City Council Approves Major Reinvestment in Philly Neighborhoods

rebuild

City Council President Darrell L. Clarke | Courtesy of City Council’s Flickr

Philadelphia City Council has approved Mayor Jim Kenney’s ambitious plan to reinvest in Philly’s public spaces.

Rebuild, also known as Rebuilding Community Infrastructure, would allocate $500 million over seven years to the restoration of the city’s parks, libraries, recreation centers and playgrounds. Through the project, the city aims to revitalize communities, improve diversity in the construction industry and foster economic progress and inclusion.

“Every Philadelphian deserves a recreation center, park and library that is safe, inviting and full of amenities, and because of the legislation that City Council passed [Thursday], we are one step closer to making these goals a reality,” Rebuild executive director Nicole Westerman said in a statement.

The Rebuild bill approved in a 16-1 vote Thursday would issue the first $100 million bond for the project. City Councilman David Oh was the only member to vote against the measure because he felt skeptical that it would live up to its diversity goals, according to Philly.com.

For months, council members had debated how exactly and to what extent Rebuild would actually diversify the city’s building-trades unions – a major goal of the plan. Over time, the city aims for minorities and women to comprise at least 45 percent of the workforce behind the project – a figure pulled in part from the 2016 Economic Opportunity Plan. In addition to other initiatives, the city expects unions to attain workers from PennAssist, a pre-apprenticeship program established between the trades and the University of Pennsylvania that helps provide a path to union membership for public school students.

The project – which would be made possible through a $100 million grant from the William Penn Foundation — is expected to revamp between 150 to 200 of the city’s 400 recreation centers, libraries, playgrounds and pools.

Some of the Rebuild funding would also come from soda tax revenue. The American Beverage Association’s lawsuit against the tax (which was struck down by Commonwealth Court this month) has stalled the issuing of bonds for the project. The ABA said it plans to appeal the court’s decision.

Kenney said he’ll sign the bill as soon as it reaches his desk.

Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.

OPINION: Philly’s Soda Tax Is Shaping Up to Be an Epic Flop

It’s been six months since the city’s soda tax (or, more accurately, the sugary beverage tax) was implemented — and it’s off to a rocky start.

The city is currently $20 million short of its projected $46 million goal to close out the 2017 fiscal year, and based on the most available month’s numbers, it doesn’t appear as though they will reach it.

But I’m not surprised by any of this. By the time last June when Mayor Kenney pulled a fast one on City Council to strike the deal, I had already warned about the consequences in lower-income communities.

Read more »

Philadelphia City Council Says “No” to Wolf Tech Tax

L to R: Councilman David Oh; Governor Tom Wolf.

Since Governor Wolf proposed the reinstatement of the “tech tax” in his Pennsylvania budget proposal, tech leaders across Philadelphia have rallied against it, and on Thursday, City Council members voted 9-7 in favor of a bill that expresses opposition to the tax.

The bill, “Opposing proposed taxes for the technology and computer services in Pennsylvania,” was sponsored by Republican Councilman David Oh and Republican Councilman At-Large Al Taubenberger.

“People understand that the proposed tax would be very harmful to the economy in Philadelphia,” Oh told me as he listed off developments like Comcast’s new technology tower that would stand to be affected. “Tech-related fields and consulting are a booming part of Philadelphia. They’ve created a lot of jobs, excitement and opportunities.”

Governor Wolf proposed the tech tax or computer services tax — a 6 percent levy on software development and consulting firms — to help close a $3 billion deficit in the state budget. Only four other states have a tech tax, which was originally passed in Pennsylvania in 1991 but repealed shortly after, when the tech industry protested that it was inhibiting job growth. Read more »

City Council Moves to Create Committee on Gun Violence

Photo | Jeff Fusco

City Council members want to create a task force to fight gun violence in Philadelphia.

Council President Darrell L. Clarke, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and Councilman Curtis Jones have introduced a resolution that would allow for the creation of a special committee on gun violence prevention.

The group would pool officials from different city sectors to strategize ways to combat violent crime in the city. The resolution comes about a week after 57-year-old Councilman David Oh was stabbed during an attempted robbery in Southwest Philadelphia, just steps from his home of 54 years.  Read more »

Philly’s Pride Flag to Get Two New Stripes: Black and Brown

Image of new Pride flag via its designing company, Tierney.

Multiple sources closely connected with Thursday’s First Annual Pride Kick-Off at City Hall have confirmed to G Philly that the city’s Pride flag will add black and brown stripes below the traditional six-color rainbow layout. The new permanent design will be, from top to bottom: black, brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Read more »

Councilman David Oh Stabbed During Attempted Robbery in Southwest Philly

L: David Oh via City Council | R: iStockphoto.com | artolympic

City Councilman at-large David Oh remains in critical but stable condition after he was stabbed near his home of 54 years in Southwest Philadelphia last night.

Police said Oh, 57, was unloading his car on the 5800 block of Thomas Avenue in Kingsessing around 10 p.m. last night when a man approached him and pulled out a knife, then demanded that Oh give him his car keys before stabbing Oh on the left side of his torso.  Read more »

Court Dismisses Chamber’s Challenge to Philadelphia Wage Equity Law

Jim Kenney. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Hate to say we told you so, but a federal judge just rejected the Chamber of Commerce’s challenge to Philadelphia’s wage equity law because the organization failed to identify a member who would be harmed by the law.

Okayed by Mayor Kenney in January, the wage equity law would prevent employers from asking job applicants how much they earned in the past. The Chamber decided to seek an injunction against the new law in April, alleging that the ordinance would burden businesses and violate their First Amendment rights.

But before the court could even assess the Chamber’s argument, it first had to determine whether the organization had standing. In a ruling submitted on Tuesday, Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg wrote that the Chamber does not. The Chamber failed to show that at least one of its members would have standing to bring the suit itself, Goldberg wrote, adding that the “Chamber’s broad allegations about its members simply do not meet the requirements” set out by precedent.  Read more »

City Council Might Ban Waving Inflatable Tube Men

City Council will soon consider sealing the fate of Philly’s inflatable tube men – you know, the bright, blown-up guys that flop and flail all over car dealerships and other desolate-looking parking lots in the city.

Sixth-district Councilman Bobby Henon has introduced a bill that would amend the city’s zoning code to enact new regulations on signs – but the only change that really matters (to us, at least) is that inflatable tube men would be no more.  Read more »

Does the Chamber of Commerce Have Standing to Challenge Philadelphia’s Wage Equity Law?

City Hall | Photo by David Gambacorta

Philadelphia’s freshly minted wage equity law was supposed take effect next Tuesday, but the city voluntarily put the brakes on the law pending the resolution of a lawsuit against it. The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce seeks a preliminary injunction against the law and the first order of business in court has been to determine whether the Chamber even has standing to challenge the law.

In a brief submitted at the beginning of the month to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the city argued that the Chamber lacks standing mainly because it has failed to reveal exactly which of its members will be affected by the law and how.

“Facts about those alleged members, including their names, practices, and any harms they have suffered, remain a mystery as the Chamber has studiously avoided identifying any individual member that will be harmed,” counsel for the city wrote. The brief also urges the court to question the Chamber about these individual members before looking into the claim that the law impedes employers’ free speech. (We’ve also questioned which Chamber members claim the law will harm them.)  Read more »

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