WEEKLY REPORT: WITH MAIL BALLOTS SENT, PHILADELPHIA READIES FOR 2022 GENERAL ELECTION

In Cindy Bass, Council News, Curtis Jones, Jr., Darrell L. Clarke, Helen Gym, Isaiah Thomas, Jamie Gauthier, Kendra Brooks, News by PHL Council

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CITY COMMISSIONERS MAIL 126,000 BALLOTS TO VOTERS, ENSURING AMPLE TIME TO VOTE BEFORE NOVEMBER 8TH

The City Commissioners delivered on a promise to mail out ballots to Philadelphians for early voting in the upcoming November 8th Election, and announced this week that over 126,000 mail-in ballots were mailed to Philadelphia voters.

Commissioner Chair Lisa Deeley joined with Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District) and fellow Commissioners Omar Sabir and Seth Bluestein in a news conference outside the County Board of Elections at City Hall on Wednesday, to provide an update on the mail ballots and to urge voters “to make their plan to vote – either by mail or in person – by November 8th.”

On Election Day, Pennsylvania voters will choose a Governor, a U.S. Senator, Members of Congress, and state legislators.  In Philadelphia, voters will also select candidates in four special elections to fill four vacancies on City Council, which occurred last month as members resigned to consider runs for Mayor of Philadelphia next year.

When Council President Clarke issued four writs for the special elections to be held on Nov. 8th, some members of the news media suggested that calling for special elections so close to Election Day would negatively impact the ability of voters to vote by mail and to have enough time to cast their ballots – particularly for the races at the top of the ballot for Governor and U.S. Senator.

However, as Commissioner Chair Deeley explained at the press conference, the commissioners and their staffs always believed they had ample time to print up ballots with every race accounted for – including the special elections – and to get ballots mailed to voters in more than enough time to consider their choices, fill out their ballots, and return them to the county board by Election Day, Nov. 8th.

The 126,000 mail ballots were delivered to U.S. post offices earlier this week, and began arriving at households by midweek, giving voters nearly one month to vote their ballot and return it by Nov. 8th.

Council President Clarke noted that it is vitally important that voters vote in the special elections to fill the vacancies on Council, so that Council can return to its full complement of 17 members and continue its core function of considering and approving legislation to provide services to the people of Philadelphia.

“Please, don’t delay,” Council President Clarke told reporters. “When you get your ballot, fill it out and mail it back in. Every voter and vote matters in this election.”

Commissioner Omar Sabir noted that there will be 17 drop-boxes located conveniently in neighborhoods around Philadelphia, so voters can also drop their mail ballots off at a drop-box if they so choose.

Voters who wish to vote early in person at a voting booth will be able to come to City Hall, at the County Board of Elections, and vote in this manner as well.

Voters have until Nov. 1st to request a mail-in ballot be mailed to them, and they have until Nov. 8th at 8 PM to return their ballot to the County Board of Elections.

COUNCIL ANNOUNCES CITYWIDE ALLEY TREE REMOVALS FUNDED BY NEIGHBORHOOD PRESERVATION INITIATIVE

Councilmembers and city officials on Friday announced additional neighborhood investments funded through the Neighborhood Preservation Initiative (NPI), the $400M citywide program announced by Council in 2020.

Utilizing a portion of the $26.6M of NPI funding earmarked for neighborhood infrastructure, the city has begun to work with residents to identify and remove alley trees which pose a hazard.

Poorly maintained alley trees contribute to the deterioration of homes, power lines and safe emergency egress in neighborhoods. The city estimates that there are thousands of alley trees affecting homes, businesses and power lines, particularly in older neighborhoods. Alleys blocked by trees also accumulate trash and debris, contributing to blight.

In collaboration with the Kenney Administration and the Community Life Improvement Program (CLIP), city-funded crews have begun fulfilling requests for alley tree removal if they meet the following criteria:

  • Located near the rear of the property, i.e., not a street tree;
  • Not primarily located on private property;
  • Tree growth is encroaching upon or endangering property buildings, power lines or otherwise creating public safety issues.

“In listening to our constituents, it’s become clear that these alley trees can create serious public safety issues, so it is in the best interest of our residents to invest a portion of Council’s NPI funding in alley tree removal,” said Council President Clarke. “NPI funding has created real opportunities to address quality-of-life issues that we haven’t had in a long time and we need to take advantage of them.”

