City Council reopens for business on Thursday after a 12-week summer recess.
We know some members actually work during the summer on constituent services, but the fact is Council does not meet as a body or conduct meaningful business for three months.
That’s the first thing we’d list as our priority for Council to fix this session. There are too many pressing needs in this city for its legislative body to be unable to make laws or approve items like land sales of public property. At the least, a modified summer session should be a first step.
Here are other priorities we’d argue for Council to address:
City Council’s operating budget. A 2016 Pew report identified Philadelphia City Council as one of the most expensive in the country. Council’s budget, now $18 million, is $1 million more than it was two years ago, and more than $2.5 million more than five years ago. Why is it growing, and who should be held accountable? Council won’t hold hearings on its own budget, but an entity like Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperative Authority could, and give the public as much insight into that budget as any other city department.
Sexual harassment: Last year, the city controller issued a report suggesting that the city should create a centralized office to handle sexual-harassment complaints instead of on a department-by-department basis. City Council can’t mandate that this happen, but it can make a powerful statement by pushing for this change.
Taxes: Modifying or eliminating the 10-year tax abatement is on many Council members’ priority list, but Council should also focus on fixing the flaws in the assessment process for everyone else – and fixes should happen before the next set of property tax bills go out. Fairness and uniformity is still an issue. And someone should take seriously the idea of revenue neutrality. Council has the ability to adjust the millage rate to keep taxes from going up each year.
In February, nine City Council members voted against a bill that would have required all pharmaceutical representatives to register with the city and banned them from giving away gifts and free meals to prescribing physicians. City health officials supported the bill, as did this editorial board. Bill Greenlee and Cindy Bass should consider bringing this bill back.