MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, FIRE COMMISSIONER LLOYD AYERS, STATE REP. MIKE MCGEEHAN and COUNCILMAN BOBBY HENON attended a ribbon-cutting in Tacony for the city’s newest fire station, Engine 38. The firehouse was originally located near Curran’s Irish Pub, but was closed in 2010 due to I-95 construction. The firehouse was relocated and rebuilt at Keystone & Magee Streets. It is the city’s first new firehouse in 15 years and cost $6.7 million to build. It features many clean and green energy-efficiency improvements.
Also joining the Mayor for the dedication of the Engine 38 firehouse was over 200 firefighters and firefighter supporters. The firefighters loudly protested the Mayor and his decision to appeal, for a third time, a contract award for the city’s firefighters. The firefighters have been working without a contract since 2009. The issue has been raising anxiety and anger for years. Each appeal by the Mayor seems to up the vitriol in the dispute. Certainly the pressure will be on Nutter to settle the contract. Perhaps Nutter can settle the contract in exchange for his coveted AVI property tax overhaul. If this deal doesn’t work out, expect elected officials to continue keeping pressure on the Mayor to settle the contract.
Controller and likely Mayoral candidate ALAN BUTKOVITZ provided several financial analyses showing the City can afford to pay the firefighters contract. A December City Council hearing on the Fire Commissioner’s plan to rotate firefighters to new firehouses every five years featured pointed questions by City Council to the Mayor’s administration. COUNCILMEN BOBBY HENON, JIM KENNEY, DENNY O’BRIEN and DAVID OH fired questions at the City Finance Director and the Fire Commissioner. The questions signaled an escalation in this ongoing dispute. In addition to Philadelphia City Council, the majority of the Philadelphia State Senate Delegation, led by CHAIRWOMAN SHIRLEY KITCHEN, sent a letter to Mayor Nutter urging him to drop his appeal and settle the contract with the firefighters.
Another issue that is likely to cause heartburn and angst is School SUPERINTENDENT WILLIAM HITE’S report recommending the closure of several Philadelphia public schools. The school-closing plan has been hailed by Nutter, the SRC and consultants. But the plan has encountered opposition from numerous communities and the elected officials that represent them, including STATE SEN. LeANNA WASHINGTON. She is concerned that School District leaders’ short-sighted focus on budgets harmed their long-term focus on serving children. Washington also notes the school closings would save a small amount of money compared to the monstrous budget deficit, and could be very harmful to the neighborhoods with school closings. Washington is strong and formidable. The district would be wise to work with her.
A state report was recently released on problems in the Philadelphia criminal-justice system. The report was spurred by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s “Justice Delayed” series. STATE SENS. STEWART GREENLEAF, MIKE STACK and LARRY FARNESE have been leaders on this issue and have been pushing for action. The report recommends the courts, state and city focus on improving pretrial services and bail, fight witness intimidation, streamline court procedures, and use technology to improve the prosecution of violent offenders. Supreme Court CHIEF JUSTICE RON CASTILLE and JUSTICE SEAMUS McCAFFERY have worked along with DISTRICT ATTORNEY SETH WILLIAMS to implement many reforms already. The reforms are improving the criminal-justice system and getting results. Sam believes these three gentlemen will use the report to implement more reforms and make sure criminals get locked up for a long time.