This week, I was honored and humbled to present a Council resolution honoring Officers Callahan and Pasquarello of the Philadelphia Police Department for saving the life of 9-year-old TJ Ramos, a catcher for the Torresdale Boys Club baseball team, in mid-September.
With nearly 40 years of service as police officers between them, they relied on their extensive medical and law enforcement training to act quickly and smartly to stabilize TJ after he collapsed and fell into cardiac arrest. They continued to the hospital and stayed with his parents at Aria Health.
Their courageous acts are a symbol of the day-to-day standard procedure that our first responders go through in keeping us and our children safe. It is a perfect example of how our police protect and serve our neighbors. But more than that, the personal relationships forged are what I took away, as well.
Officer Pasquarello, in particular, said after that "before, TJ was just another child on my son's team. Now, he's going to be my buddy for the rest of my life."
In addition to being a spotlight on these officers, I also noted my intention to work in the coming year to secure more AED, Automatic External Defibrillators, for our public play spaces and rec centers. I'm committed to working on this with Councilman Dennis O'Brien and Councilwoman Cindy Bass, the Chair of the Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs Committee. While TJ's story is a miraculous one that we are all grateful for, we also agree that more can be done to stay prepared for similar scenarios. More information on those efforts will come soon.
More than 300 years ago, the first colonists came to rocky shores and dense forests of an unknown continent, and not long after, set aside a time of thanksgiving.
That tradition has continued to this day, where we still pause to reflect on the blessings we’ve received and to give thanks.
I was lucky enough to take part in the Feast for Justice program again this week, where they served nearly 500 full meals - 8,000 lbs of food (an increase of a full 1,000 lbs from the year before), to those in need. It was an inspiring afternoon.
We live in a beautiful country and city, full of promise and pride. Yet, as our blessings have grown, so too have the issues we still face.
Philadelphians have a great sense of purpose. We must keep that purpose in mind as we face the challenges of the coming year: fighting for good jobs, making sure our kids receive funding for the best education possible, keeping our streets are clean and safe and that those who protect and serve – our police, fire fighters and first responders – are cared for and supported.
We can show that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them. We can truly honor the past and give our fullest thanks by working together toward a better future for Philadelphia. I'm thankful for my family, friends, colleagues and for the opportunity to work toward these goals for the 6th District each and every day.
Happy Thanksgiving Philly!
I’d like to take a moment to recognize the General Assembly for moving on the transportation package and appreciate Gov. Corbett signing it into law. Everyone, from elected officials to Corbett administration officials to labor leaders like John J. Dougherty of IBEW Local 98 to Pat Gillespie of the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council and Ryan Boyer of the Laborers’ District Council, came together and supported this bold and aggressive step in making this bill a reality.
This is about safety, first and foremost. With our Commonwealth ranked first in the nation for the percentage of structurally deficient bridges, this was absolutely necessary. Pennsylvania is within about a day’s drive of 60 percent of the American marketplace – but if that drive is made tougher, longer and more dangerous from crumbling roads and unstable bridges, we have a major problem.
Shoring up funding to repair and maintain approximately 9,000 miles of poor roads and 4,500 out-of-code bridges is necessary if we expect to move goods, services and people – while also creating 60,000 jobs and supporting thousands more.
Just as important is making sure that our public transit systems are maintained and updated. If Philadelphia is to remain a major American city, and expects to recruit and retain citizens and businesses, we need to be able to provide free movement throughout the region – by subway, regional rail and bus, for our citizens, as safely as possible.
This was also partially the product of the developing and strong relationships struck between City Council – in particular Council President Clarke – and the Philadelphia delegation in Harrisburg, along with the Speaker of the House and leadership in both the House and Senate. The willingness to come together and get things done has been remarkable and I hope that relationship continues to be a productive one.
Philadelphia – I’d like to again thank Council President Clarke for convening the Special Investigative Committee on Demolition Practices – and Chairman Councilman Jones, Jr., Councilman Kenney, Councilwoman Quiñones-Sánchez and Councilwoman Blackwell for serving along with me on the Committee. It’s with a constant sadness that we continue this work – a sadness that is incomparable to the void felt by the families who have lost loved ones in the collapse.
