HEARD ON THE HILL & CITY HALL: Tartaglione Reelected To Senate Leadership

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State Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione (D-Kensington), the first woman to ever be elected to a Senate Democratic caucus leadership post, was reelected by her colleagues to serve in the new session as Caucus Secretary.

Tartaglione, now in her fifth term, has the responsibility of  overseeing Senate handling of executive nominations that require Senate confirmation.

“Once again I’m grateful to my colleagues for their confidence and support,” she said. “We have three very qualified new members and we are looking forward to using that mandate to stem the erosion of support for education, working families and job training.”

During the Senate session that officially ends Nov. 30, Republicans held a 30-20 seat majority which worked with the Corbett administration to eliminate health-care and job-training programs, slash the education budget and apply a “hands-off” administration to gas drilling. Democrats have cut that margin by three new Senators.

PARKER RENAMED BY CITY DELEGATION

State Rep. Cherelle L. Parker (D-Northwest) has been reelected as the chairwoman of the Philadelphia Co. Delegation for the 2013-14 legislative session.

Parker, who was elected to her fifth term representing the 200th Legislative Dist., was voted back to the leadership post by fellow Philadelphia House legislators.

State Reps. Michelle Brownlee (D-N. Phila.) and John Sabatina (D-Northeast) have been chosen to serve as the delegation’s co-vice chairs.

“I am honored and humbled to once again have been elected by my colleagues to serve as the delegation chairwoman,” Parker said. “We have 28 members representing Philadelphia, and while we each have issues unique to our individual districts, we are collectively working to enhance the quality of life for our constituents.”

“First of all, I would like to congratulate Rep. Parker on her reelection as chairwoman,” Brownlee said. “The delegation certainly has a strong leader in her. Secondly, I look forward to helping her lead this delegation along with Rep. Sabatina, another strong leader for the Philadelphia area. Together, as a team, I hope to accomplish great things for our city heading into 2013 and beyond.”

Sabatina said, “I’m honored to again serve as vice-chairman of the delegation alongside Reps. Parker and Brownlee. We are all committed to working with officials at all levels of government to improve our great city of Philadelphia.”

Through their unified efforts, the delegation was successful in remaining at the forefront of vital legislation. Under Parker’s leadership, the delegation worked in an unprecedented manner with the Mayor, City Council and the School District of Philadelphia on a number of initiatives, including property tax reform. The delegation also produced a comprehensive guide addressing the various methods of acquiring the proper ID for voting purposes and hosted events throughout the city in response to the voter-ID law.

“We achieved great heights this year and I look forward to leading the delegation with Reps. Brownlee and Sabatina as we continue to work together for the benefit of Philadelphia and the entire Commonwealth,” Parker said.

Parker’s District, the 200th, is located in N.W. Phila­delphia, serving the Andorra, Chestnut Hill, Mount Airy and Roxborough communities. Brownlee, a representative since 2011, represents the 195th Dist., located in N. and W. Philadelphia, which includes the areas around the Philadelphia Zoo and Phila­delphia Museum of Art. Sabatina, a representative since 2006, represents the 174th Dist., including Rhawnhurst, Bustleton, Fox Chase, Castor Gardens and Holme Circle.

PARKER LIGHTS UP HOLIDAY SEASON

Parker is hosting two free holiday events in November, a pre-Thanksgiving dinner and the annual Wadsworth holiday lighting ceremony. The pre-Thanksgiving dinner this past Tuesday was for seniors and families in need at Upper Room Missionary Baptist Church.

The other will be the fourth annual Wadsworth Avenue Holiday Lighting Ceremony Friday, Nov. 30 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., on the 1500 block of Wadsworth Avenue. The event is free and open to the public. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be present to greet children and provide free on-site photos. Also visiting for the day will be the Grinch and several of Santa’s helpers. There will be free food, hot beverages, face painting, books, entertainment and much more.

