City Council approved without comment yesterday six pieces of legislation to help Mayor Nutter trim the city budget, but then battled over a nonbinding resolution calling on him to delay the closure of 11 branch libraries.
Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez introduced the resolution, which has no power in the mayor's decision to close the libraries, saying that the budget measures need "more discussion, more deliberation."
Councilman Jim Kenney countered that his colleagues should stop trying to "trip up this administration" as it deals with a budget crisis and "commit ourselves into not misleading people into believing that this resolution is going to change anything."
Councilman Bill Greenlee also said that the resolution "gives the wrong impression to people."
Council members Bill Green, Jannie Blackwell and Curtis Jones Jr. defended the resolution's call for more debate. "It asks for time, for more deliberation, for more information . . . so we can work with the administration through hearings to understand the situation and propose alternatives," Green said.
Blackwell praised Nutter for holding public meetings to discuss the budget cuts. Talking about the problem gives people hope, Blackwell added.
"That's not mean-spirited," she said. "That's not a wrong signal."
Jones argued that the resolution was not misleading.
"I support the mayor," he said. "I support his tough choices ahead. But I do disagree at how we arrive at the decisions."
The resolution was approved in a 12-5 vote, as a small crowd in the audience cheered and waved "save our libraries" signs. Council President Anna Verna, Kenney, Greenlee, Frank DiCicco and Marian Tasco voted against it.
Council dealt with less drama while approving legislation for Nutter that, along with service cuts and layoffs, will help the city close a $1 billion gap in the city's five-year financial plan.
The legislation delays until 2015 reductions in the city's business and wage taxes. It also raises many city fees, including several collected by the Department of Licenses & Inspections and the Department of Public Health.
Blackwell voted with the rest of her colleagues on two bills to put off the tax reductions but cast the lone vote against four bills that raised city fees. She later said that her opposition came from concerns that the fees would hurt small businesses, especially contractors and builders in West Philly.
"These fees price them out of the box," Blackwell said. "I don't think these fees raise enough money to solve our budget issues and hurt new businesses and small businesses who want the opportunity to participate." *