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WEEKLY REPORT: COUNCIL APPROVES NEW DISTRICT BOUNDARIES; MAY CONSIDER TERM LIMITS AGAIN

In Council News, Darrell L. Clarke, News by PHL Council

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COUNCILMEMBER DOMB REINTRODUCES TERM LIMITS FOR CITY COUNCIL

Councilmember Allan Domb (At Large) introduced legislation on Thursday that would impose term limits on members of Philadelphia City Council.

Councilmember Domb’s legislation would set a four-term limit for serving in City Council (members are elected to four-year terms), meaning any member could serve a maximum amount of 16 years in Council. Because Domb’s bill requires a change in the city’s Home Rule Charter, it must first receive approval from two-thirds of Council, and then, by the voters of Philadelphia.

“The reasons behind this charter change are simple: term limits allow for fresh ideas and increase diversity in City Council candidates – creating a more engaging democratic process for voters and candidates,” Domb said in a prepared statement. “Term limits encourage officials to make bold policy decisions and to hold leaders accountable.”

Domb’s bill was co-sponsored by five other Councilmembers – At Large members Helen Gym, Kendra Brooks and Derek Green, Mark Squilla (1st District), and Jamie Gauthier (3rd District).

Domb tried to introduce term limits legislation previously in Council, but it failed to attract enough support and never moved forward.

In 2020, Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District) had term limits legislation introduced in Council on his behalf. That bill would have limited Council members to five terms in office. Clarke’s legislation included companion legislation that would have asked Philadelphia voters to amend the Charter to eliminate the city’s resign-to-run law, the Council president has said in the past that resign-to-run significantly limits Philadelphia public officials from considering statewide or any other office. No other county in Pennsylvania has a resign-to-run law. City legal counsel indicated at the time that the two issues were separate and could not be considered in one single piece of legislation, so Clarke’s bill did not move forward.

COUNCILMEMBERS GIVE FINAL APPROVAL TO REDISTRICTING PLAN

City Council this week gave final approval to legislation that revises the boundaries of its 10 districts, following the requirement that Council go through once-a-decade redistricting following the U.S. Census.

The redistricting legislation, Bill No. 220003 as amended, received unanimous approval on final passage on Thursday, following two hearings on the redistricting issue in which over 30 members of the public testified. The redistricting bill passed several days before the legal deadline for Council to approve the plan.

The main changes to the districts involved dealing with population growth on the eastern half of the city, compared to more sluggish population numbers on the western side of Philadelphia. Boundaries were eventually drawn so that the smallest district (4th District) has a population size within 10 percent of the largest district (6th District), the requirement by law. Most of the new districts will average around 160,000; the city’s population stands at just over 1.6 million.

During the public hearings, individuals testified on a wide range of issues, from wanting more public engagement around redistricting, to wanting to make sure neighborhoods were not split among different districts. Another issue that arose involves “prison gerrymandering,” meaning how inmates were counted for purposes of redistricting.

Council President Clarke, who supervised the redistricting process with input from Councilmembers and staff, made clear in the hearings as well as in recent press interviews that Council plans to address the prison gerrymandering issue.

Clarke said that staff are in contact with vendors with the capacity to add data involving prisoners in state correctional facilities back into Council districts, based on prisoners’ last known addresses. The number of inmates in state facilities with prior addresses in Philadelphia is approximately 7,000. Adding in inmates in the Philadelphia County jail (approximately 3,000), the total number of prisoners at issue is about 10,000, Clarke has said. “Council has the ability and authority to revisit its boundaries to add the prisoner data by district, once it is ready, and plans to do so,” the President has told Members.

The 10,000 figure is one half of 1% of the City’s population of 1,603,797 residents.  The adding of these individuals back into Council districts is not anticipated to have any appreciable impact on district boundaries, and it is also not expected to have any impact on federal funds that ultimately are allocated to Philadelphia.

“We’re going to do it because it’s the right thing to do,” Council President Clarke told members of the media this week. “We want to make sure that everyone who should be counted is counted.”

COUNCILMEMBER BROOKS RESOLUTION HONORS “BLACK ROSIE” RUTH WILSON, A WORLD WAR II ICON

Councilmember Kendra Brooks (At Large) introduced a resolution honoring Ruth “Ruthie” Wilson, a “Black Rosie” whose crucial industrial work at the Philadelphia Navy Yard – along with 600,000 other Black Rosies – was a key part of the American war effort, and helped launch the Black middle class in this country.

Brooks’ resolution about Ruth Wilson and so many other Black women tells a powerful story of racial oppression before the War, critical work supporting the war effort, and then more systemic racism and sexism after the war when U.S. soldiers came home.

Ruth Wilson is alive today, approaching 100 years old, and said publicly, when asked about racism she faced, “We always faced it, but you know, you went along with it because you had no other recourse, but you didn’t like it. Young people now are going to get their way. They’re going to change the world.”

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IN OTHER NEWS…

Council Honors Two Public Figures Who Passed Away First, Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, speaking for herself and Councilmember Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District introduced a resolution honoring the life and legacy of religious and community leader Imam Asim Abdur-Rashid of Masjid Mujahideen, who passed recently. Gauthier spoke of watching the Imam speak at a community vigil in West Philadelphia and seeing first-hand the power and respect that he held in his community.

Next, Councilmembers Squilla and Cherelle L. Parker (9th District) jointly introduced a resolution honoring the life and service of longtime PECO Energy official Ed McBride, who also passed recently.  Councilmember after member rose in tribute to McBride, PECO’s local external affairs representative who knew everyone at City Hall and was constantly on call to handle public and constituent requests for assistance. Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson offered a moving anecdote, saying that McBride “treated me the same way when I was an 18-year-old intern in City Council as the day I became an elected member of this legislative body.”

Councilmember Thomas Resolution Honors Local Firm for Developing a Black Business Directory.  Councilmember Isaiah Thomas (At Large) introduced a resolution honoring Beech Community Services, a North Philadelphia-based firm, for developing the Black Business Directory and for other community engagement during the 4th annual Black Business Crawl.

Earlier this week, Beech Community Services joined the African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic Chambers of Commerce outside their offices in North Philly where a Black Business Mobile Van was unveiled.  Sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank, the Van will travel along neighborhood commercial corridors and help small businesses with grant and loan applications and offer other logistic support.

OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK

Committee on Commerce and Economic Development 2-7-2022

Joint Committee on Finance, Transportation and Public Utilities 2-9-2022

Stated Meeting of Philadelphia City Council 2-10-2022

PHILADELPHIA FACTS AND FIGURES

Chart illustrating 11,000 to 19.000 fewer commuters into Philadelphia each day.

Source: Pew Report – How the Pandemic Has Affected Philadelphia’s Economy and Jobs

The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, February 17, 2022 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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