Our efforts produced a set of legislative recommendations aimed at preventing future tragedies like the June 5 collapse from occurring in the City of Philadelphia. In addition to these recommendations, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration also announced penalties levied on two companies associated with the demolition project – Campbell Construction and S&R Contracting.
Neither these penalties, nor the legislative recommendations of the Special Committee, will bring back the six lives lost that day. They are, however, important steps toward safer, more predictable demolition practices in the City of Philadelphia. Many of the recommendations produced by the Special Committee and the resulting legislation address issues raised by OSHA.
In particular, I applaud Council President Clarke for his mention that workers must have “adequate training to ensure that they know what they're doing.” He rightly reminded us that “a number of people in this particular tragic event had no clue as to how to take that building down." Worker safety and public safety go hand-in-hand and are of the utmost importance.
I look forward to seeing that the bills being considered by City Council become law and am hopeful that Philadelphia will be safer as a result.
Read more about the Special Investigative Committee on Philly.com.
In September, I introduced a bill in City Council to help formalize the process for Registered Community Organizations (RCOs). I did this after receiving feedback from a number of RCOs, as well as the Planning Commission and other groups, that the current process just wasn't working for them.
In the weeks since, I've continued those conversations, while also consulting with my colleagues on City Council and issue-based groups, to make sure this legislation gets it right. We can't afford to operate with a system that doesn't effectively balance community and applicant needs.
Tomorrow, the Rules Committee is going to have a hearing on this bill. I value and respect the work of community leaders and the groups they work with, so I want to share some of the changes I am going to make to the bill before the bill is heard in Committee.
Click here for a side-by-side comparison of the current law, alongside my bill, as amended, with the original bill I introduced in September shaded in the center, for reference.
Click here for a pdf copy of the proposed amendments (note: amendments in draft form and may be subject to technical amendments prior to Tuesday's hearing.).
First, this bill will establish additional basic requirements for RCOs.
Existing law requires that, in order to be an RCO, a group must be either a volunteer organization, a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation OR an unincorporated association. As amended, this bill will add additional requirements that RCOs:
These changes are important to making the process fair and transparent.
The bill will require that RCOs have a geographic area of concern of no more than 20,000 parcels, which will help ensure that RCOs represent local neighborhood interests. The vast majority of existing RCOs have fewer than 20,000 parcels, which means that they meet this requirement.
Issue-based groups will not be able to be RCOs like they are now. These groups are important but serve a different role in Philadelphia. I believe that RCOs should be very local organizations that represent the community interests and the concerns of Philadelphians who live in impacted neighborhoods. Issue-based groups will still have standing at the Zoning Board and should be active partners with local RCOs on matters of land use and zoning – not competitors.
Second, this bill will alleviate the burdensome notification requirements for RCOs, while keeping notification requirements in place for applicants.
Current law requires the RCO and applicant BOTH notify a large number of neighbors about applications and meetings. This is a financial and time burden for RCOs. Most RCOs are volunteer organizations and don’t have the time or resources to notify so many property owners. RCOs will be required to have public meetings and to advertise those meetings but they won’t have to do door-to-door notification.
For most projects, applicants will need to notify the neighbors on both sides of the street near the project, unless it’s a smaller project of three or fewer units that is being done by an owner-occupant. Owner-occupants doing work on their own properties won’t have to do the door-to-door notification.
But, when Civic Design Review is triggered, notification requirements will remain the same as they are in current law. That means that the applicant has to notify every property owner near the project site. CDR projects are usually big projects, so more people need to get personal notification.
Another change I am making is to allow applicants to receive a list of property owners need to notify from L&I. This will help ensure that applicants can easily fulfill the code requirements.
Third, RCOs will be required to re-register on an annual basis.
Current law requires that RCOs re-register once every three years. Some RCOs have been around for some time while others experience regular turnover. The City, other RCOs and applicants need to have up to date and accurate information, so that’s why re-registration needs to happen every year. I know that some RCO leaders
are concerned that that will be burdensome, but I am working with the Planning Commission to ensure that the re-registration process is quick and painless.
Fourth, I am amending the bill to add back in the requirements that the District Councilperson be notified every step along the way and that they have a seat on CRDC.
