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Council committee approves bill aimed at changing licenses and inspections operations

The measure still needs approval from Council, mayor's signature and voters this spring.

NANCY WINKLER, whose daughter was among the six people killed in the June 5, 2013, Market Street building collapse, yesterday warned a City Council committee against giving initial approval to a proposal that would change how the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections operates.

The bill, championed by Council President Darrell Clarke, would create a new Department of Planning and Development, under which the functions of the dissolved L&I would be placed, along with the functions of a handful of other building-related offices.

The move would streamline city services and make them more user-friendly, which is something a number of other cities have already done, Clarke said during a hearing held by the Committee on Law and Government.

Despite calls to postpone the vote from Winkler and Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Alan Greenberger, Clarke's bill won unanimous approval from the committee.

The bill will get a first reading in Council on Jan. 22 and, if eventually approved and signed by Mayor Nutter, would be placed on the May 19 primary ballot for voters to decide if the city charter should be amended to create the proposed department.

Winkler, whose daughter Anne Bryan, 24, died in the collapse, said she feared Clarke's plan would place development over safety.

"L&I needs adequate funding and a leader whose first duty, through training and professional obligation, is to safety, not to development," said Winkler, the city treasurer, who stressed that she was speaking as a private citizen and mother.

"I am in favor of development. I am in favor of reform. But development should not be put ahead of safety as it was on June 5," she said.

Thirteen people were also seriously injured during the collapse, which occurred when a wall from a neighboring building that was being demolished fell on top of the store, where Winkler's daughter was shopping.

"If you vote today, public transparency on why you voted on something as important as a charter change in response to something as devastating as the . . . collapse has not been achieved. That is not the right way to proceed on a matter of such life-or-death dimensions," Winkler added.

Councilman Bill Greenlee, chairman of the law committee, said he believes public safety is addressed in the bill.

"I don't think safety has been put aside. One of the subsections of this department is the Department of Enforcement and Licensing. With enforcement you're talking about safety," he said.

"I certainly understand the emotion of Nancy and the other people that lost loved ones in that tragedy, but I really don't believe there's any shortchanging of safety issues," Greenlee added.