LOCAL NEWS: Republican City Councilman Proposes Bill to Aid LGBT Small Businesses

City Council Entrance

Councilman David Oh proposed a bill that will consider LGBT companies as another category of disadvantaged business enterprises to help give them a better shot at landing city contracts.

Republican Councilman David Oh introduced Bill 160152 last week as a method of “finding ways to expand access and encourage local small business owners of all minority groups to apply to be prioritized for city contracts.” With the LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill being blocked by Republicans at the state level despite increasing public support, there is currently no guarantee that local LGBT businesses will be able to receive proper consideration for city contracts. The bill would also expand protection to those who have experienced “religious prejudice.” Nationally, progress for LGBT businesses and owners has not matched the rapid policy advancements for their individual rights. Read more »

Kenney’s Massive, Costly Plan to Make Over Rec Centers, Parks and Libraries

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Mayor Jim Kenney just revealed his most meaningful proposal to date, one that could become the signature accomplishment of his first term if he pulls it off. According to PlanPhilly, which first broke the news, Kenney is going to propose selling $300 million in bonds in order to repair Philadelphia’s parks, recreation centers and libraries at his budget address next week. He hopes to raise another $200 million for the massive initiative from the state, feds and nonprofit organizations.

This is huge. For comparison’s sake, former Mayor John Street’s defining Neighborhood Transformation Initiative was paid for by a $295 million bond issue passed by City Council. Kenney’s proposal is so large that it could trigger a debate about whether this is the right time to pursue such an investment, given that the School District of Philadelphia and the city’s pension system remain deeply underfunded.

Kenney told PlanPhilly that his goal is to provide the city’s neighborhoods with the parks and rec centers that they deserve.

“When we have a football league in South Philadelphia where we have suburban people come into our communities and look at what our kids have to play with, and then our kids go out to the suburbs and play in pristinely manicured fields, it makes us feel like second-class citizens, and we’re not,” he told the website. “I think this investment will give people in every community a sense of equity and fairness, that we care about them and we value them as citizens.” Read more »

City Bill Would Crack Down on Nuisance Businesses

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

City Hall would gain new powers in cracking down on “nuisance” businesses under a new bill proposed by Councilwoman Cindy Bass — and neighborhood groups would be given a formal say in determining the future of businesses that run afoul of the law. Read more »

Maria Quiñones-Sánchez Wants to Make Philly the “BCorp Capital of the World”

Maria Quinones-Sanchez | Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Maria Quiñones-Sánchez | Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Sometimes, a business can do well by doing good.

That’s the idea behind so-called “BCorps” — businesses that pledge to achieve social goals while making profits. It’s an idea that’s gained popularity in the post-recession era — and attracted the eye of Philadelphia City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez. On Thursday, she introduced a pair of bills to attract and keep such businesses in the city.

“BCorps keep an eye on the triple bottom line — people, planet and profit — proving that you can do well and also do good,” Sánchez said in a press release announcing the initiatives. “By expanding our existing sustainability incentives, we can make Philadelphia the BCorp capital of the world.” Read more »

New Bill Would Wipe Out Older Parking Fines

iStock/hidesy

iStockphoto/hidesy

Have you gotten a ticket for parking in a loading zone or overstaying the two-hour parking restrictions? Did you do it more than three years ago and never pay the ticket? And have the specters of the fines and late fees been hanging in the back of your mind like a dark cloud? Well, there’s hope: If one councilwoman has her way, those old fines could be erased.

City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell has introduced a bill in City Council which would give Philadelphians amnesty for old parking fines. “Any person owing fines, fees or penalties for parking violations issued three or more years ago, shall be eligible for a one-time forgiveness of said fines, fees and penalties,” reads the councilwoman’s proposed amendment to the Philadelphia Code‘s section on parking violations. Read more »

Council Looks to Create a Commission on Youth Gun Violence

Photo by iStock.com/Rex Wholster

Photo by iStock.com/Rex Wholster

The Philadelphia City Council appears ready to ask voters to approve a new commission to seek answers to the city’s ongoing problem with gun violence.