In addition, current law requires that RCOs submit meeting summary forms after each meeting. I am amending the bill to preserve that requirement and to require that RCOs provide a copy of that form to the District Councilperson.
Fifth, this bill will require that the applicant work with an RCO to convene a meeting to discuss a proposed project.
If there are overlapping RCOs, the applicant will notify all of the RCOs, and work with an RCO to convene and organize a meeting with all of the RCOs. This bill will put the burden of ensuring that a meeting takes place to discuss the project on the applicant. The applicant will be required to notify and include everyone.
Some groups have expressed concerns that one meeting isn’t enough. That's why I am proposing to allow the District Councilperson to convene a second public meeting if they determine that the single meeting between an applicant and designated RCO for a particular project is not enough.
I believe this bill, as amended, is the best way for Philadelphia to define a process that ensures that smart development can proceed in a timely fashion, while providing a framework for RCOs to represent the concerns of our neighborhoods. RCOs will retain power and legitimacy as an important voice in land use and zoning decisions.
Still have questions? Here are some of the questions my office has received as we've worked through the bill:
There are a lot of requirements for being an RCO. Why are you setting the bar so high?RCOs are a crucial voice in the development process. Your opinions and perspectives matter. We want to ensure that RCOs are transparent, inclusive and structured to fulfill the requirements of being an RCO and that they are operating in a way that ensures that all members of a community have the opportunity to participate. Groups that aren’t inclusive or don’t have a fair structure, devalue the role that RCOs play.
Why re-register every year?
Some RCOs have been in existence for a long time and their leadership doesn't change every year. But some groups experience a great deal of member and leadership transition and change in very short periods of time. The purpose of annual re-registration is to ensure that the City, City Council and applicants have access to up to date and accurate information for each RCO.
Why are you proposing to limit the size of RCOs?
I am proposing to limit the size of RCOs because RCOs should represent local community interests and concerns. The RCOs should focus on specific block-by-block level issues and perspectives.
When you introduced the bill, you proposed to limit the size of RCOs to 3.5 square miles, but your amendments change that limitation. Now you are proposing to limit the size of RCOs by the number of parcels. Why are you proposing to limit the number of parcels that an RCO can represent to 20,000?
By limiting the size to 3.5 sq miles, we aren't able to take into consideration the diversity of Philadelphia neighborhoods. Some neighborhoods are geographically dense and some are geographically spread out. By switching to parcel count, groups that legitimately represent neighborhoods that are very spread out are still eligible to be RCOs. The vast majority of existing RCOs have fewer than 20,000 parcels in their boundaries.
How will RCOs know how to calculate 20,000 parcels?
The Planning Commission will work closely with groups who are applying for RCO status to help them determine how many parcels are in the group's proposed geography. Groups will have the opportunity to modify their boundaries so that they meet the requirements.
Which groups won’t be RCOs with the 20,000 parcel requirement in effect?
There are 8 groups that are larger than 20,000 parcels. They are: the 26th Police Advisory Council District; Earth’s Keeper, inc.; MAP Holistic CDC; Overbrook Environmental Education Center; Southwest Community Advisory Group; Southwest Philadelphia District Services; Take Back Your Neighborhood; United Civic Associations of the Northeast.
What happens if there isn't an RCO to represent an area?
The vast majority of the city is covered by a local RCO. But if there is an area that isn't represented by an RCO, the district councilperson will serve as an RCO, or designate an RCO for any proposed project.
Why are you proposing to eliminate issue based RCOs?
RCOs should represent local community interests and concerns. The RCOs should focus on specific block-by-block level issues and perspectives. Groups that are concerned about specific issues can still testify at the Zoning Board, attend community meetings and voice their opinions and concerns to City Council. And, they can still get information about applications on the Planning Commission’s website.
What happens if my RCO doesn't give the Planning Commission the notes or details of the meetings that we have with applicants?
RCOs have an incredible amount of responsibility. If an RCO repeatedly fails to fulfill the requirements for RCOs, including letting the Planning Commission know what the outcome of a meeting was, the RCO can be suspended for a period of one year. Its important that RCOs take their responsibility to the communities that they represent. Letting the Commission know what the RCOs decide about a project is crucially important.
If your bill is passed, who will get notified of a proposed project?
