City Councilman Bobby Henon plans to haul allegedly negligent landlords into City Hall to answer for why they've let properties deteriorate, going so far as to single out eight people during Council's session Thursday.
Should they refuse to agree to testify before Council, Henon said he would subpoena them as part of a resolution he introduced in March to compel witnesses to come forward and provide documents.
"We need to start thinking about how and why our buildings fall into disarray, about why they become abandoned in the first place, about the way that we respond when the first call comes in from a resident about short-dumping, about a broken window, about trash on a lawn and any other property maintenance issue," Henon said Thursday. "These problems start small, but over time can morph into problems that have disastrous outcomes."
Henon named eight property owners that he wants to testify: Drew and Blair Demarco, Martin J. Brennan, Anthony Cancelliere, Michael Mola, Wayne Brokes, Walter Ulatowski and James Walsh. Together the landlords own hundreds of properties, many in Henon's 6th district in Northeast Philly. Henon has received more than 50 calls about the properties.
He also introduced a bill that would create a task force comprised of several top city officials - including the police, fire and L&I commissioners and eight others - who would make recommendations to the city managing director on whether to target problematic properties. The task force would decide whether to designate a residence as a "problem property" after it receives two or more violations in the past two years and poses a significant health or safety hazard.
After being notified of the designation, the owner would have 14 days to remedy the violation or face a fine of up to $2,000 a day.
Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald would not say whether the administration, which stepped up its own efforts to go after bad landlords last year, would support the proposal.
It's unclear of the chances for the bill's passage since, as written, it could add significant responsibilities for some of the city's highest officials.
In other news, Council approved a resolution sponsored by Councilman Jim Kenney that called for hearings on the status of a 2009 franchise agreement between Verizon Communications Inc. and the city to bring the FiOS fiber optic network to Philadelphia.
Kenney said sources have told him that Verizon may not be building in low-income areas as was stipulated in the agreement. Verizon denies the allegation.