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Mayor Nutter bids farewell during last City Council meeting of his era

Council approves casino, Comcast, and ex-offender legislation.

Mayor Nutter: “It’s just been an incredible experience, I think, for all of us, but certainly for me to be
mayor of my hometown.”
Mayor Nutter: “It’s just been an incredible experience, I think, for all of us, but certainly for me to be mayor of my hometown.”Read more(ALEJANDRO ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

MAYOR NUTTER, with less than four weeks left in office, returned to City Council yesterday - where he once served - to give a heartfelt farewell speech that lacked any curse words.

He lauded Council for some of its accomplishments since he took office in January 2008.

Nutter noted the legislative body's approval of $400 million in re-occurring funding for schools, raising the minimum wage for subcontractors, passing a sick-leave bill and helping to reduce crime by approving various measures in support of the Police Department and ex-convicts.

"The many ups, the many downs, the tragedies and the triumphs that we've seen together over the last eight years - it's just been an incredible experience, I think, for all of us, but certainly for me to be mayor of my hometown," Nutter, 58, said, reflectively.

"To the members of the public, thank you for making sure that we do our best to serve your interest well. Because when all is said and done, we work for you, you're our bosses, you pay your taxes," added the mayor, who made national news this week by calling GOP presidential contender Donald Trump an "a--hole."

Before leaving, Nutter gave each member of Council little Liberty Bells engraved with their names.

It was also the last meeting for Councilwoman Marian Tasco, who is retiring after 27 years; Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr., who was defeated during the May primary election; and Councilman Dennis O'Brien, who was voted out during last month's general election.

"I say to all of the Council members, don't forget how you got here, don't get too big-headed. Stay with your people," Tasco, 78, said during a speech in which she reminisced each member and thanked them.

Among the stack of legislation Council approved is the following:

* Two zoning ordinances required for the construction of the $450 million Live! Hotel and Casino project in South Philadelphia.

* Renewal of the 15-year cable television franchise agreement with Comcast.

* A resolution condemning Trump for his proposal to bar all Muslim immigrants from the country.

* Amendments to the 2011 "Ban the Box" law, which is designed to help people with criminal records gain employment. Changes to the law include making it apply to all city employers - public and private - with one or more employees as opposed to ten; requiring employers to conduct criminal background checks after conditional offers of employment, not after the conclusion of first interviews; and mandating that employers can only look back on applicants' records seven years, excluding any periods of incarceration. Previously, there was no limit on how far back an employer could look back on a person's criminal record.

The casino project, which is being built by the partnership of Cordish Companies and Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment, Inc., came under fire earlier this year after African-American leaders accused Cordish of discriminating against black patrons in other cities.

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, in whose district the casino will be built, addressed the controversy by noting that the developers have agreed to hire both construction and permanent workforces that reflect the city's demographic makeup and to pay workers a minimum of $12 an hour. To hold the developers accountable, Johnson said, he has established a diversity oversight board that will monitor their hiring practices.

The casino legislation was approved by all 15 Council members.

While the Comcast agreement was also approved unanimously, Councilwoman Cindy Bass complained about a provision that requires the city to subsidize the company for expanding the number of customers who can receive reduced-cost Internet service. The city will pay Comcast $170,000 a year from the franchise fee it receives from the company.

"I'm still trying to understand why is it that Philadelphia, which as we know is the poorest of our nation's top ten cities, is subsidizing Comcast?" Bass asked.

Comcast officials released a statement praising Council's action.

"Philadelphia is our home - and we are delighted with the franchise agreement that has been unanimously approved by City Council, as well as our confirmation of an extraordinary set of voluntary commitments," said David L. Cohen, Comcast senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer.

"Today's agreement and other unique collaborations ensure Philadelphians continue to receive best-in-class, leading-edge products and services; improvements to their overall customer experience; and affords the creation of hundreds of new, good-paying jobs and careers that benefit Comcast, our customers, and the city alike," said Jim Samaha, a regional Comcast senior vice president.

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