REDUCING GUN VIOLENCE REMAINS A TOP PRIORITY FOR CITY COUNCILMEMBERS
The city’s ongoing epidemic of gun violence is never far from City Council’s mind or public discussion, and Thursday’s Meeting was no exception.
During the Meeting, Councilmember Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District), who chairs Council’s Committee on Public Safety, updated his colleagues on his trip to Harrisburg earlier in the week, where he observed the City of Philadelphia’s legal argument in support of its lost or stolen handgun reporting ordinance.
The city is seeking court approval to enforce its local ordinance, which assigns civil penalties to anyone found liable for violating the law. The city brought a case against a prohibited purchaser of firearms to test the legal validity of the ordinance. Attorneys for the defendant are seeking to have the case – and the city’s ordinance – overturned on the basis that Philadelphia is preempted from regulating firearms by a statewide law that regulates all firearms activity.
“Harrisburg is a long way away from Philadelphia – philosophically as well as geographically,” Councilmember Jones told his colleagues. The case, Armstrong v. City of Philadelphia, is currently being litigated in state Commonwealth Court.
After the Thursday Meeting, two Councilmembers – Jones and Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District) – participated in a virtual press avail to promote a Gun Buyback effort taking place on Sat., Nov. 20, at churches in Southwest Philadelphia and Frankford.
City Council has been sponsoring a yearlong Gun Buyback campaign with its principal partners, the non-profit Fathers Day Rally Committee, Philadelphia Police, and area houses of worship.
In exchange for turning in a working firearm, no questions asked, residents receive a gift certificate worth $100 and redeemable for groceries at participating ShopRite supermarkets. At six different buybacks in 2021, a total of 657 guns have been turned in. Philadelphia police trace the guns to ensure they are not wanted in any open criminal investigations, and the guns are later destroyed.
Councilmembers Jones and Johnson noted during the press avail that a 2-year-old boy was accidentally shot in his family’s home in the Point Breeze section of South Philadelphia on Wednesday night. The boy was in stable condition and expected to survive, unlike other, similar incidents in Philadelphia this year, in which toddlers have died following accidental shootings inside homes.
Following a hearing in the Appropriations Committee, Council gave preliminary approval this week to a midyear budget transfer ordinance for FY2021-22. The budget ordinance, introduced at the Kenney administration’s request, moves city funds around among various agencies as the city’s fiscal year nears its midpoint, and different departments are showing different needs. The ordinance will provide more funding to the police and fire departments to cover personnel costs arising from the civil unrest, COVID-19 response, and various staffing shortages caused by the pandemic.
The ordinance provides for more funding to the City Commissioners to address personnel costs caused by the 2020 presidential election and the commissioners’ unprecedented response in counting hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots. It also provides for added funding for the District Attorney’s Office, more funding for arts and culture initiatives, and an array of other city expenditures.
MEMBERS PRAISE HISTORIC SELECTION OF FIRST BLACK LEADER OF PHILADELPHIA BUILDING TRADES
Councilmembers praised this week’s historic selection of Ryan Boyer, who heads Laborers Union Local 332, to be the new leader of the Philadelphia Building & Construction Trades Council, becoming the first Black leader of the Trades Council in its history.
Majority Leader Cherelle L. Parker (9th District) predicted Boyer’s tenure would lead to “a more diverse, more inclusive trades” in the City of Philadelphia.
Boyer’s ascension took place following Electricians Union leader John Dougherty’s resignation from the Trades Council leadership post, following his conviction this week in federal court on conspiracy charges.
That same court case led to Councilmember Bobby Henon’s (6th District) conviction on similar charges. On Wednesday, as a result, Councilmember Henon stepped down as chair of two Council committees – Public Property & Public Works, and Licenses & Inspections, and as vice chair of two other committees, Finance and Public Health & Human Services. In a memorandum to Councilmembers, Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District) notified his colleagues of Henon’s decision to relinquish those posts, and Clarke indicated he would consult with Council’s leadership team and announce replacements, as per Council’s rules.
SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA…
🎶What a bright time, it’s the right time
To get your COVID-19 vaccine! 🎶
— Philadelphia Public Health (@PHLPublicHealth) November 18, 2021
IN OTHER NEWS…
Councilmember Parker Introduces Commercial Tenant Protection Bill. Parker’s bill would help small businesses that enter into commercial leases — only to discover their leased property or building requires zoning changes that are expensive and draining on the business. The legislation requires property owners to provide a city-issued guidebook 7 days in advance of any lease signing, as a layer of protection for small business entrepreneurs who may not be familiar with city zoning rules.
Councilmember Domb Sponsors Resolutions Honoring Two Local Icons, Comcast’s David L. Cohen and 6ABC Anchor Jim Gardner. Cohen, a longtime business and civic leader in Philadelphia who once served as Mayor Ed Rendell’s chief of staff, was recently confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to Canada. Gardner, who’s been the most recognizable face of local TV news in Philadelphia since the mid-1970s, recently announced his plans to gradually transition towards retirement later in 2022. Councilmember Allan Domb (At Large) made remarks praising the work of both men upon introduction of the resolutions.
OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK
PHILADELPHIA FACTS AND FIGURES
The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, December 2, 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.