WEEKLY REPORT: MEMBERS APPROVE PAID SICK LEAVE RENEWAL, PUBLIC BANK IN BUSY LEGISLATIVE SESSION

In Allan Domb, Brian O'Neill, Cherelle Parker, Council News, Darrell L. Clarke, David Oh, Derek Green, Isaiah Thomas, Kendra Brooks, News by PHL Council

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COUNCILMEMBER THOMAS’ DRIVING EQUALITY LEGISLATION BECOMES CITY LAW

Landmark legislation led by Councilmember Isaiah Thomas (At Large) to reform the way Philadelphia police execute car stops on motorists – particularly motorists of color – became city law on Thursday.

Driving Equality, which ends the traffic stops that promote discrimination while keeping the traffic stops that promote public safety, is now law in Philadelphia. These secondary traffic violations include:

  • Late registration (with a 60-day grace period)
  • Relocation of temporary registration (must be visible)
  • Relocation of license plate (must be visible)
  • Missing a single brake light
  • Items hanging from rear-view mirror
  • Minor bumper issues
  • Driving with expired inspection sticker
  • Driving with expired emission sticker

This approach seeks to redirect police time and resources towards keeping Philadelphians safe, while removing negative interactions that widen the divide and perpetuate mistrust.

“When I’ve been pulled over for a minor motor vehicle code violation, I’ve felt traumatized and humiliated,” said Councilmember Thomas. “As a young, Black man from Philadelphia – I never imagined this day would come. I am humbled to have the partnership with the Kenney administration, Philadelphia police, the Public Defenders Association, and other advocates. The data and the lived experience have led to this historic solution, and I look forward to hearing how “Driving Equality” bridges divides in Philadelphia.”

Last October, Council passed the Driving Equality bills. Mayor Kenney cemented the law with an Executive Order. The Council legislation and mayoral order gave police three months for training and education before enforcing the new law. After the training, Driving Equality became enforceable on March 3rd.

“I was proud to sign an executive order to implement the legislation set forth in the Driving Equality bills, which is needed to address the disproportionate number of traffic stops experienced by people of color in Philadelphia,” said Mayor Kenney. “Spearheaded by Councilmember Thomas, this historic legislation banning traffic stops made solely for these minor offenses will help to heal police-community relations and ensure the best use of our limited police resources.”

“The Driving Equality Bill introduced by Councilmember Thomas is an important step towards reducing the racial inequities identified in vehicle stops conducted in our city,” said Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw. “The PPD is not abandoning or being prohibited from enforcing the eight secondary offenses identified; rather, the bill and executive order modify how enforcement will occur.  All the safety laws remain on the books and may be enforced when a driver is stopped by police for any other primary offense.”

A companion bill requires the Police Department to record information on each vehicle stop into an electronic database to be posted publicly as well as shared with Council and the Citizens Police Oversight Commission. Councilmember Thomas is also establishing a working group to monitor the implementation and data surrounding the new law. Also this week, the police officers’ union, Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police, sued to stop enforcement of the law, claiming it is preempted by state motor vehicular law. The lawsuit is in Common Pleas Court.

AFTER DEBATE, EMERGENCY PAID SICK LEAVE RENEWAL PASSES COUNCIL

Legislation that would reinstate a requirement that gives thousands of Philadelphia workers up to 40 hours of paid leave to recover from COVID-19, care for a sick loved one, or get vaccinated, passed in Council on Thursday – after a second week of debate.

The bill, from Councilmember Kendra Brooks (At Large), originally applied to any employer with ten or more workers and cover anyone who is required to physically report to their jobs. After several Councilmembers, along with chambers of commerce representing segments of the local business community, raised questions about the legislation, Councilmember Brooks amended it last week, raising the size of businesses covered by the law to 25 or more employees.

That amendment didn’t stop those chambers from offering public comment against the bill Thursday prior to voting; the opposition centered on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses, and the legislation coming at a bad time in the economic recovery. Councilmembers Derek Green, Allan Domb and David Oh (At Large), echoed those concerns during a floor debate, voting against the bill. Councilmember Brian O’Neill (10th District) voted “no” as well.

Councilmember Brooks noted that 85 percent of city businesses have fewer than 25 employees and thus would be exempted by the law. During public comment, an array of restaurant workers also testified in favor of the legislation, saying they often felt torn between coming to work while sick, or losing their employment. “We should not leave workers out in the cold again,” Brooks said.

Two prior versions of the bill were passed in 2020 and 2021, with each granting thousands of workers access to paid leave to recover from COVID-19 or care for a sick family member. Both laws expired due to sunset provisions.

“Paid sick leave is an invaluable tool in simultaneously protecting the health and safety of low-wage workers and the wellbeing and trust of the public,” Councilmember Brooks said when the legislation passed out of committee. “We passed this law twice before and kept thousands of people from making the impossible choice between reporting to work sick or staying home and not being able to make rent. The most recent surge in COVID-19 case counts reminded us that we have a responsibility to show up for the workers that have carried this city on its back for nearly two years now. We must reinstate Public Health Emergency Leave.”