The first round of alley tree removals is currently underway in several neighborhoods. At Friday’s press event, crews began work on alley trees located near the intersection of Sydenham and Butler Streets in the 8th Council District.

“Many of my Council colleagues and I have experienced a marked increase in constituent calls related to problem alley trees that were creating dangerous situations. My office alone saw a 300% spike in just the past six months,” said Councilmember Cindy Bass, who represents the 8th District. “Because so many of our constituents were unable to remove these trees on their own, we knew there was a serious problem.”

The city has spent just over $560,000 on the first round of alley tree removals, with plans for similar spending in future rounds. Residents may submit information for trees to be removed in the next round by contacting their Councilmember.

COUNCILMEMBER GYM QUESTIONS IMPLEMENTATION OF NEW STATE GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS

Source: Public Education Resource Consortium

Councilmember Helen Gym (At Large) released a statement Thursday regarding the impact state-imposed graduation requirements will have on Philadelphia students and schools.

“This week, a report was released showing dramatic potential consequences for Philadelphia from the state’s new graduation requirements, which are currently set to be implemented this year after multiple postponements. The report — which is from the Philadelphia Education Research Consortium, and led by Research for Action and the School District’s Office of Research and Evaluation — uses recent data to project that barely one third of Philadelphia students had high enough test scores to graduate under the new rules, with a majority of students needing significant additional support or new alternative paths like work experience. The risk of not graduating falls disproportionately on our students of color, our low-income students, and our special education students. We absolutely cannot accept that they will be casualties of this change when a high school diploma impacts wellbeing and wealth over a lifetime.”

“Philadelphia’s students are not failing. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has failed them. Every student in this District should be equipped with the tools they need to find success in their professional and personal life. But skeletal staffing, unconstitutional under-funding from the state legislature, and a years-long agenda of privatization and austerity have made this an impossible task, as was thoroughly documented in the recent school funding trial.”

“Philadelphia students are as capable, and as worthy of a quality education, as their peers in wealthier suburbs. It is our responsibility and our duty to ensure that implementation of any new requirements do not lock out a generation of Philadelphia students from reaching their full potential, or force them to bear responsibility for the failings of our educational system. We must also refuse to accept that countless students graduate from our school system without the skills and knowledge they deserve. All of us have a stake in this issue — students, parents, educators, and everyone who is invested in the future of our city.”

SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA…

IN OTHER NEWS…

Majority Leader Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District) introduced a resolution that formally apologized for heinous acts of abuse and torture perpetuated against inmates at Holmesburg Prison during the 1950’s – 1970’s.

Between the 1950’s and 1970’s, Dr. Albert Kligman, a Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, worked at the prison and conducted numerous unethical and reprehensible experiments on mostly Black inmates, who were exposed and subjected to pharmaceuticals, viruses, fungus, asbestos, LSD, and components of the chemical weapon of war Agent Orange, the resolution stated.

Participants in these studies experienced side effects for weeks after the experiments. Inmates would complain about continued bitter side effects that would leave both physical and emotional scars for decades to come, the resolution stated.

Last week, Mayor Kenney formally apologized on behalf of the City of Philadelphia for the experiments conducted at Holmesburg Prison. The resolution states that Council should be in accord with city leadership and also offer an official apology on behalf of its members. “City Council hereby formally apologizes for the heinous acts of abuse and torture perpetuated against inmates at Holmesburg Prison between the 1950’s-1970’s.”

OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK

Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development and the Homeless 10-4-2022

Stated Meeting of Philadelphia City Council 10-6-2022

Committee on Public Safety 10-11-2022

Stated Meeting of Philadelphia City Council 10-13-2022

 

The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, October 20, 2022 at 10 a.m. in Philadelphia City Hall, Room 400 and will air on Xfinity Ch. 64, Fios Channel 40 and stream at www.PHLCouncil.com/watch.

Weekly Stated Meetings will be in-person for the remainder of the year. Masks will be recommended and provided.

Out of an abundance of caution and with the public’s health in mind, public hearings will continue to be conducted remotely.

Featured Photo: Jared Piper/PHLCouncil

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