PHILADELPHIA CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT KENYATTA JOHNSON AND MAYOR CHERELLE PARKER VISITED HARRISBURG THIS WEEK FOR PENNSYLVANIA GOV. JOSH SHAPIRO’S BUDGET ADDRESS
Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro unveiled an ambitious almost $49 Billion Fiscal Year 2024 – 2025 Operating Budget plan earlier this week.
City Council President Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District) and Mayor Cherelle Parker were in Harrisburg for the budget address.
Johnson said he was happy to hear that Governor Shapiro wants to invest millions of dollars into public transit systems statewide, including SEPTA; invest millions of dollars into violence prevention statewide and create a statewide Office of Violence Prevention.
In Philadelphia’s current Fiscal Year 2024 Operating Budget, city leaders have invested millions of dollars into violence prevention and the Pennsylvania Office of Gun Violence Prevention is something Johnson urged Gov. Shapiro to do in a City Council Resolution #230661 in October 2023. Read the resolution here.
In his budget proposal, Governor Shapiro is investing a nearly $1.1 Billion increase in basic funding for Kindergarten to 12th grade public schools throughout the Commonwealth that will address decades of chronic underfunding and inequity. The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled last year that Pennsylvania’s public school funding system is unconstitutional.
The School District of Philadelphia is set to receive approximately $242.7 Million in extra money under the Governor’s proposal.
Governor Shapiro has proposed giving SEPTA $161 million dollars in additional funding in next year’s budget. It is important for SEPTA to keep operating since 750,000 residents of Southeastern Pennsylvania use SEPTA every day. If SEPTA doesn’t get all of the money it needs, fares could go up and services could be cut.
Johnson said the budget proposal is a great start, but he is urging all of the members of the State House and Senate Delegation from Southeastern Pennsylvania to lobby for even more money in this proposed budget for the region before a final budget deal is reached by June 30.
According to information from the Governor’s Budget Office and the Pennsylvania Treasury, the Commonwealth has roughly $14 Billion in the bank right now between the carry-forward revenue surpluses and the rainy-day fund.
CITY COUNCILMEMBER MIKE DRISCOLL’S REFORM TASK FORCE PLAYS IMPORTANT ROLE IN UPCOMING CHANGES TO PHILADELPHIA DEPARTMENT OF LICENSES AND INSPECTIONS
Mayor Parker this week also announced that Basil Merenda is the new Licenses and Inspections (L&I) Commissioner for Inspections, Safety and Compliance, and Bridget Collins-Greenwald is the L&I Commissioner for Quality of Life.
During the press conference, Mayor Parker specifically praised the work of the Joint Task Force on Regulatory Reform for Licenses and Inspections, a panel chaired by Merenda and also led by Councilmember Mike Driscoll (6th District), Chair of Council’s Committee on Licenses and Inspections.
“As chair of Council’s Licenses and Inspections Committee, I’m pleased with the new course charted by our Mayor,” Councilmember Driscoll said in a press release. “The recommendation to split L&I was central to the report of the Joint Task Force on Regulatory Reform. The mayor’s decision will allow the respective city departments to better serve Philadelphians and those who’ve made the decision to locate their business in our city. I look forward to working with Commissioner Merenda, Commissioner Collins-Greenwald, and the Parker administration to make sure residents and taxpayers are well-served by effective city departments and agencies.”
The mayor is in the process of preparing an executive order that will formalize the separation of the two sections of L&I into separate entities.
Read the Joint Task Force on Regulatory Reform report here.
RECENT LEGISLATION INTRODUCED BY MAJORITY LEADER KATHERINE GILMORE RICHARDSON RESULTS IN ACTION BY MAYOR PARKER’S ADMINISTRATION
Mayor Parker’s administration this week also announced it is retaining an independent accounting firm to conduct a forensic investigation of the finances of the City’s Office of Homeless Services (OHS), together with the City Office of Inspector General.
The Parker administration has retained the accounting firm of Horsey, Buckner & Heffler LLP to perform the forensic investigation of OHS.
In a written statement, Mayor Parker said that she wanted to note “the diligence and leadership from Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At-Large), who has shined a spotlight on OHS for months, highlighted potentially questionable practices, and introduced legislation to address these issues.”
On January 25, Majority Leader Richardson introduced various pieces of legislation (Resolution #240027, #240030, and Bill #240005) that would address OHS. No word yet when the resolutions and bills will come up for a Council Committee hearing.
