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What they’ll do on summer vacation: Every City Council member’s plans for their three-month recess | Editorial

In the past, this board has criticized the summer break, prompting rebuttals from Councilmembers that the time is critical both for constituency services and to draft legislation.

Members of the Philadelphia City Council in 2021.
Members of the Philadelphia City Council in 2021.Read more

On Thursday, Philadelphia’s City Council held its last meeting before going on its annual legislative break for nearly three months. In the past, this board has criticized the summer break, arguing that the freeze on basic functions — such as nearly every land use decision — is bad for the city. This seemed especially true last summer, in the midst of a pandemic, when removing the tool of legislation to address problems for nearly a quarter of the year seemed on face value problematic.

This has prompted rebuttals from councilmembers that the time is critical both for constituency services and to draft legislation.

So this summer we decided to ask every councilmember to tell us their legislative priority for the fall and how they will use the summer to prepare to hit the ground running when Council returns in September. We will check back with them in the fall to see how their plans matched up to reality.

Responses were edited lightly for length and clarity.

Mark Squilla

District 1, Democrat

“I plan to work on legislation to address concerns regarding demolition (protection for properties in close proximity to demo) and developer licensing. Note that contractors need to be licensed in the City but not developers.

“I will work and meet with Licenses and Inspections, Planning and other stakeholders on these proposals.”

Kenyatta Johnson

District 2, Democrat

“The City has committed to historic new investments in gun violence prevention and response, a move I helped lead as chair of Council’s Special Committee on Gun Violence. Promising new programs include unprecedented funding for community-based violence interventions, the Office of the Victim Advocate, mobile crisis units, and hospital-based violence interventions. I plan to focus on transparency and accountability in this area, working with the Administration and my Council colleagues to ensure regular public updates on this work, including the presentation of independent, outside evaluations of major programs.

“I will be closely involved in the implementation of new and expanded violence prevention programs. I also am partnering with the Health Department to establish a citywide network of hospital-based injury prevention programs.”

Jamie Gauthier

District 3, Democrat

“Councilmember Quiñones-Sánchez and I introduced a bill that would require 20% affordability in any new development with 10 or more residential units. Ten percent of these units would have to be on the property itself, while the other 10% could either be on site, or replaced by a payment to the Housing Trust Fund. Over time, we anticipate that this will create fairer access to housing in our communities for residents who otherwise wouldn’t be able to compete on the private market. Additionally, we are preparing to introduce legislation on community land trusts in the fall. We hope to provide grassroots organizations with a leg up in competition for city-owned vacant land, for purposes that are beneficial to community. Over the summer, my office will be trying to talk to as many constituents as possible around the issues of zoning and housing affordability in West and Southwest Philadelphia.”

Curtis Jones Jr.

District 4, Democrat

“I will be busy working on the transition plan and launch of the new Citizens Police Oversight Commission. In addition to that, my other initiatives include the implementation and opening of the 4th District Container Mall, the completion of the 100 Shooting Review Project (a deep analysis of increased gun activity in Philadelphia), the launch of the Lease to Own Housing Program, and the Overbrook High School restoration.”

Darrell Clarke

District 5, Democrat

“I will be working on next steps toward implementation of the Neighborhood Preservative Initiative, a $400 million program to revitalize neighborhoods in need through affordable housing, renter protections, commercial corridor revitalization, and more. We will also work on appointments and legislative work on a Tax Reform Working Group to study and act on Philadelphia’s need for tax reform, on appointments and work on the Poverty Action Plan to lift 100,000 people out of poverty, and next steps for $68.3 million in new funding for violence prevention.”

Bobby Henon

District 6, Democrat

“I will work to enhance the training program and standards for L&I inspectors by establishing a training program partnership with Community College to ensure that inspectors are appropriately trained, reduce the attrition rate of inspectors, and evaluate and strengthen the tools that L&I uses to combat the problems created by habitually negligent commercial property owners. I will push to evaluate and strengthen the penalties used to hold contractors accountable for consistently failing to pull permits or comply with requirements related to the payment of their workers.

“I will also introduce legislation that addresses issues homeowners face related to the repair and replacement of private water and sewer infrastructure.

“Finally, I’ll look to change the process by which restaurants obtain authorizations for outdoor dining in partnership with other councilmembers.

