City Council roundup: Point-to-point bike share, protecting witnesses
>> As Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration introduced legislation to extend the city’s concession agreement for bicycle rentals in Fairmount Park, Council President Darrell Clarke said the body is also looking into point-to-point bike shares throughout the city. “They are primarily recreational right now, but bike shares could act as a transit situation,” he said. “If people could rent a bike near their home, ride it to work and leave it at a bike station near their job, it might be more advantageous.”
>> Councilman Bill Green’s proposition allowing for parking tickets to be contested by methods other than appearing in person before the Bureau of Administrative Adjudication was amended to remove telephonic hearings as an possibility, except for the disabled.
Green said that the Bureau felt the telephone option was unreasonable at the moment, largely due to a lack of manpower, but that the legislation will still maintain some kind of electronic option for adjudicating tickets – either through the Bureau’s website or through email – and via snail mail. The legislation is set to go up for a vote next week.
>> In the wake of the murder of Latia Jones and boyfriend Rodney Ramseur, who had recently submitted testimony in a homicide case, Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. called for tougher penalties for gun perpetrators and more protections for witnesses, noting that Philadelphia is the second highest municipality as far as outstanding bench warrants, with 37,000, and that there were 46 arrests last year for witness intimidation within a block of the Criminal Justice Center.
“The very design of the Criminal Justice Center encourages witness intimidation,” he said, noting that the building was meant to have 12 elevators but only six are used due to budget cuts. “Witnesses, perpetrators, jurors – they all ride the same elevators,” he said.
Jones said that he would like to ensure all departments involved in keeping witnesses safe and criminals locked up are adequately funded, to look at expanding the PHA witness exchange program, through which witnesses can be relocated during trials, and to work harder to keep those who commit gun crimes off the streets.
“If someone says on Monday he’s dangerous and on Tuesday you let him out, he’s not crazy, we are,” he said. “That constitutes for me, the highest priority – bail.”
Jones said that bail guidelines have not been revised since 1983 and need to be revisited. “In 1983, there was no Facebook. Social media has changed the game. … Cell phones changed the game. When the court is loooking at does an individual constitute a danger to himself or society, they need to take social media into account.”
City Council’s Committee on Public Safety held a hearing investigating bail practices in gun possession cases in early March and Jones said that since, officials have been more carefully conducting risk assessments. “I think they heard us,” he said. “Magistrates are beginning to do risk assessments with a more jaundiced eye and we’re monitoring and keeping track.”
>> Philadelphia Gay News Publisher was at Council to celebrate the passage of legislation sponsored by Councilman Mark Squilla allowing for the city to sell off land on South 13th Street so that the planned William Way LGBT senior living facility can move forward.
“This puts Philadelphia in the forefront of giving care to our seniors,” Segal said. “It’s an area that’s literally been ignored not only by society at large, but also by the LGBT community itself.” The largest LGBT-friendly capital building project in the nation will break ground in the fall and aims for a January opening.