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We asked City Council members to share their priorities for the last session of 2019. Here’s how they turned out. | Editorial

While there is still plenty to accomplish, Council deserves some credit for a productive session.

Sixteen of the 17 members of Philadelphia City Council who participated in the fall session.
Sixteen of the 17 members of Philadelphia City Council who participated in the fall session.Read moreJohn Duchneskie

In September, we asked all the members of City Council to share their priorities for the fall session. Now that the session is ended, how did they do?

On the whole, we’d give them a high mark for accomplishing many of the things they set out to do. Among the ambitious bills was a change to the tax-abatement program, a tax credit for low-income people, and a domestic workers’ bill of rights. Even some of those not returning to office deserve credit for checking off their to-do list before leaving City Hall.

There have been years when we beat up on Council for not getting enough done. While there is still plenty to accomplish, Council deserves some credit for a productive session.

Mark Squilla

District 1, Democrat

Stated priority: Ban plastic bags.

Did it happen? Yes.

After three attempts to ban plastic bags failed over disagreements on whether the bill should include a fee on paper bags, on the last day of the session Council passed a compromise bill that does not include a fee on paper bags. Before the bill can go into effect, though, a one-year state law preempting the regulation would have to expire without extension.

» READ MORE: Philly City Council reaches compromise on plastic bag ban and regulations on bed bugs infestations

Kenyatta Johnson

District 2, Democrat

Stated priority: Implement a violence-prevention plan.

Did it happen? Yes and no.

In November, Council appropriated an extra $5 million to help with the city’s violence-prevention efforts. However, after months of discussions and planning, the city still doesn’t have the details of a relaunch of Focused Deterrence -- an evidence-based gun violence prevention strategy credited with a 35% reduction in Philadelphia shootings in the past.

Jannie Blackwell

District 3, Democrat*

Editors’ note: Councilwoman Blackwell did not respond to our requests to participate in this piece.

*She lost reelection and will not return to Council next session.

Curtis Jones Jr.

District 4, Democrat

Stated priority: Enact a bill that would create a procedure for the courts to temporarily remove firearms from people who are a threat to themselves or others.

Did it happen? Yes.

The bill passed in November and was signed into law by Mayor Jim Kenney in early December. According to Jones, the city’s Law Department does not believe the bill violates state preemption. Only a lawsuit will determine that for sure.

Darrell L. Clarke

District 5, Democrat

Stated priority: Ban guns from playgrounds and recreational centers.

Did it happen? Yes.

Clarke’s priority for the fall was to pass the Safe Haven legislation to ban firearms in the city’s recreational centers and playgrounds. In November, Council passed the bill unanimously. Unfortunately, due to state preemption, Harrisburg needs to authorize the bill, which is highly unlikely.

Bobby Henon

District 6, Democrat

Stated priority: Pass legislation designed to combat the underground economy in the construction industry.

Did it happen? Mixed bag.

Henon’s legislation to combat the underground economy wasn’t introduced, but Henon says he received a commitment from the mayor and the Department of Licenses and Inspections that there would be extra funding in the next budget to address the issue. We will continue to follow these efforts.

Maria Quiñones-Sánchez

District 7, Democrat

Stated priority: Pass a domestic workers’ bill of rights.

Did it happen? Yes.

In October, City Council passed legislation that expands labor-force protections to domestic workers such as house cleaners and nannies. The legislation was signed into law by Mayor Kenney in November.

» READ MORE: Philly to expand rights for housekeepers and nannies, including requiring a contract and paid leave

Cindy Bass

District 8, Democrat

Stated priority: Repeal or restructure the 10-year tax abatement.

Did it happen? Yes.

After wrangling among Council members behind closed doors, the legislators voted unanimously to trim the tax abatement by 10% annually. Mayor Jim Kenney said he will sign the bill.

» READ MORE: Philadelphia City Council just approved changes to the controversial 10-year tax abatement

Cherelle Parker

District 9, Democrat

Stated priority: Build and strengthen commercial corridors

Did it happen? Yes.

In November, City Council voted to appropriate $10 million for a new citywide cleanup program for business corridors.

Brian O’Neill

District 10, Republican

Stated priority: Address quality-of-life issues.

Did it happen? Incomplete.

Given the rather vague priority, it’s impossible to assess whether O’Neill succeeded.

Blondell Reynolds Brown

At-large, Democrat*

Stated priority: Update lead certification in rental properties.

Did it happen? Yes.

After 18 months of negotiations, Council passed Reynolds Brown’s bill that requires landlords to conduct tests for lead-paint hazards every four years.

*Editors’ note: Reynolds Brown retired from her Council seat and will not return next session.

» READ MORE: After 18-month battle, Philly Council passes lead safety bill

Allan Domb

At-large, Democrat

Stated priority: Grant city wage-tax reimbursements.

Did it happen? Yes.

City Council passed a bill to allow low-income residents and nonresidents to receive a refund on a portion of their wage-tax payments. Officials estimate 51,000 taxpayers would qualify to receive an average refund of about $500.

» READ MORE: Low-income families could save about $800 a year if Philadelphia refunded wage taxes | Opinion

Derek S. Green

At-large, Democrat

Stated priority: Incentivize local purchasing for bids/RFPs.

Did it happen? Yes.

In the November election, Philadelphia voters approved a charter change that increases the dollar amount when a formal bid/RFP (request for proposal) is required and making local businesses more competitive. The goal of the change was to make it easier for small local businesses to get city contracts.

William Greenlee

At-large, Democrat*

Stated priority: Hold hearing on better banking services.

Did it happen? Technically.

In October the city’s Committee on Commerce & Economic Development held a hearing on the issue. No concrete legislation came out of the hearing.

*Editors’ note: Greenlee retired and will not return to Council next session.

At-large, Democrat

Stated priority: Create legal defense for renters.

Did it happen? Yes.

Earlier in the fall Council unanimously passed Gym’s bill that ensures free legal counsel to low-income tenants facing eviction.

» READ MORE: Philly Council passes Right to Counsel, giving free legal representation to tenants who are evicted

David Oh

At-large, Republican

Stated priority: Bring the Philadelphia Parking Authority back under city control.

Did it happen? No.

Oh has been pushing to restore local control over the PPA for years. That is a big task, and has garnered Oh many political enemies in his own party. As in previous years, this fall his effort hasn’t seen progress.

Al Taubenberger

At-large, Republican*

Stated priority: Ensure that unethical developers don’t get the tax abatement.

Did it happen? No.

Taubenberger wanted to see a condition added to the abatement that ensures that developers who don’t obtain all the necessary construction permits and avoid paying taxes don’t enjoy the tax break, but that was not included in the bill.

*Editors’ note: Taubenberger lost reelection to Council.