CRIME, VIOLENCE PREVENTION, CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM DRIVE COUNCIL DISCUSSION, LEGISLATIVE ACTION
With the city’s ongoing gun violence crisis showing little signs of subsiding, what to do about violence and crime in Philadelphia remained at the center of debate and action in City Council this week.
Legislatively, the action came when Councilmember Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District), chair of Council’s Public Safety Committee, introduced resolutions to nominate nine commissioners of the newly-created Citizens Police Oversight Commission.
After an application, interview and community engagement process, a selection panel for the Oversight Commission forwarded Councilmember Jones the names of nine prospective commissioners, who will bring different police accountability experiences, including a wrongfully-convicted individual, a youth who led a movement to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, a person who is a police domestic violence survivor, two people with extensive experience litigating policing issues, and four other members who have participated in grassroots movements to strengthen police accountability.
The nominees and their police districts are:
- Hassan Bennett (19th)
- Haakim Peay (16th)
- Jahlee Hatchett (12th)
- Benjamin Lerner (9th)
- Maryelis Santiago (24th)
- Rosaura Torres Thomas (15th)
- Melanie DeBouse (35th)
- John Solomon (39th)
- Afroza Hossain (14th)
Council will vote on the nominations to the new police oversight panel at a subsequent Meeting.
Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) then told a harrowing story of being out at a neighborhood event in the Mantua section of West Philadelphia, when gunfire nearby forced her to duck for cover on the floor of her vehicle.
Gauthier made an impassioned speech, renewing her call for the Kenney administration to declare a public health emergency around gun violence citywide. Mayor Kenney has resisted the calls for that emergency declaration, pointing out that such an action wouldn’t give the city any additional powers to take actions to reduce gun violence that it isn’t using already. Gauthier also renewed her call for the city to do more around putting more mental health professionals into the field to assist on 911 calls, instead of sending only police officers out on such calls.
Councilmember Cherelle L. Parker (9th District) spoke next, informing her colleagues of her plans to unveil a new Community Policing and Neighborhood Safety Plan next week. Parker said her policing plan would call on the city to hire an additional 300 police officers, and strategically put them to work on the beat in neighborhoods hit hardest by gun violence, along with added bicycle cops as well.
Councilmember Cindy Bass (8th District), noting the steady drumbeat of gun violence citywide, and saying, “Whatever we’re doing, we need to do a whole lot more of it – including spending more money” to try to reduce the violence.
The issues surrounding how best to reduce gun violence and make Philadelphia neighborhoods safer are certain to drive debate and legislative action during the upcoming city budget process, which kicks off next Thursday when Mayor Kenney presents a proposed FY2022-2023 budget to City Council.
COUNCIL INTRODUCES BILL CLARIFYING REQUIREMENT FOR POLICE RECRUITS TO LIVE IN THE CITY FOR ONE YEAR BEFORE HIRING
Responding to concerns that the Police Department continues to struggle with recruiting of new officers onto the police force, Councilmember Parker, on behalf of Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District), introduced legislation that would allow potential police recruits, who leave the city for military service or attendance at a post-secondary educational institution, to meet the city residency requirement if they resume residence in the city within six months of completing their service or education.
Council will schedule a hearing on the legislation.
COUNCILMEMBERS GILMORE RICHARDSON AND PARKER INTRODUCE A RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF SENATOR SAVAL’S “WHOLE HOME REPAIRS ACT”
Councilmembers Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At Large) and Parker introduced a resolution calling on the General Assembly to approve the “Whole Home Repairs Act,” legislation sponsored by a Philadelphia senator to make funds available for local governments and non-profits to coordinate and help 280,000 residents across Pennsylvania make badly-needed repairs to their homes.
The state legislation (Senate Bill 1135), sponsored by Sen. Nikil Saval (PA-1st District), would make funds available to make comprehensive systems repairs, and provide wraparound services to those in workforce development programs. Making whole-home repairs will improve community health and safety, help address poverty, and reduce carbon emissions.
“Our homes are more than physical structures,” said Councilmember Gilmore Richardson. “They are our places of safety and comfort, where we gather with loved ones. Lately, they are also where we work. A home is the central wealth-building tool for American families, but far too many Philadelphians are grappling with the effects of an unsafe home.” Gilmore Richardson, who chairs Council’s Committee on the Environment, noted the state bill invests “fully in our communities by addressing health and safety, reducing energy burden, and creating job opportunities. With this program, we will be able to address our goals to mitigate climate change, build resiliency, maintain generational wealth, and create new economic opportunities.”
“This program creates a means to help residents across Philadelphia maintain their homes, preserve communities, and prevent displacement – a valuable tool in the Neighborhood Preservation toolbox,” Councilmember Parker said.
“Hundreds of thousands of people across our state are living in homes that are unsafe because they can’t afford to make needed repairs,” said Senator Saval. “Passing the Whole-Home Repairs Act will permanently move the needle on Pennsylvania’s housing crisis. I’m grateful to Councilmembers Gilmore Richardson and Parker for their support and advocacy.”
SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA…
— Philadelphia Office of Children and Families (@PHLfamilies) March 22, 2022
IN OTHER NEWS…
Council Debates Resolution Urging U.S. & Allies to Declare a No-Fly Zone over Ukraine. Council waded into international affairs in a lengthy debate over a resolution introduced by Councilmember David Oh (At Large), which urged Council to issue its support for the United States and its allies to declare a No-Fly Zone for all aircraft over the war-torn skies of Ukraine. A number of Councilmembers raised concerns about Oh’s resolution, noting the prevailing view that declaring a so-called No-Fly Zone over Ukraine could lead the United States into direct military conflict with Russia. After a prolonged discussion, the resolution failed by a vote of six members in favor, and nine opposed.
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, March 31, 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