After scores of protesters gathered outside City Hall yesterday to oppose his bill targeting homelessness, City Councilman Frank DiCicco agreed to make sure the measure specifically addresses aggressive panhandling.
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who organized the rally along with Sister Mary Scullion, president of Project H.O.M.E., has opposed the bill, which would allow police to cite the homeless without first having them speak with social service workers.
"Some people felt [the bill] would create an opportunity for police abuse," DiCicco said after canceling a hearing scheduled on the bill yesterday. "I have amendments that would water down the definition that was creating some concern about police being immediately able to lock up individuals who happen to be homeless.
"That was never the intention. The intention has to do with stopping behavior in terms of aggressive panhandling, rude behavior and stuff like that."
But for people like Tracy Greer and Kathleen Duffy, who have been in transitional housing for more than six months, just stopping or amending the bill "isn't going to help anyone," Duffy said. "We need more funding for finding housing."
Council yesterday also amended a sick-leave bill, sponsored by Councilmen Darrell Clarke and Bill Greenlee. The bill, introduced in March, requires businesses with 11 or more employees to let their workers earn seven sick days, and four days for workers at businesses with 10 or fewer employees. The number of days of paid sick leave was reduced from the original bill after 18 businesses contacted Greenlee.
Small-business owners said during the hearing that mandatory paid sick days hurt their businesses.
"If you give paid sick days they become vacation days," said Kevin Cattie, 51, owner of two Saladworks restaurants in Center City. "This will cost my business $13,000 off the bottom line. It has nothing to do with worker productivity."
But for those who know what it's like to have to work while ill, paid sick days will go a long way.
Back in 2009, Wesley Gadsden, who now works for Action United, was working for a company that did not grant paid sick days. He went to work even after contracting the H1N1 virus.
"I was forced to go to work sick," Gadsden said. "I actually passed along the virus to eight of my co-workers. I ended up having to take off three days and so did my co-workers."
The bill will be eligible for passage at next week's Council session.