WINNERS OF NOVEMBER SPECIAL ELECTIONS JOIN CITY COUNCIL, FILLING FOUR VACANT SEATS
City Council welcomed four new members to Council this week as the newcomers, elected in special elections last month to fill vacancies, were sworn in before family and friends in Council Chambers at City Hall.
The four new members of Council sworn in on Monday:
• Councilmember At Large James Harrity, 50, a resident of Kensington and former aide to State Senator Sharif Street.
• Councilmember Quetcy Lozada, 52, a resident of Northwood and former Chief of Staff to Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez. Lozada will represent the 7th Council District.
• Councilmember Anthony Phillips, 33, a resident of Mt. Airy, and founder of the nonprofit Youth Action. Phillips was elected to represent the 9th Council District.
• Councilmember At Large Sharon Vaughn, 58, a resident of Feltonville, and former Chief of Staff to Councilmember Derek Green.
The newest members of Council were elected on November 8th to fill the unexpired terms of four Councilmembers who resigned to explore runs for Mayor. They included At Large Members Derek Green and Allan Domb, and District Members Cherelle L. Parker (9th) and Maria Quiñones Sánchez (7th). Each of those former members were in the audience on Monday.
Harrity, Lozada, Phillips and Vaughn will serve out these terms until January, 2024. All 17 seats in City Council will be on the Spring Primary ballot in May, 2023 and then the General Election ballot in November, as members and challengers seek election to full four-year terms.
The new Councilmembers each offered remarks that highlighted their interests and desires to serve the people of Philadelphia. Councilmember Harrity spoke about gun violence, and his hope to work on positive opportunities for young people to avoid negative paths. Councilmember Vaughn, a longtime veteran of City Hall, promised to be frank and direct in seeking solutions to problems to improve quality of life for residents. Councilmember Lozada, who will represent areas of the city hit hardest by the opioid epidemic, promised to work tirelessly to make Kensington a safer, more vibrant place to live and work. And Councilmember Phillips, who has worked in the non-profit sector on behalf of young people, said he sought to create a “village” to help youths in his district and citywide in the same ways that a village of supporters has brought him to City Council.
“We’re delighted to welcome Councilmembers Harrity, Lozada, Phillips and Vaughn to City Council,” said Council President Darrell L. Clarke after Monday’s swearing-in ceremony. “We have a lot of work to do representing the people of Philadelphia. We still have far too many people living in poverty, gun violence remains at a totally unacceptable level, and many people in Philadelphia still lack access to an affordable place to live. We need all hands on deck, and we know our new members are ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work.”
On Tuesday, Councilmember Helen Gym (At Large), submitted her resignation and announced her own plans to seek the mayoralty. So for now, Council stands at 16 members.
Council President Clarke offered this statement on the Councilmember’s resignation: “Councilmember Gym was a tireless champion for children and public education, and for workers’ rights to a fairer, living wage. She used her position in Council to advocate for significant protections for renters against evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. And she supported Council’s constant, ongoing efforts to fund and create more affordable housing opportunities for Philadelphians throughout our city. Her voice on behalf of those residents who traditionally lack access to power was strong and unwavering.”
COUNCIL APPROVES MIDYEAR BUDGET BILL WITH $24 MILLION FOR ARTS & CULTURE, PUBLIC SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS
Council this week approved a Midyear Budget Transfer Ordinance that includes more than $24 million for arts and cultural organizations across Philadelphia, and also earmarks city funds for critical public safety enhancements and improvements across the city.
For arts and cultural organizations, the midyear transfer ordinance included funds for the following entities, among other groups:
African American Museum of Philadelphia $3 million
Calder Gardens $2 million
Art Museum $2 million
Philadelphia Zoo $2 million
Mann Music Center $2 million
Dell $3 million
Please Touch Museum $2 million
Franklin Institute $2 million
For public safety initiatives, the transfer ordinance included the following, among other initiatives:
Safe Play Zone Cameras $475,000 (adding to other expenditures on cameras totaling $4.9 million over 5 years)
Victim/Witness Protection Total of $1 million
Security cameras/Please Touch Museum $100,000
Feasibility study of shotspotter technology $500,000
PA Horticultural Society Crime Reduction/Clean & Green Initiative $1 million
Community Life Improvement Program $1 million
The transfer ordinance, which was approved unanimously by Council, also included $10 million for the Poverty Action Fund, working to lift Philadelphians out of poverty, as well as $25 million going into a Budget Reserve Stabilization (Rainy Day Fund). The ordinance overall transferred about $196 million into designated programs and initiatives.
The budget ordinance was negotiated between the Kenney administration and City Council, and moved through the Appropriations Committee under the leadership of Chair Curtis Jones Jr. (4th District).
“The midyear budget transfer process is historically an opportunity for City Council, working in partnership with the administration, to address critical programs that need additional funding to more fully serve our citizens,” said Council President Darrell L. Clarke. “Public safety programs and areas will always receive our full scrutiny and attention, but there are many needs and concerns in a city as large as Philadelphia. Arts and culture organizations also play a vital role in the life of the city, and Council is taking steps through this budget bill to better fund many worthy and diverse cultural organizations.”
COUNCIL APPROVES BILL MAKING CITY CURFEW HOURS PERMANENT
As the city continues to work to reduce and prevent gun violence, Council took action this week to make permanent curfew law hours, continuing an initiative being led by Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At Large).
Under the amended ordinance approved on Thursday in Council, teenagers aged 14 to 17 will be required to be off the streets and home by 10 pm, and children 13 and younger will have to be home by 9:30 pm. The bill now goes to Mayor Kenney for consideration, and the mayor hasn’t indicated yet his intentions.
The city is now operating four curfew centers – Evening Resource Centers – around Philadelphia, and Gilmore Richardson said in Council that current plans call for a total of six centers to be operational.
While some critics and pundits have questioned whether the curfew centers have much impact – given the city’s ongoing struggles with gun violence, including incidents involving youths – Gilmore Richardson and the centers’ supporters have noted that many hundreds of youths have been picked up for violating curfew by police – and transported safely home by the authorities.
SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA…
We’re still collecting toys for my annual 3rd District toy drive! If you are able, consider putting a smile on a young person’s face this holiday season by donating a toy before 12/15. 🎁🎀 pic.twitter.com/JX6kGNvsme
— Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (@CouncilmemberJG) December 1, 2022
IN OTHER NEWS…
Councilmembers Pay Tribute to Longtime Activist and Public Official T. Milton Street. The former state Senator who became well known for his colorful rhetoric and passionate protests against the powerful, to secure housing for the homeless and many other services needed by the poor, died earlier this week. He was 83.
In Council on Thursday, member after member made speeches in honor of Milton Street, and the moment was capped by Council President Clarke, who came up in politics around the late Sen. Street and his brother, former Council President and later Mayor John F. Street.
“I guess I knew Milton perhaps as well as any of you,” Clarke said from the President’s podium. “What I knew is he was a little ahead of his time. He wanted the city to give vacant homes to poor people who needed them – and the city eventually developed a gift property program. He needed Republican help getting resources for poor people in his district, so he talked about bipartisanship – long before anyone else was calling for it. Milton Street was ahead of his time.”
OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK
The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, December 8, 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