After a lot of discussion with community groups, I've decided to amend the bill to add back in a requirement that the applicant notify neighbors of a proposed project. The applicant will be required to notify the neighbors on the same block as the project. The only exception will be for applicants who are owner occupants and who are doing work on less than three units.
If the Civic Design Review is triggered – which is for larger projects like supermarkets – the onus will still be on the applicant to notify every neighbor who will be affected by the project, just like they have to now.
Your bill will require that only one meeting take place. That doesn’t seem fair. Why are you only requiring one meeting? And how will that work?
Tthe current process isn’t fair to anyone because it requires that an applicant participate in as many different meetings as the RCOs or district council person wants them to participate in. The current process doesn’t require RCOs to meet at the same time or to work together. It creates divisions and confusion.
This bill will require that one meeting be coordinated and convened to discuss a project. But it does provide that a district council person can convene a second meeting if they want or need to. In a lot of cases, an applicant will voluntarily have multiple meetings so that they can get lots of community buy in. But part of having a fair process is having a consistent process that’s transparent and predictable.
Here is how this will work.
First, the applicant will receive notice that they need to have a community meeting with an RCO.
Then, L&I will give the applicant a list of all of the RCOs that they need to notify.
After that, the applicant will notify RCOs about the project. Every single RCO that touches a project, will get notification from the applicant.
Then, there will be a meeting. In the case of overlap, both the applicant and one of the RCOs will have the responsibility of ensuring that every other RCO is invited to participate in a meeting about the project. And, all of the meetings need to be publicly advertised so that any member of the community can find out about a project.
Finally, one of the RCOs will have the responsibility of making sure that the meeting summary is submitted to the planning commission and the district councilperson.
If anyone feels like there needs to be another meeting, they can ask their district council person can convene one more meeting.
Every RCO needs to know what the other RCOs think about a project. That can only happen if people work together and have a meeting together. RCOs don’t have to agree but they do need to work together. If one RCO decides to support a project and another RCO doesn’t, that’s ok. That is what the zoning board is for. Anyone can share their opinion and concerns with the zoning board.
Does this make changes to who will serve on CDRC? Who will be on the CRDC?
The following people are on the CRDC.
The annual NECA/IBEW Local 98 Scholarship Dinner is Wednesday, April 24th at the beautiful Vie Restaurant and Banquet Hall on North Broad Street. This year's scholarship dinner, however, is very unique and special.
It was 20 years ago this year that John J. Dougherty, my friend and mentor, became the youngest elected business manager in the history of IBEW Local 98. And what an unbelievable 20 years it's been! We'll be celebrating this great milestone with John at the upcoming scholarship dinner. It's an event you won't want to miss, as we reminisce about the past two decades and look forward to the next two decades of John's leadership.
The memories are vivid. The Dougherty era began with late night meetings with Ed Rendell and David L. Cohen, followed quickly by John and I joining then-Mayor Rendell on our hands and knees, scrubbing the floors of City Hall to send a message that things were going to be different.
There was the rousing success of the Democratic National Convention and the hard-won, 9,000 vote mayoral victory for John Street. There were the eight incredibly productive years during John's leadership of the Redevelopment Authority, during which the city realized its last great commercial building boom.
John's first foray into politics was his early work for the Clinton campaign and the packed South Philly labor rally he arranged for Clinton between Pat's and Geno's. That first taste of political victory led to victories for Congressman Patrick Murphy, Sen. Bob Casey and President Barack Obama.
As Treasurer of Democratic City Committee, John raised more money for the party than anyone in recent history. His political savvy and influence led to impressive wins for his brother Kevin (the #1 vote-getter for Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in 2001), Ed Neilson for State Rep in a seat that was held by Republicans for 30 years, Darrell Clarke for Council President, and Mark Squilla, Kenyatta Johnson and myself for City Council.
Nobody raises more money for politics and good causes than John. Nobody puts more people on the street at election time. It's been a pretty successful 20 years and it's gone by in the blink of an eye.
I hope you'll join me, John and more than 500 guests as we celebrate the past 20 years and look forward to the next 20 years of John's leadership as Business Manager of IBEW Local 98.
