Bill Green’s move to head the School Reform Commission means there is now officially an open seat on City Council. The Daily News reports that Council President Darrell Clarke “holds the power to call a special election for someone to finish the last year-and-a-half of Green’s four-year term.”
We gave politicians the right to be corrupt. We did it when we gave them the power to pass legislation that benefits no one but themselves. It is a power they flaunt and abuse regularly when they give themselves pay raises, manipulate campaign laws and grant themselves immunity from insider trading laws.
Philadelphia is especially adept at abusing its ability to pass laws that benefit the members. The Council sets its own budget, giving the members cars, expenses, cell phones and staff with no hearings or oversight. And, of course, there is the DROP boondoggle that allowed council members to dip into the city’s pension fund without retiring.
Now Council is about to abuse its power by changing the rules again.
Philadelphia City Council President Darrell L. Clarke and City Councilman Bill Green are pushing a bill that would ban cash gifts to city employees and officials and cap the total value of gifts at $99 a year. City employees and officials and councilpeople can currently receive cash gifts, because of course they can. (In reality, the City Code is vague on the issue.)
As the Internet continues to grow and the economy continues to suck, more people are going to try to sell goods and services online for extra income. One such way to do that is to rent out your house short-term. This is the world we live in now. Fortunately, there is an easy way to do that: Airbnb. Owners can rent out their places or parts of their places for money; renters can get much cheaper rates than they would in a hotel. Wikipedia says listings on Airbnb “include private rooms, entire apartments, castles, boats, manors, tree houses, tipis, igloos, private islands.” Next big snowstorm, I’m renting an igloo.
The Inky reports on Councilman Jim Kenney’s proposal to decriminalize marijuana. “He said he was not advocating full legalization, but was taking his cue from District Attorney Seth Williams’ 2010 decision to handle possession cases involving amounts up to 30 grams – just over an ounce – as summary offenses. Rather, his bill would allow officers to issue a summons, similar to a traffic ticket, requiring people caught with a small amount of marijuana to appear in the special program.Kenney said the change would free up 17,000 police hours spent processing people arrested for pot possession.” Kenney, incidentally, might run for mayor in 2015.
Blondell Reynolds Brown is delaying a vote on a controversial bill to allow advertising on public school property until the spring, because of, well, Facebook.
“First of all, we read our emails, and we pay attention to folk on Facebook,” Reynolds Brown said. “And a number of legitimate considerations have come to my attention.”
Sure enough, BRB has quite the Facebook presence. With nearly 11,000 “likes” she’s got about 5,000 more “likes” than any other Philadelphia City Councilperson. (Based on extensive research by Philly Mag.)
At long last, the City Council has passed its land bank bill, making it the largest city in the country to have a land bank. (Cliff notes: Land bank=bank where all the vacant land is put up for sale, so the hoarders don’t sit on it forever and ever.) But as Andrew Thompson pointed out earlier this week, the bill ain’t perfect, and risks becoming toothless (as Baltimore’s has become). Still, here’s some cause for, er, celebration.
After two years of crafting a land bank bill that would streamline the messy, maddening process of buying land from the city, Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez’s legislative magnum opus finally passed a first-reading last week, but far less triumphantly than many would have liked. In the 11th hour, Sanchez capitulated to an amendment by Council President Darrell Clarke that would effectively retain the stifling councilmanic control over the sale of land. (The bill has since been passed.)