The final vote on the bill was 12 in favor and four opposed. The bill goes to Mayor Kenney for his consideration.

CLARKE INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO GIVE CITY WORKERS A PREFERENCE IN WORKFORCE HOUSING

Responding to rising housing prices, Council leadership introduced legislation to establish a preference for city workers seeking to buy affordable workforce housing.

The legislation, introduced by Council’s Majority Leader Cherelle L. Parker (9th District) on behalf of Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District), would create a buying preference for “qualified City of Philadelphia employees”. The legislation directs the city’s Office of Housing and Community Development to draft “regulations governing the manner in which municipal employees and other preferences shall be applied within its workforce housing programs.”

“The costs of buying a home in Philadelphia go up every year,” said Council President Clarke. “As more neighborhoods gentrify, the price of buying a home escalates. For a city workforce that largely is required to reside in Philadelphia anyway, it’s only fair and equitable to provide a housing preference for income-qualified city employees.”

Workforce housing is designed for middle-income workers in professions such as municipal government, health care and retail. City programs already include initiatives to provide qualified first-time homebuyers with grants to help with their closing costs and down payments. This preference for municipal workers is designed to provide assistance to city employees who are bedrock residents of their neighborhoods and want to purchase their own homes.

The municipal employee preference legislation will be referred to a Council committee for a public hearing.

This legislation comes at a time when Council and city officials are moving forward with next steps to implement the Neighborhood Preservation Initiative, a $400 million program to build new affordable housing, help first-time homebuyers purchase existing homes, assist renters in avoiding eviction, revitalize neighborhood commercial corridors, and an array of other initiatives

SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA…

COUNCIL APPROVES COUNCILMEMBER GREEN’S BILL TO CREATE A PUBLIC BANK FOR PHILADELPHIA

Councilmember Derek Green speaks at a podiumCouncil voted to approve legislation introduced last year by Councilmember Derek Green to establish the Philadelphia Public Financial Authority (“PPFA”), an entity that permits the city to create the nation’s first municipal public bank. The PPFA will provide needed financial support and resources to hard-to-lend-to businesses and organizations and local commercial development financial institutions.

As a former banker and small business lender, Councilmember Green has identified access to capital for entities that fall through the gaps of the current lending environment as an urgent issue that demands action from the city. Currently, only six percent of businesses with employees in Philadelphia are owned by African Americans, even though the City’s population is 44 percent African American. Only four percent of businesses with employees are owned by Latinx Philadelphians.

The goal of PPFA is not to compete against current businesses or organizations, or duplicate existing services, but to offer credit enhancement products, such as letters of credit, that will provide greater opportunities for co-operatives, entrepreneurs of color, and other business organizations to access additional credit to help build cash flow and job growth.

“This bill is the culmination of years of collaboration with the Philadelphia Public Banking Coalition, the Law Department, the City Treasurer, outside counsel, and numerous conversations with the PA Departments of Banking and Securities and Treasury, other interested parties and community stakeholders,” said Councilmember Green. “The lack of access to credit, which has been reiterated by numerous small business owners of color as their biggest challenge and greatest impediment to their ability to grow and thrive, was the basis for this legislation.”

“Black and Brown businesses are fewer in number, employ fewer workers, and have more difficulty growing, all of which are directly connected to their owners’ lack of access to credit and wealth,” Green said. “This inequitable access is why the PPFA is needed. More jobs, greater wealth, and more equity are the right way to alleviate the inextricably linked issues of the City’s 25 percent poverty rate, gun violence, and critical for building a more just city which our residents deserve.”

The ordinance goes into effect immediately.

IN OTHER NEWS…

Councilmember Oh Offers Resolution Seeking to Bar City from Doing Business with Russian-Connected Businesses. Amidst Russia’s ongoing war upon Ukraine, various American states and public entities are taking actions to echo the broad economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the Biden Administration and its European allies. In Council this week, Councilmember Oh introduced a resolution calling on city government to “terminate all contacts and financial ties with Russian businesses and investments.”

Councilmember Parker Introduces Resolution Honoring Ketanji Brown Jackson for her Nomination to U.S. Supreme Court. Parker offered her resolution following President Biden’s nomination this week of Judge Brown Jackson, a federal judge, to the Supreme Court – marking the first nomination of a Black woman to the nation’s highest court. Judge Brown Jackson is a former federal public defender who attended Harvard and Harvard Law School, and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Breyer, the retiring justice she has been nominated to replace. The nominee will now be considered by the U.S. Senate.

OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK

Committee on Rules 3-1-2022

Committee on Streets and Services 3-1-2022

Committee on Appropriations 3-2-2022

Committee on Finance 3-2-2022

Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention 3-2-2022

Stated Meeting of Philadelphia City Council 3-3-2022

Inside PHLCouncil Podcast Ep. 22: Councilmember Helen Gym, published 2-25-22

PHILADELPHIA FACTS AND FIGURES

COVID Cases Over Time Source: Philadelphia Inquirer

The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, March 10, 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.

Photo: Jared Piper/PHLCouncil

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