“Over the summer, I will meet with stakeholders and my colleagues to make improvements to the drafts of these ordinances and resolutions. I plan to introduce them on the first day of the fall session.”

Maria Quiñones-Sánchez

District 7, Democrat

“I remain committed to advancing business tax reform, delayed because the COVID-19 crisis required us to push back the fiscal year 2020 business tax filings. This made implementing the new policy untenable this year. I believe businesses in all sectors are disappointed in the budget outcomes and expect us to do more to change the local tax structure. This is an opportunity for a conversation about how to use data from the past 15 months to create a more equitable tax system by reducing the burden on local businesses and capturing more revenue from major corporations. President Biden has made tax fairness a cornerstone of his infrastructure and we should follow his lead.

“I am grateful to Council President Clarke for establishing a budget work group to navigate the unique challenges created by the pandemic. This can be a vehicle to work with the administration on tax policy through the summer months. We need to hear from Council members, the business community, advocates for equity and economic justice, and other key stakeholders to develop the best approach for our entire city.”

Cindy Bass

District 8, Democrat

“The top legislative priority for me is to build support, provide information, and solidify various aspects of our Promise Trust Fund Plan. When this program is complete, it is anticipated to develop an endowed fund of $500 million to close the wealth gap, create employment opportunities, work to end generational poverty, encourage homeownership, and provide startup capital for entrepreneurs beginning at age 18. Our primary focus during the summer months will be solidifying our funding, administrator and distribution plans while finalizing fund sourcing to support the initiative.

“I will also focus on numerous quality-of-life matters that plague city residents. One of these includes the Automotive Repair & Care Shop Parking Initiative to prevent automotive repair and care trucks from parking on city streets, allowing more space for cars while limiting the possibility of accidents. We will speak with the Philadelphia Police Department to discuss logistics such as enforcement responsibilities.”

Cherelle Parker

District 9, Democrat

“My immediate focus will be introducing legislation that codifies some of the fantastic work of our City’s pension board, which will ensure the future accountability of our pension system. Additionally, I will focus on government transparency, and work to ensure there is a one-stop shop website where all nonprofit organizations that receive City funding can be found. One will be able to search for organizations by neighborhood, as well as by programmatic focus (for example, violence prevention).

“As we continue to come out of the pandemic, I shall also focus on supporting small businesses, particularly minority-owned small businesses. In my district, we have seen a worrying uptick of small business owners, particularly Black women, leasing a property, but then finding out the property is not zoned for its intended use. I plan on introducing legislation to crack down on such commercial lease fraud.”

Brian O’Neill

District 10, Republican

“Between now and the fall I plan to work on legislation to address inconsistencies in how different rental properties are charged for trash collection throughout the city. I will also continue to work on district-specific legislation addressing various quality-of-life issues impacting Far Northeast residents.”

Kendra Brooks

At-large, Working Families

“The pandemic has magnified the severity of the housing crisis and reified my commitment to fighting for accessible, stable housing for all. As a result, I plan to focus on information gathering, relationship building, and housing policy development this summer to prepare for public hearings in the fall, with the hopes of introducing substantive legislation in the winter. The hearings will focus on the devastating impact the pandemic has had on our most vulnerable populations, especially senior citizens and renters. I also plan to continue collaborating with worker-led organizations, movement groups, and unions to fight for workers’ rights — especially those often excluded from lifesaving benefits such as gig workers and low-wage workers.”

Allan Domb

At-large, Democrat

“We will continue our push on job growth-related tax policies that encourage people and businesses to be in the city and create opportunities for good-paying, sustainable jobs. We will also establish legislation that will provide policies and guidelines for permanent outdoor dining citywide. We expect the legislation will address departmental oversight and accessibility for business owners of all sizes to receive assistance on offering the outdoor dining experience for their patrons in a safe and healthy manner. The resolution I recently introduced will establish public hearings that allow us to receive input from community leaders, businesses, and residents across all neighborhoods.

“We will review in-depth revenue data and facilitating several conversations with businesses, Business Improvement Districts, Community Development Corporations, union officials, the City’s departments (permitting), and the public over the summer to find some consensus on how we get better and more equitable growth outcomes for Philadelphia. We’ll also conduct public hearings and meetings with Councilmembers, business owners, and community organizations to establish permanent outdoor dining.”