Bobby Henon, Councilman – 6th District
A few months ago I introduced a zoning bill with the support of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission that would have changed the zoning designation of the site commonly referred to as the Philly Coke site. Under this proposal, the Coke site was divided into three different zoning designations, each one designed to make the parcel attractive to potential developers while also encouraging responsible development acceptable to the community.
In order to work with this group to develop a common vision for acceptable development of the Coke site, I have withdrawn the current zoning legislation, allowing the community working group time to organize and develop a plan for the site. Over the next few months, I will continue to meet with the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), the Department of Commerce, the Planning Commission, the Department of Environmental Protection, other elected officials and most importantly, the owners of the site, National Grid, in an effort to develop a strategy to transform the Coke site based on the suggestions and ideas that result from my partnership with the community. The ideas resulting from our first few community meetings will be discussed with the working group at one of their upcoming meetings.
I realize that addressing the issue of the future of the Coke site is not going to be without its’ challenges. But I remain fully committed to transforming this parcel into something that will make Bridesburg a better, safer and more vibrant place to live, work and raise a family.
As you are aware, Philadelphia has historically had problems with bandit signs appearing in certain neighborhoods. The term bandit sign typically refers to a corrugated cardboard sign or poster that is illegally stapled or taped to poles, bus stations, or trees. Council members have worked on this issue for a number of years and Mayor Nutter announced last summer that he planned to crack down on the owners who are using these signs to advertise. But there are still a large number of these signs and posters appearing in the 6th district.
Under normal circumstances, I would ask a code official to issue violations pursuant to Section 10-1202 of the Philadelphia Code, which makes it illegal for anyone to put signs or posters up on light poles, streetlights, trees, etc. The code allows a $75 fine per sign to be issued to the sign owner for breaking the law.
But you know as well as I do that City Departments are spread thin and resources are tight. In addition, it appears that many local business owners simply don’t know that putting these signs and posters up is, in fact, illegal.
So in an effort to help educate the business community, improve the visual landscape of the 6th District, and to support our Code Officials, I am issuing informational letters to business owners who put these signs and posters up in the district.
This is a very simple project and one that, over time, might help keep Philadelphia a little bit cleaner.
I have asked my Council colleagues to join me in this effort as a part of the scheduled Citywide clean up day this Saturday. On Saturday many of you will be participating in activities throughout the district. Please consider pulling down and collecting these illegal signs and kindly return them to my district office. After the signs have been collected, my staff can work to identify of the owners of these signs so that I can contact the owners and encourage them to stop putting the signs and posters up.
Let me know if you have any questions or want to work with me on this project. Again, it’s a simple, small project and I do not anticipate that it will take very much time, so if you'd like to work together or have other ideas, let me know.
Public Citizens for Children and Youth is helping coordinate Give Kids Sight Day, a day of FREE eye care for Philadelphia children ages 0-18. They are especially targeting children and teenagers who are uninsured or have failed an eye screening.
The event will take place on Saturday, April 13, 2013 from 8:00am to 2:00pm at Jefferson University Alumni Hall located at 10th and Locust streets. Children will receive free eye screenings, exams and, if necessary, eye glasses. No appointments are needed but the earlier you arrive the better; they don’t want to turn anyone away. They are looking forward to serving over 1,400 kids this year. You can get more information, and the registration form at www.pccy.org/sightday
The City of Philadelphia municipal government, through the Philadelphia Youth Network’s WorkReady Summer Internship Program, will be hiring 100 Philadelphia high school students for our 2013 “Summer in the City” High School Internship Program! The internship is a 6-week paid, summer opportunity within various municipal departments and offices beginning on July 1, 2013 and ending on August 9, 2013.
Participants will have the opportunity to work in numerous fields within City government during the internship, including health, human services, finance, law, and public safety – just to name a few. In addition to a placement within a City department, students will also participate in weekly Friday seminars with the Philadelphia Youth Network as well as a College and Career Fair.
To participate in the “Summer in the City” High School Internship Program, students must be:
Interested candidates must apply online by May 3, 2013 to be considered.
To access the online application and find out more information about the program requirements, please visit our website: http://www.phila.gov/experiencephila/highschool.html
Students interested in the “Summer in the City” program must type RCIT into the referral code section of their application to ensure their application is directed to the City of Philadelphia.