WEEKLY REPORT: MEMBERS CALL FOR INVESTMENTS IN QUALITY-OF-LIFE SERVICES, PUBLIC TRANSIT

In Council News, Darrell L. Clarke, Helen Gym, Jamie Gauthier, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez, News by PHL Council

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COUNCILMEMBER GAUTHIER CALLS FOR INVESTMENT IN QUALITY-OF-LIFE SERVICES

Echoing a call heard repeatedly during budget hearings in City Council, West Philadelphia Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) this week unveiled a #JustServicesPHL campaign, calling for major investments to address quality-of-life concerns in neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia.

“The timely delivery of basic municipal services is at the core of a well-run city,” Councilmember Gauthier said in a news conference. “But too often in Philly, those services aren’t carried out evenly from neighborhood to neighborhood – and low-income communities of color too often bear the brunt of the harm this causes. Conditions like illegal dumping, abandoned cars, broken streetlights, and blighted properties directly correlate with lower property values, stunted commercial growth, and higher rates of gun violence – so we should be striving to tackle these issues head-on, in the neighborhoods that need the support most urgently.”

In many communities outside Center City, illegal dumping runs rampant, with repeat offenders hitting the same locations repeatedly, Gauthier said. Many residents go weeks on end without getting trash or recycling picked up. Streetlights burn out and leave pedestrians in the dark for months. Abandoned vehicles across Philadelphia sit untouched, creating eyesores. Blighted properties dot the streets of disinvested neighborhoods, serving as havens for illicit activity.

These issues are urgent matters of public health and safety. Uncollected trash attracts vermin, which carry disease. Disabled streetlights correlate with higher rates of violent crime as well as property crime. Abandoned vehicles can be detrimental to local businesses, serve as targets of arson or vandalism, and leak hazardous fluids into soil and groundwater.

Research suggests that people in these communities internalize the feelings of neglect created by poor conditions, which in turn leads to all manner of negative mental and physical health outcomes. Through the #JustServicesPHL Campaign, Councilmember Gauthier asserts that it is unacceptable that the needs of wealthier, whiter neighborhoods tend to get prioritized over those of poorer, Blacker ones.

The #JustServicesPHL campaign is calling for targeted investments in the FY2023 budget to address:

  • Streetlight replacement
  • Blighted properties
  • Traffic calming
  • Sanitation and illegal dumping
  • Abandoned cars
  • 311 system upgrades

Councilmember Gauthier plans hearings on these issues to examine how the city deploys its resources. The first hearing on May 5 at 2:00 PM will focus on illegal dumping. The second, on May 13 at 10:00 AM will focus on abandoned cars.

COUNCILMEMBER GYM INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO INCREASE PUBLIC TRANSIT USAGE, REDUCE EMPLOYEE TRAVEL COSTS

Councilmember Helen Gym (At Large) this week introduced legislation to create a commuter benefits program in Philadelphia, empowering thousands of workers to use pre-tax income to cover commuting costs. Gym said this program would result in hundreds of dollars of annual savings for employees, while decreasing traffic congestion and emissions to provide safer streets in line with the City’s Vision Zero commitments.

A typical city rider purchasing a monthly transpass from SEPTA would save over $20 a month and $250 a year, with users of more costly rail passes potentially saving up to $1000, Gym said.

“Bringing new riders into Philadelphia’s public transit network is critical both to our city’s recovery and safety,” Councilmember Gym said. “This program will make our transit system more accessible to countless Philadelphians — and we know that a busier transit system is a safer transit system.”

The bill would require employers with 50 or more full-time employees in Philadelphia to offer a commuter benefits program, which can be used for public transit passes and fares, van-pooling, and pending federal authorization, bicycle expenses. Similar programs have been launched in New York, L.A., Seattle, and Washington DC.