Derek Green

At-large, Democrat

“This fall, my top legislative priority is the passage of my public bank bill. The pandemic had a devastating impact on Philadelphia’s African American businesses and, according to the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, the number of active Black business owners fell by 68% between March 2020 to July 2020 while the number of active white business owners fell by just 44%. Through this initiative, these businesses and others can obtain credit enhancements to access traditional loans and lines of credit. It is my goal to grow existing businesses and establish new companies. Through this growth, these companies will create more jobs to help reduce poverty in our City.

“In order to address any legal or regulatory challenges, the City has retained Holland and Knight LLP. Through our weekly meetings, we are working to amend this legislation to achieve our goals for this initiative. Further, I am working with the Philadelphia Public Banking Coalition to educate constituents, through a monthly webinar and a future summit, regarding the benefits of a public bank.”

Katherine Gilmore Richardson

At-large, Democrat

“We need to build Philadelphia’s talent pipeline. We need a permanent Office of Workforce Development to connect the dots between the private sector and workforce development organizations. This will allow us to invest in long-term strategies to upskill Philadelphians and move them into family-supporting careers, as well as identify sector specific growth opportunities. Philadelphia is seeing a boom in life sciences, advanced manufacturing, and clean energy, but many workers are shut out of these fields because they lack skills and certifications. A permanent Office of Workforce Development would identify these opportunities and create pipelines and partnerships to help Philadelphians get into these fields. The city government is also facing a retirement crisis, and this office can help create a strategy to address it.

“I’ve had conversations with my colleagues and the Administration on the importance of the Office of Workforce Development. I recently had a briefing connecting workforce development providers with Senator Casey regarding the American Jobs Plan. I will continue working with all partners to identify the scope of the Office’s work and develop corresponding legislation. I will also reach out to residents.”

Helen Gym

At-large, Democrat

“The pandemic showed us that it’s possible to do things that have long been thought of as impossible, like ending our mass eviction system, and that’s how we need to approach recovery as well. I’ve proposed a major effort to overhaul our city’s tax structure through a process that’s committed to racial equity, because our city’s economic strength depends on the quality of our jobs and the health of our neighborhoods. We also have to seize this moment to finally create the schools our young people deserve, and this fall I’ll be fighting for full, fair funding from the state capitol to the courtroom as our school buildings reopen.

“I’m working to transform how we treat young people impacted by violence and trauma, and will examine how to change a juvenile probation system that fails to support youth or prevent violence. And we need to get serious about boosting our public transit ridership and bike infrastructure, not only to reopen now but to ensure a connected and sustainable city for the decades to come.”

David Oh

At-large, Republican

“My priority is improving public safety and reducing gun violence in our City. I believe this starts with improving our public education outcomes. I’m proposing a new, majority-elected school board to allow the public to elect five of the nine school board members by region. Each elected board member would represent two adjacent Councilmanic districts. I’m confident this change will give parents and students much-needed seats at the table while increasing transparency and accountability. I’m also focused on continuing my efforts to create an economic recovery fund for the creative arts sector. Although Council voted down my budget amendment to create a $45 million fund using a portion of the $1.4 billion in federal stimulus money, I have been working with leaders in the General Assembly to create this much-needed fund for one of Philadelphia’s most important economic engines and recover tens of thousands of local jobs.

“I will meet with education stakeholders and school reform advocates to refine my legislation, build awareness, and mobilize support. If successful, the measure will advance to a ballot question before the voters. For revitalizing our creative arts sector, I’ve been in touch with leadership in Harrisburg and will continue to meet with them over the summer.”

Isaiah Thomas

At-large, Democrat

“I will continue working on my Driving Equality Agenda and work to Illuminate the Arts. In the final Council session, I introduced a new version of my Driving Equality bill that will remove police from certain traffic stops, in collaboration with the Police Department and Mayor’s Administration. I have also spent the pandemic working with Philadelphia’s arts and culture community and plan on continuing that next year. Through policy and funding, we need to find more ways to promote Philly as an arts city to attract new residents and tourists and bolster our local economy.

“I intend on working with the Administration and Police Department to hold listening sessions over the summer to educate residents and officers on my Driving Equality agenda. I am also working with arts advocates and creators to host Arts and Culture Recovery Week on July 5 -11.”