which his family called 911, then watched in horror as Mr. Wallace was fatally shot during an altercation with responding police.

Mr. Wallace’s death, five months after George Floyd’s murder by a Minnesota police officer sparked mass civil unrest and protest across the United States, generated protests in Philadelphia and cries for police reform here as well.

This week, attorneys for the city and Mr. Wallace’s family announced a legal agreement to enact significant reforms within the police department – every uninformed police officer will be outfitted with a Taser, trained to use the device properly, and must wear them when on patrol. The city will spend $14 million for the Tasers.

In City Council, Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), in whose district Mr. Wallace was fatally shot by police, introduced a resolution memorializing Mr. Wallace’s life, and recognizing the significance of the reforms following his death.

“Mr. Wallace was loved as a father, husband, son, brother, uncle, and cousin, and remembered as an aspiring musician, a handyman, an avid learner, a prankster, and a family man who enjoyed sports and exuded warmth and charisma,” the resolution states, before continuing: “In response to Mr. Wallace’s tragic death and his family’s calls for reform, City Council has expedited the passing of, and the Mayor has signed, a budget item for the immediate purchase of and training on tasers for all uniformed police officers; and

“Mr. Wallace’s death highlighted the urgent need for additional support for those with behavioral health challenges and their families, resulting in an acceleration of Dispatcher Crisis Intervention Training and the expeditious introduction of the Co-Responder pilot program; and the city can and will do better to address Philadelphia’s inequities in our criminal justice and health systems.”

Council will vote on the resolution next week. After Council’s Meeting, Councilmember Gauthier joined members of the Wallace family and their attorney outside City Hall for a news conference about the agreement. Later in the day, city officials confirmed that the city will pay $2.5 million to the Wallace family to settle a wrongful death lawsuit against Philadelphia.

COUNCIL PASSES ORDINANCE TO BILL MULTI-FAMILY PROPERTY OWNERS FOR REPAIRS IF THEY FAIL TO MAINTAIN PROPERTIES

A growing problem across Philadelphia – multi-family dwellings falling into disrepair, owners refusing to fix them, and apartment dwellers placed at risk – would be addressed in an ordinance introduced in Council this week.

Under the legislation introduced by Councilmember Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District) and passed Thursday by Council, if a property owner receives reasonable notice from city inspectors as to property violations and declines to make repairs, the city can order the repairs made and bill the property owner.

Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and New York City have similar programs that allows the city to repair emergency violations. The kinds of property violations which would be covered by the Philadelphia ordinance include plumbing system hazards and heating system issues.

If Licenses & Inspections officials give a property owner reasonable notice of a public nuisance, the owner must repair the violation within one month of receiving the notice, according to the legislation. Failure to do the repairs will authorize the city to remedy the violations and bill the property owner.  Non-payment of the bill could result in a lien against the property.

A Property Maintenance Fund will be established for the cost of repairs and be replenished by the property owner via repayment or liens. The initial budget request is $1,000,000 for a pilot of the program, according to the legislation.

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IN OTHER NEWS…

Councilmember Gilmore Richardson Introduces Bill to Update City’s LEED Requirements. Councilmember Gilmore Richardson introduced a bill this week to update the City’s LEED requirements for city-owned buildings. The City’s first LEED ordinance was enacted in 2009. The new legislation would align with current best practices and give the Office of Sustainability regulatory authority.

“The City has made significant commitments to reduce carbon emissions and create resilient communities, so we must continue to lead internally to achieve these goals,” said Councilmember Gilmore Richardson. “Over the decade since the original LEED ordinance passed, there have been important changes, such as the creation of the Office of Sustainability, the adoption of updated building codes, and other advances. We thought it was time to align our requirements with nationwide best practices. I want to thank the Administration, especially the Office of Sustainability, for their collaboration, and I look forward to our continued work together to create climate resilient and healthy work and community spaces in Philadelphia.”

In Floor Remarks, Councilmembers Urge Voters to Back Charter Change on Housing Trust Fund, Support SEPTA Workers Considering a Strike, and Note Urgency of Protecting Witnesses to Crimes.  Councilmembers frequently highlight the issues of the day in their floor speeches; Thursday was no exception. Councilmember Derek Green (At Large) urged voters to support a Home Rule Charter change to require annual city contributions to the Housing Trust Fund to spur more affordable housing. Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District) noted the many contributions of SEPTA workers as “essential front-line workers” during the COVID-19 pandemic, and offered his strong support should the workers’ union authorize a strike this weekend. And Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr., echoing remarks from Councilmember David Oh (At Large), spoke of the urgent necessity for city law enforcement to better protect residents who have witnessed serious crimes.

OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK

Committee on Commerce and Economic Development 10-25-2021

Committee on Rules 10-26-2021

Stated Meeting of Philadelphia City Council 10-28-2021

PHILADELPHIA FACTS AND FIGURES

Source: Philadelphia Controller FY20 Exempt Employee Diversity Review

The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, November 4, 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:

Photo by C. Smyth for Visit Philadelphia

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