POLS ON THE STREET: Prelude to Parking Wars Redux

Filed under: Featured News,Latest News,Pols on the Street |

SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale T. Deon Sr. (L) was honored with “The Knight of Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.” He received the award during a recent event with the Honorable Andrea Canepari (R), Consul General of Italy in Philadelphia. The knighthood, which was founded by the second President of the Italian Republic, is awarded for “merit acquired by the nation” in the fields of literature, the arts, economy, public service, and social, philanthropic and humanitarian activities and for long and conspicuous service in civilian and military careers.

BY JOE SHAHEELI

The last City Council meeting before the summer recess is rarely one to circle on the calendar. Like end-of-session meetings everywhere, this was expected to be heavy on legislative tidying up, light on flashpoint issues. Sure, Rebuild is still in the process of being streamlined and the soda tax fight is still – still! – going on as beverage industry-funded groups have appealed the levy all the way to the PA Supreme Court, but those have been known issues for months.

What wasn’t expected – and what is sure to send a chill throughout the real estate development community despite the entire sweltering summer – was a broadside launched by Council President Darrell Clarke against existing parking regulations for new construction.

This was no simple speech; Clarke came prepared with a proposed bill that would double the number of spaces required for a whole host of multi-family categories – instead of the current three spaces per 10 units, developers would be required to provide six spaces – an exponential jump in opportunity cost and space usage.

And one that Clarke says is necessary to maintain and improve the quality of life for Philadelphians with cars. As Plan Philly reported, Clarke explained during Council that “Every time I go to a community meeting in certain neighborhoods we get complaints about an inability to park. At the end of the day, there is overbuilding in some areas and that puts a significant burden on street parking and on existing residents.”

In the wake of a shoting on the 2100 block of Fitzwater Street, City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson organized a safety walk. The councilman was joined by local citizens, the 17th Police District, Town Watch Integrated Services, neighborhood activists and PA Rep. Joardan Harris, pictured above to the left of the Councilman. Photo by Wendell Douglas

No doubt Clarke’s surprise commitment to improving the city’s parking situation in its most densely populated neighborhoods is a development welcomed by residents – and sure to be loathed and lobbied against by developers. No doubt, they will be well-prepared to show what they did on their summer vacation with an ad blitz against the proposal. It’s going to be a long three months waiting to see what happens next.

Responding to Violence

Thanks to the tried-and-true TV news maxim of “If it bleeds, it leads,” the spectre of violence is never far from the top of the to-do list for the stewards of the city. This past week has certainly been no exception, lowlighted by the transfer of the Philadelphia Police Department’s Homicide Division head, Capt. James Clark, who was removed in the face of rising murder rates and falling clearance rates; and a scary incident in Germantown where hundreds of teens faced down police after a rec center barbecue that thankfully ended without incident.

The Democratic State Committee returns to Harrisburg from Sept. 8-9, and Gov. Tom Wolf is expected to be there as part of his reelection bid. Wolf is seen here at the recent State Committee gala with, L-R: Marnie Aument-Loughery, 33rd Ward Democrat Party active, and Jim Harrity, Aide-de-camp to Senator Sharif Street. Photo by Joe Stivala

Mayor Jim Kenney, as is his wont, is trying to shake things up by changing the city’s approach to combatting violence. On Tuesday, he announced the creation of the Office of Violence Protection. The OVP, which will be responsible for assessing and coordinating the $60 million the city currently has invested in anti-violence programs across all departments, is being led by Shondell Revell, who was most recently the Executive Director of the Youth Violence Reduction Partnership.

“I believe OVP will serve the people of Philadelphia and our fellow City Departments in three critical ways,” said Revell. “We will ensure violence prevention and reduction is embedded into the outreach all City departments are already doing with our at-risk populations. We will also proactively engage any youth and high impact or at-risk communities who are not already engaged by the City. And, finally, we will take a long-term approach to violence reduction, one that doesn’t wane with crime waves.”

OVP will also work closely with City Council’s Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention, which was created by resolution in June by City Council President Darrell L. Clarke, Councilmen Kenyatta Johnson and Curtis Jones.

“The City of Philadelphia must continue to explore creative and proactive approaches to reducing gun violence, as state and federal regulations severely limit local government’s ability to stop the flow of deadly weapons onto our streets,” said Council President Clarke. “Charging an office to comprehensively review existing anti-violence strategies to improve coordination and efficacy is a strong step forward. With homicide rates tracking higher this year already, City government must adopt an aggressive, comprehensive strategy to attack the root causes of violence, including poverty, and disincentivize the use of deadly weapons to solve personal or perceived problems. The Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention looks forward to partnering with the Office of Violence Prevention to make our communities safe for all.”

Councilman Jones added, “I join Mayor Kenney, Council President Clarke and Councilman Kenyatta Johnson to create a coordinated approach to anti-violence efforts in Philadelphia. There are many programs with this stated mission; however, with funding cuts of resources from State and Federal Government, local efforts must ban together to create cost effective options to provide real help for real people.”

Councilman Johnson added, “I introduced the enabling legislation for the Special Committee – with co-sponsorship by Council President Clarke and Councilman Jones and a unanimous vote by Council – because Philadelphia has never systematically coordinated and planned its efforts to prevent gun violence. The Special Committee will focus specifically on gun violence, which is on the rise. Through July 16th, 2017, there have been over 1,200 aggravated assaults with a gun, which is 5% more than this time last year. We appreciate that Mayor Kenney is taking the issue seriously and look forward to working closely with him to make the city a national model.”

Here’s hoping that Revell is being given a long timeline and plenty of leeway; it’s going to take plenty of time and effort to enact any kind of real change on any kind of lasting and meaningful scale. Kudos to the mayor for pushing the initiative – here’s hoping that’s $60 million and more paperwork well spent.

Repeal, Replace, Rejected

Proving that it is easier and safer to be the minority party sometimes, the US Senate GOP’s colossal failure to make good on scratching its seven-year itch by swatting away all things Obamacare leaves the 44th president’s signature legislation intact – which is welcome news for the commonwealth and its “eds and meds” capital of Philadelphia.

As laid out in stark detail by Gov. Tom Wolf and senior US Sen. Bob Casey, depending on which version of Trumpcare was implemented, the state could have lost as much as $12.7 billion annually in federal funding by 2030.

It wasn’t just the budget numbers that spelled doom for Trumpcare’s incarnations. It was the sheer masses of vulnerable Pennsylvanians who, like their counterparts across the country, would have been terribly impacted by proposed Medicaid cuts. Medicaid serves 2.8 million Pennsylvanians, or 22 percent of the commonwealth’s population. This includes nearly 250,000 seniors (65+); 565,000 individuals who receive outpatient mental health services; 215,000 individuals with substance use disorder diagnoses – including 124,000 from the Medicaid expansion population; and 1.2 million Pennsylvania children.

As Wolf put it, “The losses in federal funds to protect health care benefits for Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable are unacceptable and insurmountable.” Seems like his voice – and similar sentiments raised by most of the nation’s governors, both Republican and Democrat, made an impact. Now it’s time to see if US Sen. Pat Toomey will follow their lead or that of President Donald Trump, who stated that he would “let Obamacare fail” now that the GOP plan is dead in the water.

 

 

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