Council Moves to Prohibit Offensive Symbols on City Property

regulate offensive symbols

City Hall | Photo by David Gambacorta

Weeks after a Confederate flag was allegedly discovered on a Philly narcotics officer’s personal vehicle, City Council is moving to prohibit potentially offensive symbols on city property.

City Council president Darrell Clarke and Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown have introduced a bill that would allow the city to regulate certain symbols, materials, and objects in or on city-owned facilities.  Read more »

Councilman: Police Failed to Evict Squatter in Pastor’s Home for Months

Republican City Councilman David Oh wants to crack down on “squatters.”

Oh has proposed legislation that would establish rules for how the city handles squatters, or people who occupy property illegally.

Oh introduced the bill after being contacted by a pastor who said he went on vacation and returned to find a woman squatting at his church house.  Read more »

There’s a Way to Get Republicans Out of City Hall Once and for All

L-R: City Commissioner Al Schmidt, City Council members David Oh and Al Taubenberger.

In the past year, I’ve become less and less impressed with both major political parties. I was never a Republican: I’m too black, too gay, and don’t own enough property to feel as though those less fortunate are taking something from me. But I’m also not exactly proud to say I’m a Democrat: Being forced to be loyal to a party that has used fear-mongering tactics to keep blacks like me voting for them—while never, ever following through on promises to disrupt the status quo—is getting tired. Republicans can’t acknowledge their party’s aggressive nationalism, while Democrats can’t produce a salient message other than “we’re not as bad as the other guys.” Read more »

OPINION: Let’s Make History and Abolish Columbus Day in Philly

When news broke last month that Los Angeles was joining Seattle and Denver in removing Columbus Day from its city calendar, I looked to see what my city’s plans were in regards to the holiday. Answer: Nothing.

As the city continues debating the future of the Frank Rizzo statue (because some folks are still not convinced that Rizzo was that bad of a guy), I would hope that by now most of us can agree that Christopher Columbus isn’t worthy of recognition. Read more »

OPINION: The City Tolerates the FOP’s Lack of Respect for Black Lives

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John McNesby of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5. (AP Photo/ Joseph Kaczmarek)

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” After the recent shakeups in the city’s political scene, our politicians have been unusually reserved about confronting what has now become one of the biggest obstacles to anything progressive in Philadelphia — the Fraternal Order of the Police.

For some odd reason, it’s hard for elected officials to criticize the city’s police union: Do so in any form and you might be mistaken for denigrating their service to the community. But there is a difference between condemning the job and holding it accountable — welcoming the latter should be required of any group that receives taxpayer’s dollars. Read more »

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 »

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