All 17 members of the Council have signed on as co-sponsors to a new resolution, introduced last week, which would create a Commission on Youth Gun Violence. Philadelphia voters would be asked to amend the city charter to create the commission.  Read more »

Opinion: Uber Discriminates Against Pregnant Women

Uber Pregnant

Shutterstock.com

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from guest writer Hannah Sassaman.)

Today, I’m 38 weeks pregnant. While I’m mildly (to hugely) unprepared for the roller coaster I know will hit when labor starts, my little family of three is excited to grow. One resource I’ve considered tapping for our ride to the hospital — a resource that has entered the scene since my daughter was born — is Uber.

I labored with my daughter through Hurricane Irene in August of 2011. Our neighbors’ leaf-stuffed gutters overflowed through our window casings, bringing the storm into my bedroom as I paced through my contractions. By the time we were ready to go to the hospital, the only bridge left open between my West Philly home and Center City — taking us to Pennsylvania Hospital, more than 40 blocks away — was Chestnut Street. My husband drove at less than 10 miles per hour through the eye of the storm, through quiet, wet, humid streets.

For this round, we’ve been seriously considering skipping the drive and using Uber to get to the hospital. Uber has a killer mobile app, and payments happen automatically. It’s easy to see why the business has been growing exponentially around the world.

But Uber has its own risks for me and other Philadelphians — including marked discrimination against people who use wheelchairs, people with service animals, and, now, pregnant women in labor. Read more »

Millennials Won — Mark Squilla’s “Promoters Bill” Is Dead

Mark Squilla

Councilman Mark Squilla | Photo courtesy of City Council’s Flickr

City Councilman Mark Squilla has decided to scrap his virally unpopular “Promoters Bill,” which came under fire last week from musicians, millennials and First Amendment advocates. The proposal would have required music venues to collect the names, addresses and phone numbers of performers for city police.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Tuesday that Squilla “had planned to amend the legislation, but decided it was too tainted by controversy” to carry on. “There’s been so much confusion and misinformation about the bill,” he told the newspaper, “that even if we struck that out, some people would show up to oppose it not understanding what they were opposing.”

Squilla says he’ll start from scratch on a new bill, this time while consulting the music industry. He insists that his goal all along was to ensure that every venue in the city paid an annual $100 licensing fee, including those that stream music from iPhones. Read more »

6 Times City Council Tried to Screw with Our Fun

Photos like this one from Union Transfer make our legislators' hair stand on end. (Photo courtesy Dan Long Photography)

Photos like this one from Union Transfer make our legislators’ hair stand on end. (Photo courtesy Dan Long Photography)

There’s nothing like a group of municipal lawmakers to ruin a good time, and Philadelphia’s City Council seems to be especially well versed in the art. Here are six ways that our elected officials have tried to mess with our leisure-time activity, starting in 2000 and rolling right through this week:

Thou Shall Not Rock and Roll

Sometimes, a terrible City Council idea goes away, never to be heard from again. And other times, it returns, like a hacking winter cough that you thought you shook a week ago. Such is the case with the Promoter’s Bill.

In 2010, Councilmen Darrell Clarke and Bill Greenlee introduced Bill No. 100267, which sought to force promoters — whether they were promoting a DJ night at Silk City, a DIY concert in West Philly, a comedy night at Raven Lounge, or a touring artist at the TLA — to register with the city and to notify the police of each show no more than 30 days before the event. Every event. They also wanted promoters to tell the city how much they were paying the venues. After pretty much every person in the city under the age of 30 became outraged at this suggestion, the idea basically went away. Well, until this week.

Let us introduce you to our little friend: Bill 160016. Different number. Same stupid fucking idea, more or less. Earlier this week, word came that Councilman Mark Squilla wanted to require all promoters to apply for special licenses, and he also said that all performers should register their names and other personal information if they want the privilege of getting on stage here. Now that his idea has gone viral, he appears to be backtracking a bit, so who knows where this is going to end up? We can just see it now. Finally, the Led Zeppelin reunion happens, and before the band is allowed to play at Citizens Bank Park, Squilla asks, “But Mr. Page, what is your home address these days?” Read more »

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