Additional information on each event is available by contacting Parker’s constituent-service office at (215) 242-7300.

WASHINGTON PLEASED WITH P.L.C.B. SLATE

State Sen. LeAnna Washington (D-Northwest) said, “I am excited to announce that I will serve as vice chair of the Legislative Black Caucus for the 2013-2014 legislative session” as she announced new offiicers.

She said State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown (D-W. Phila.) was elected chair and Representatives-Elect Stephen Kinsey (secretary-elect) and J.P. Miranda (treasurer-elect), as well.

She noted, “The caucus, which was founded in the 1973, to advocate for a wide range of important issues facing African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and all people of color in Pennsylvania. I look forward to working with my fellow members in the Senate and House throughout the next two years!”

COUNCIL OKAYS CHILD-CARE BILL

City Council unanimously passed a bill sponsored by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown that revises the zoning code as related to childcare in residential properties.

The bill will allow for the expansion of family child care in homes through a special exception process as opposed to a variance. Currently, the burden of proof lies on the applicant to prove there is no other feasible use for the property. Even absent community opposition, a variance is unlikely to be granted.

“Child care for up to 12 children is an appropriate residential use as long as there is strong community support. We cannot expect working families and child-care providers to jump through the significant hoops presented by our zoning code,” said Reynolds Brown. “We absolutely need protections in place for children and for communities — but they need to be reasonable and the exceptions have to be attainable.”

The special exception process is “variance light”. The special exception will still require a high burden of proof; however, if community support is demonstrated, the Zoning Board will have discretion to grant a special exception, which is not possible in the current code.

COUNCIL PASSES CREEK BUFFER

In a Rules Committee hearing last week, 6th Dist. Councilman Bobby Henon put forward an amendment to Bill 120654 reflecting a compromise worked out between his office and a coalition of environmental and development groups. The amended bill includes a citywide buffer of 50 feet, with certain marine-related uses allowed by right within the setback.

The most-significant change from the most recent previous version of the stream buffer legislation is the removal of a provision which would have allowed existing buildings within the 50-foot buffer to expand parallel to the bank. That provision would have applied, for example, a 20-foot buffer to any parcel with a building 20 feet from a stream or river bank, thus allowing existing buildings to grow within the buffer.

With that provision removed, existing buildings fewer than 50 feet from waterways are still grandfathered in legal existence — they are considered non-conforming uses — but they cannot build any additions fewer than 50 feet from the top of a bank.

REP. BROWN REMEMBERS POOR ON THANKSGIVING

State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown (D-W. Phila.) said Thanksgiving is a time to remember that many Pennsylvanians go to bed hungry each night.

“I wanted to remind everybody as we begin the holiday season, that more than one in seven Americans currently receive SNAP benefits, which we know as food stamps,” Brown said. “In Philadelphia, that percentage is more than one out of four, and almost half of all children.”

SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is operated by the United States Dept. of Agriculture, as part of the Food & Nutritional Services division. Brown reports the SNAP program has been a huge success. A US Census Bureau report indicates, if they were counted as income, SNAP benefits alone would lift nearly 4 million Americans, including 1.7 million children, above the federal poverty line.

“We can help even more,” Brown said. “Thirty percent of all people eligible for the SNAP benefit are currently not enrolled in the program. We need to reach out to them to make sure nobody goes hungry.”

Earlier this year, Brown participated in the Greater Philadelphia Food Stamp Challenge in which the goal was to feed a family on only $35 per week. “The challenge was a real eye-opening opportunity for me,” Brown said. “I have always shopped frugally, but that was very hard. I managed with just 16 cents to spare. I can’t imagine shopping like that every week.

“I encourage everybody to contribute to local food banks or shelters, as their personal circumstances allow, especially during this holiday season.”

Local residents may apply for SNAP benefits, as well as other state-based aid online at www.compass.state.pa.us or at Brown’s district office, 1435 N. 52nd Street, (215) 879-6615.

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