“Clean Air Council strongly supports the Commuter Benefits Legislation introduced by Councilmember Gym,” said Nick Zuwiala-Rogers, Transportation Program Director at the Clean Air Council. “The Council has been encouraging employers to voluntarily adopt pre-tax transit programs for more than a decade, and many of the City’s leading employers have already done so. This legislation will be a win-win for employees, businesses, and the environment.”

“Making it easier for Philadelphians to take public transit is a crucial part of our strategy to achieve carbon neutrality,” said Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At-Large), Chair of Council’s Committee on the Environment. “We need to take a collaborative approach to addressing climate change and environmental justice, and the commuter benefits bill is an important step forward.”

AFFORDABLE HOUSING DEVELOPMENT FOR HABITAT FOR HUMANITY MOVES FORWARD

A Council resolution authorizing the national non-profit organization, Habitat for Humanity, to move forward on a planned, 6-unit development of affordable housing in North Philadelphia received unanimous approval from Council.

Resolution No. 220248 was approved by Council at its Thursday Meeting, and Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District), on whose behalf the resolution was offered, issued a statement following the vote.

“Council President Clarke had a resolution introduced previously, allowing the Habitat for Humanity affordable housing development on Page Street in North Philadelphia. That resolution received final approval today by Council. This followed negotiations involving Habitat, longtime neighbors in the community concerned about access to parking, the Council President’s office, and city housing officials.  The resolution and development are contingent on action by the city Historical Commission on an application by a local resident for historic status for a portion of the land at issue.”

“Council President Clarke is a consistent, longtime champion of the need for more affordable housing in Philadelphia. That is why he led efforts in Council to approve the $400 Million Neighborhood Preservation Initiative, a citywide program that will lead to the production of a very large number of affordable homes and apartments throughout Philadelphia over the next several years.”

SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA…

COUNCILMEMBERS GILMORE RICHARDSON AND QUIÑONES SÁNCHEZ RECOGNIZE 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF ONE BOOK, ONE PHILADELPHIA

City Council this week approved Resolution No. 220328, introduced by Councilmembers Gilmore Richardson and Maria Quiñones Sánchez (7th District), recognizing the 20th Anniversary of One Book, One Philadelphia.

Every year, Philadelphians across the city come together to participate in the Free Library of Philadelphia’s One Book, One Philadelphia, a signature project that promotes literacy, library usage, and civic dialogue by encouraging all area residents to come together by reading and discussing a single book.

This year’s book, My Broken Language: A Memoir, by Quiara Alegria Hudes, is a young woman’s musical memoir about coming-of-age in Philadelphia. Alegria Hudes is not only a Pulitzer Prize-winning author; she’s also related to Councilmember Quiñones Sánchez. To learn more about One Book, One Philadelphia, visit https://libwww.freelibrary.org/programs/onebook/obop22/.

IN OTHER NEWS…

Council Budget Hearings Continue.  The next date for Council’s ongoing budget hearings is Tuesday, April 26, when Council will discuss the proposed budgets of the Philadelphia Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office, along with other court-related agencies. The hearings start at 10 am.  On Wednesday, April 27, budget hearings will continue, as the City Controller, Licenses & Inspections, the Water Department, and other agencies are heard. The dates and times for all other budget hearings can be found in the FY2023 Budget Center at www.PHLCouncil.com/Budget2023

The public can watch city department heads testifying on Xfinity Ch. 64, Fios Channel 40, and streaming at www.PHLCouncil.com/watch.

OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK

Committee of the Whole 4-18-2022

FY2023 Budget Hearings – Public Property, City Commissioners, Procurement 4-19-2022

FY2023 Budget Hearings – Aviation, Fleet Management 4-19-2022

FY2023 Budget Hearings – Commerce, Human Resources 4-20-2022

FY2023 Budget Hearings – Chief Administrative Officer, OIT 4-20-2022

Stated Meeting of Philadelphia City Council 4-21-2022

Committee on Appropriations 4-21-2022

PHILADELPHIA FACTS AND FIGURES

Source: Philadelphia 2022: State of the City, Pew Research Center

The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, April  28 , 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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