For those who don't know, Philadelphia has what's called a "strong mayor" form of government.
A case in point: City Council can pass a budget, giving the mayor the power to spend money - health centers for example.
But if the mayor decides not to spend the money, all Council can do is squawk.
And that's what Councilwoman Marian Tasco did yesterday, complaining that Mayor Street refuses to spend the $2.1 million that Council and the mayor agreed to add to the troubled Health Department's budget so that the nine health centers could increase staffing.
Comparing the city's spending at health centers to a Third World country, Tasco asked, "How can a city that has a budget over $3 billion provide health care as if it's been stricken by war or famine?"
Accusing the administration of "further victimizing" the poor, Tasco said health-center clients wait a week for prescriptions to be filled. "They also must wait approximately six months for their first examination, and they wait up to four hours on the day of the scheduled exam. This is simply unacceptable," she said.
If this all seems familiar, it's because Street did the same thing last year, failing to spend about $1.8 million that Council targeted to the health clinics.
Yesterday, a coalition of clinic supporters said they were delivering a petition with more than 1,600 signatures to the mayor.
In June, Street sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, informing the fiscal-watchdog agency that he planned to balance his annual budget and five-year plan by not spending all of the money Council put back in the budget, including $2.1 million for the Health Department.
Nevertheless, Council yesterday unanimously passed a resolution urging the mayor to spend the money to improve health care at the centers.
Joe Grace, Street's spokesman, said, "The health centers are important to us so we are taking steps to fill positions as needed and with new managers in place, we'll be taking a very close look at staffing levels."
In other business, Council unanimously overrode a mayoral veto of a bill that would ban the use of football-field-size tanks that would be buried below ground level to cope with stormwater in Northeast Philadelphia.
Water Commissioner Bernard Brunwasser said the department already had decided against the tanks and in favor of a new sewer line, but the bill's sponsor, Councilman Brian O'Neill said he had never been informed of that decision.
Council also unanimously approved rezoning for a 4.5-acre tract at Broad Street and Washington Avenue. The developer, Rimas Properties, has proposed a $500 million project that would fill the block with residential, retail, office and hotel uses and two 39-story towers. *