WEEKLY REPORT: COUNCILMEMBERS PUT QUALITY-OF-LIFE, PUBLIC SAFETY ISSUES FRONT AND CENTER

In Cindy Bass, Council News, Curtis Jones, Jr., Darrell L. Clarke, David Oh, Derek Green, Helen Gym, Isaiah Thomas, Jamie Gauthier, Kendra Brooks, Kenyatta Johnson, News by PHL Council

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COUNCILMEMBERS PUT QUALITY-OF-LIFE, PUBLIC SAFETY ISSUES FRONT & CENTER

As Philadelphia’s homicide total in 2022 remains at 2021 record levels, quality of life issues in city neighborhoods – short dumping, abandoned cars, and protecting witnesses of violent crimes – are a significant concern in City Council.

In its Meeting yesterday, four Councilmembers introduced measures to address different aspects of quality of life in city neighborhoods.

Councilmember David Oh (At Large) introduced measures to deal with illegal short dumping in neighborhoods, as well as to better police the practice of large tractor trailers being parked in residential areas.

Councilmember Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District) introduced a resolution calling on the PA Attorney General’s Office, the DA’s Office, the Sheriff, Controller and Managing Director to jointly evaluate the city’s witness relocation and protection programs.

Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) introduced a resolution calling for hearings to explore how police and city officials are dealing with the “widespread prevalence of abandoned cars” across the city, and how the city can improve its performance.

Meanwhile, Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District) had legislation introduced on his behalf that would quadruple the budget for the city’s CLIP program – Community Life Improvement Program – a citywide neighborhood lot and property cleanup initiative. Clarke’s bill, setting a CLIP budget for next fiscal year of $28.9 Million, will be taken up during the upcoming city budget process.

Dealing with quality-of-life issues isn’t new for Council, but as gun violence and public safety become chronic concerns for residents across the city, Councilmembers are looking for new ideas and solutions to address them.

Councilmember Oh’s bills introduced Thursday were perhaps the most comprehensive. On illegal short dumping of trash, Oh’s legislation would authorize third-party entities, such as private tow truck operators, to boot and tow short dumping violators “whenever a third-party … has probable cause to believe a vehicle was or is being used to violate” existing city laws against short dumping – a blight on many neighborhoods.

Oh’s legislation would also crack down on illegal parking of large commercial vehicles – trailers, semitrailers and auto carrier trailers – in residential neighborhoods. The legislation amends existing city code to add semitrailers and truck tractors and clarify that these vehicles cannot be parked on any residential street for any amount of time. It establishes a $300 civil penalty for vehicles that are illegally parking on residential streets with proper identification, and authorizes the immobilization and towing of vehicles that are illegally parked in residential neighborhoods without proper identification.

“The blight created by illegal dumping and abandoned vehicles is a scourge on our neighborhoods and a contributor in the rise of violence we are seeing.” Councilmember Oh said. “We need to change the culture of dumping trash and abandoning large trailers and commercial vehicles in our neighborhoods. All residents, regardless of zip code, deserve clean, safe communities. I hope these measures can improve the responsiveness and efficiency in combatting these ongoing violations.”

COUNCILMEMBER GYM OFFERS BILL TO GIVE BACK MORE THAN $1 MILLION ANNUALLY TO YOUTH IN FOSTER CARE

Councilmember Helen Gym (At-Large) this week introduced legislation to make sure that federal benefits owed to youth in foster care are identified, put in protected accounts, and prohibited from the city’s using them for basic care needs.

Each year, between 10 and 20 percent of youth in Philadelphia’s foster care system are entitled to over $1.3 million in federal benefits, including survivors’ and social security disability benefits. Currently, the city collects these benefits without notice to youth or families, and places them in the General Fund, a controversial practice which occurs widely across the country. Gym’s legislation would prohibit this practice. Under the bill, the city would be required to screen youth for eligibility and assist them in applying for potential benefits, and to establish individual accounts to hold the funds. It also prohibits the funds from being used to cover routine costs of care.

“Today’s legislation rectifies a clear injustice. These benefits belong to youth in our foster care system, and today Philadelphia takes a bold step in leading changes which must follow at the state and federal level,” said Councilmember Gym. “With this legislation, we can ensure that every child in our city’s foster system has every resource owed to them — especially to guarantee the smoothest possible transition as they age into independence.”

In December, an investigation by Resolve Philly revealed nearly $5 million in foster youths’ federal benefits had been collected and put in the city’s General Fund between 2016 and 2020. This practice has been challenged on grounds including due process and equal protection violations. Two other cities, Los Angeles and New York City, have recently taken steps to prohibit this practice — and now Councilmember Gym’s legislation would establish similar protections for foster youth in Philadelphia.

“While most children involved with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems face heightened obstacles to success and well-being, we know that some children face even larger financial and emotional burdens from their own disability or the death of a parent,” said Frank P. Cervone, Executive Director of the Support Center for Child Advocates. “Social security disability and survivor benefits offer a small bit of hope. What we can all agree on is a youth coming out of care is going to need that money a lot more tomorrow than the government does today. Under no circumstances should the government be taking money from kids.”

Gym’s legislation is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Cindy Bass (8th District), Kendra Brooks (At-Large), Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Derek Green (At-Large), Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District) and Isaiah Thomas (At-Large).

SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA…

IN OTHER NEWS…

Raising the Belarusian Flag. Usually, flying the flag of another Nation near City Hall is a time-honored custom that attracts little controversy, while generating good will for city officials, including Councilmembers, with residents whose heritage hails to the country. But as war rages in Ukraine, controversy has flared at home, as Councilmember Oh seeks to have the flag of a free Belarus flown at City Hall. Because the city only recognizes the official flag of a country, and due to internal divisions in Belarus related to who is in charge of the country, the city is not permitting the flag of a democratic Belarus to fly. Councilmember Oh introduced a resolution honoring Belarus which passed Council earlier this year. The flag ceremony was scheduled for March 25th. Oh has now introduced legislation to establish uniform standards around flag raisings.

OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK

Committee on Fiscal Stability and Intergovernmental Cooperation 3-14-2022

Committee on Parks and Recreation and Cultural Affairs 3-14-2022

Committee of the Whole 3-16-2022

Stated Meeting of Philadelphia City Council 3-17-2022

 

The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, March 24, 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: Visit Philadelphia

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