As City Council gears up for new term, members share their agendas
As the City Council prepares to convene Thursday for the first full session this term, councilmembers are already getting their legislative priorities in order.
“The main thing we’ll be introducing on Thursday is a charter change for interest arbitration awards, which are the binding arbitration awards for the police, fire and paramedics,” said Jim Engler, legislative director for Councilman Jim Kenney.
The bill, which firefighters union Local 22 held a petition drive this summer to bring before council, would require the mayor to gain the approval of the City Council before appealing binding arbitration awards.
“It basically gives council oversight of the mayor spending money appealing binding arbitration awards,” Engler said.
He said he also expects legislation will soon be introduced to put more safeties in place for construction demolition in the wake of a special committee convened this summer to investigate the practices.
Councilman Dennis O’Brien will on Thursday take aim at a recent city Request For Proposals seeking a one-year contract with a single law firm to provide representation to clients who have a conflict of interest precluding them from using a public defender in a bill co-sponsored by Councilman Bill Greenlee calling for investigative hearings into the development.
“It’s problematic for many reasons, but one of the most important reasons is the quality of representation that some of these folks will receive can be severely compromised,” said O’Brien’s chief of staff, Matthew Brayden.
“It can lead to more expenses for the city, and the transparency of this process has been sorely lacking, the way the contract has been written.”
Councilman Bobby Henon said in an email though he hasn’t yet decided what he’s going to introduce Thursday, he will this term propose a series of bills making changes to contractor licensing and the Department of Licenses and Inspections process with regard to contractors and construction.
“Manufacturing, public property, contractor/construction and quality of life legislation are all on my radar,” he said.
As co-chair of the Manufacturing Task Force, he also plans to this year introduce legislation aimed at promoting manufacturing in the city, as well as a quality-of-life package improving the quality of residential and commercial property.
Councilman Mark Squilla said two of his main priorities are school funding and mitigating the impact of AVI – he plans to on Thursday introduce a bill that would allow residents or businesses that have appealed their new property tax assessment to pay last year’s taxes until their appeal has been heard.
“Obviously, I think we still need to work on the effects of AVI, and we’ve been receiving multiple calls from residents about appealing their assessment and/or getting safeguards in place to protect them from rising taxes,” he said, noting one of the primary areas where relief is needed is for disabled homeowners or younger residents who live on a fixed income.
“School funding is a major issue of mine, how we’re going to work that out in a sustainable method to have a constant flow of income and to support the District,” he added.
Councilman Kenyatta Johnson will on Thursday introduce a bill prohibiting the manufacture of firearms using three-dimensional printers, as well as a resolution calling for hearings to examine the School District of Philadelphia’s transition plan following the recent school closings.
“I have serious concerns regarding how the recent school closings will impact safe transportation, curriculum and class sizes,” Johnson said in an email.
Johnson is also looking at ways to provide incentives for developers to build mixed income housing – likely providing density or height bonuses through the zoning code to residential developers who include affordable units – and to roll out a working group of industry experts focusing on the need to invest in transportation infrastructure to spur economic development and job growth.
Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez hopes to by the end of the year pass the land bank legislation she introduced in June, as well as to investigate eliminating the net profits tax, which is levied on any self-employed person who lives in Philadelphia, as well as on all business conducted in the city by non-residents, aside from that undertaken by corporations.
>> Councilman Bill Green said in an email his top priorities this term will be pushing forward two bills he introduced in June. One bill revises the business and income receipts tax to provide a credit to retailers who sell fresh foods and to gradually lower the tax rate for those who store vehicles in city parking facilities.
The second bill revises the real estate tax by authorizing the transfer to third parties of real estate tax claims.
Councilman Wilson Goode Jr. will on Thursday introduce a bill that would strike a blow to pay-for-play politics, banning all lobbyists from making campaign contributions, as well as requiring that anyone who donates to a candidate’s campaign be ineligible to receive non-competitively bid contracts worth more than $25,000 during the course of that candidate’s term.