To hinder seedy activity at Philadelphia hotels, a city councilman has proposed banning establishments from renting rooms by the hour.
Legislation introduced by Councilman Ed Neilson on Thursday would also require employees at all Philadelphia hotels to be trained to recognize signs of human trafficking.
"You're looking to deter it. They'll always look for another route to go," Neilson said. "We want to make it as difficult as possible to allow this to go on."
Human trafficking is a growing problem worldwide, and Philadelphia is not immune, said Diana Marques, public policy and advocacy manager for Women's Way, a Philadelphia nonprofit that works to empower young women and girls. The city is an ideal place for traffickers to bring victims because of its proximity to major roadways and ports, she said. The hotels near the airport are a special concern, she added.
"They can be in and out without anyone noticing they were there," Marques said.
Neilson's two bills would require hotels to rent rooms at a daily rate and give employees training, approved by the Police Department, on recognizing human trafficking.
Ed Grose, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, said he supported the measures because the hotels he represents - 91 in total, the majority in Philadelphia - already comply.
"Any hotel that's a reputable hotel is not going to allow for hourly rates," Grose said, adding that he did not know of any that did but that he was sure they existed.
At the Hub Motel on Roosevelt Boulevard in Bustleton, rooms go for $40 for three hours if a patron checks in before 3 p.m., and $65 for three hours if checking in after 3 p.m. The Blue Moon Hotel in the Mill Creek section of West Philadelphia also has a three-hour rate: $45 for a room with a bathroom, $40 for one without. Twelve-hour rates are also available.
Employees who quoted rates at both establishments declined to be interviewed about the bill.
Also in Council:
Cindy Bass introduced a bill to require clothing donation receptacles to be licensed. Under the legislation, bins would not be allowed within 100 feet of a residence and would have to be emptied once a week. A separate bill to regulate bins proposed by Curtis Jones Jr. is scheduled for a hearing Thursday. Several Council members have recently voiced concern about unattended donation boxes becoming blights.
Blondell Reynolds Brown introduced legislation to increase the tax credit for business owners who install a "green roof." Businesses can receive a credit for 25 percent of what was spent on such a roof, which typically has a waterproof layer topped with soil and vegetation. Brown's bill would increase the credit to 50 percent, up to $100,000. Brown said the bill was meant to encourage participation in the program, for which only four businesses have been approved since 2007.
Council passed a bill to suspend about a dozen currently unenforced gun laws. The move is meant to improve the city's chances of preserving other gun laws that are being challenged in court by the National Rifle Association.
Council passed legislation introduced by Dennis O'Brien that will give Council the right to hold a public hearing for any contract pertaining to legal representation of the poor in cases when the Public Defender's Office has a conflict. The office is in talks with the city for the office to handle conflict cases itself. O'Brien previously fought the administration's push to hire a private firm to take on all such cases.