CITY COUNCIL GAVE FINAL PASSAGE TO THREE RESOLUTIONS DURING THE FEBRUARY 8 COUNCIL SESSION
Only three resolutions (no bills) were up for final passage at the February 8 Council session. City Council approved the resolutions sponsored by Councilmembers Curtis Jones, Jr., Quetcy Lozada (7th District) and Council Deputy Majority Whip Cindy Bass (8th District).
Lozada’s Resolution #240074 establishes the Kensington Caucus, and represents a united legislative front in addressing the crisis in the Kensington area. The Caucus is chaired by Lozada, who represents the majority of Kensington. Other Caucus members include Councilmembers Mark Squilla (1st District), whose district also includes parts of Kensington, Mike Driscoll (6th District), and Jim Harrity (At-Large), who lives in the neighborhood.
During the public comment portion of the City Council session, several residents who live in Kensington testified in support of the creation of the Caucus. They held up large posters showing the impact of drugs in their neighborhood.
Jones’ Resolution #240073 will ceremonially rename the 1200 Block of North 58th Street in West Philadelphia “Waverly B. Woodson, Jr. Way” in honor of the late war hero Waverly Bernard Woodson, Jr., for his courageous and selfless service during World War II.
Woodson was born in Philadelphia in 1922. On June 6, 1944, Operation Overlord, or the Battle of Normandy, took place in France. Waverly’s battalion participated in this infamous battle, being the only African American battalion to do so. Waverly was assigned to a landing craft tank (LCT) that was to land at Normandy in the early morning.
On the way to battle, his LCT was hit by a naval mine, causing it to lose power and drift with the tides. During the loss of power, Waverly was hit by an explosive shell, causing shrapnel wounds to his lower body. After reaching the shore, his wounds were treated, and he and his battalion began setting up a field dressing station to aid those who were injured during the battle.
It has been estimated that Waverly Woodson saved over 200 lives that day. He ultimately received a Bronze Star Medal and a Purple Heart for his heroic actions that day. Woodson returned to active duty during the Korean War. He left the Army in 1952 and died in 2005 at the age of 83 in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Members of the U.S. House and Senate have been pushing to get Woodson, Jr. awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his conspicuous gallantry. The Medal of Honor is the United States Armed Forces’ highest military decoration and is awarded to recognize American soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, guardians, and coastguardsmen who have distinguished themselves by acts of valor.
For additional information on the life of Waverly Woodson, go here.
The final legislation approved from the final passage calendar was Bass’ Resolution #240081 which recognizes the nonprofit Half A Million Kids for bringing awareness to children living in the Foster Care system and ways Philadelphia can work collaboratively to help find permanent homes for foster kids.
Half A Million Kids is dedicated to foster and trafficked children and has a mission and a plan to place every foster child eligible for adoption into a permanent home.
The Half a Million Kids website is here.
LEGISLATION INTRODUCED IN COUNCIL BY COUNCILMEMBERS JIM HARRITY, MIKE DRISCOLL, AND RUE LANDAU
Councilmember Jim Harrity (At-Large) reintroduced legislation that seeks to protect the jobs of workers during office-to-residential conversions. The former Council approved a version of this bill in 2023 but former Mayor Jim Kenney killed the bill with the use of a so-called “pocket veto.”
The new Bill #240088 requires that if a building were sold or converted to a new use, owners and their contractors would have to re-hire some of the previously employed workers based on seniority. The legislation would apply to any building larger than 50,000 square feet or with more than 50 residential units.
Councilmember Mike Driscoll (6th District) introduced Bill #240089 that adds a $2,000 fine for license plate-flipping devices in Philadelphia. The allows two license plates, with the push of a button, to change within seconds and prevents a car from being identified. The devices are already illegal in Pennsylvania. The fine would apply to anyone caught making, selling, installing, or using the devices.
Councilmember Rue Landau (At-Large) introduced Bill #240087 that would regulate tax preparation services in Philadelphia and increase awareness of options to get tax returns prepared for free. A violation of the proposed law would result in fines of $500 for each infraction and gives customers the right to sue tax preparers who break the rules.
CITY COUNCIL CELBERATES BLACK HISTORY MONTH
Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and their central role in American history. Also known as African American History Month, the event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans.
The next Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, February 15, 2024, at 10 a.m. The Meeting will take place in person in Council’s Chambers on the 4th floor of Council. It will also air on Xfinity Ch. 64, Fios Channel 40, and stream at www.PHLCouncil.com/watch.