CITY COUNCIL approved well over 100 measures on June 16.
This is quite common on the last day of a legislative session. Everything from approving all-way stop signs to more detailed policy initiatives dealing with nuisance businesses and delinquent taxpayers were given the green light by my colleagues and me.
Lost in the lengthy debate on the soda tax - not insignificant and hopefully not overshadowed - was a piece of legislation that will have long-term ramifications for our criminal justice system.
I was the primary sponsor of a bill that will decriminalize certain public-conduct offenses. Currently, the Philadelphia Police Department issues approximately 10,000 low-level criminal citations per year for public conduct offenses that a violations of the Pennsylvania State Criminal Code. These offenses range from disorderly conduct to obstructing the highway. An individual can be arrested and jailed if convicted of these crimes.
However, the Philadelphia code provides for a far less harsh penalty in the form of a civil citation like a parking ticket. Police officers can write these citations only if the offense takes place in a large gathering like a stadium. Well, this is changing. My law will allow police officers to write these citations anywhere now.
To me, it is an issue of fundamental fairness. If two young adults are sitting on a stoop or at the Manayunk Bike Race or the Greek Picnic, and one is smoking marijuana and the other has an open container of beer, the one with the beer could be arrested and, thanks to City Council's action last year, the marijuana smoker will receive only a citation.
All too often a person's one-time juvenile infraction will have a lasting impact on getting into college and their job prospects.
This new law is the furtherance of the MacArthur grant the city received earlier this year that directs us to reduce our overall prison population. This law will be in effect during the Democratic National Convention, but its impact will last long after the delegates and those exercising their First Amendment rights go home.
We are in no way excusing bad behavior with this law, but we what we are doing is instilling a sense of fairness - a notion whose time has come.
Councilman Curtis Jones Jr.
In your recent editorial on so-called pension "reform," you briefly list the possible causes of the $68 billion combined deficit in the state and school workers pension systems: "If the employer's pension fund investment tanks, if the state fails to make needed payments to the fund . . . " To keep the record straight, you could have added that, in the last decade, for example, school employees' contributions to the Public Schools Employees' Retirement System were nearly double that of district and commonwealth contributions combined. That means they used workers' contributions to take a payment holiday and left the fund more vulnerable to recessions.
By deliberately underfunding PSERS and the State Employees' Retirement System, Harrisburg was able to offer tax cuts to corporations. In other words, they robbed Peter to pay Paul and kicked the can down the road. The resulting deficit has nothing to do with defined benefits and everything to do with malfeasance.
The projected "reforms" will leave not only the taxpayer but also future state and school employees "holding the bag."
Gloria C. Endres
Let's make our neighborhoods safe
Now that another Philadelphia tax, however deceptively, will be raised again, and water rates will again be increased, as a taxpayer I have just one simple request:
For those who may have the ear of Mayor Kenney and those on City Council, please do something to get the drug dealers and buyers off my street and out of my neighborhood.
As a police district advisory council member and town watch member, I and the many dedicated community volunteers in this city have done as much as we can do.
We need help. It is time for the city to step up. If special-interest groups can have access to City Hall and get things done, those of us who pay the taxes and fund these projects should get the same consideration.
3rd District PDAC
6th District PDAC
Town Watch Member
No gun-show loopholes
Don't write some dumb stuff in your editorials you don't know about. Gun-show loophole? Have you ever been to a gun show? Probably not. Go to one and try to buy one and see for yourself, and then come talk to me about gun-show loophole. Otherwise, stop writing lies.