Posted by Councilman Bobby Henon Morgan on January 30, 2014 at 8:45 AM
I’m a Councilman, but I’m also a City employee - along with more than 25,000 other Philadelphians.
We come from all walks and perform many jobs: from police and firefighters to sanitation professionals and urban planners. Each of our neighbors who work in these positions is critical to the safety, stability and quality of life that makes our City a great place.
As a Councilman, I wanted to get a better idea of how they all do their jobs, both to help me make better decisions from a policy perspective and to get a better sense of their day-to-day operations. That’s why I started Undercover Councilman.
If you’ve ever seen the television show, Undercover Boss, you’ll know where I’m going. The CEO of a company will go “undercover” and spend a day as a regular employee to see, firsthand, how the company runs from the operational level. It tends to be a learning experience for everyone involved, especially the CEO who works from the perspective of the people they oversee.
Now, first thing is, I’m not a CEO. I don’t set any rules or guidelines for Philadelphia’s employees on my own. I do, along with my Council colleagues, make and pursue policy that affects many day-to-day operations of City departments and agencies. Also, I am charged with making sure the residents of the 6th District get the best - and most appropriate - City services for their tax dollar investment.
That’s what makes this project an important one for me. Since Philadelphia’s municipal employees perform the important work they do, and Philadelphia’s residents expect the best return on their investment, I wanted to make sure we’re serving both of their interests as best we can. And hey, I'm a taxpayer too - so it's nice to see what services we're all paying for!
I started with CLIP, or Community Life Improvement Program. CLIP consists of several City programs and agencies dedicated to improving our neighborhoods through clearing out blight. I worked with an abatement crew to clear overgrown grass, brush and trash from a vacant residential property, rode along for a few inspections and handled graffiti removal - which, in itself is an intensive process. Powerwashing, aside, the CLIP team cleans thousands of properties and fixtures on a regular basis.
CLIP is also significant for me, personally, because my predecessor in the 6th District, Councilwoman Joan Krajewski, spearheaded its creation. Joanie was known as the "Queen of Constituent Service" and CLIP is a natural extension of her fight for quality of life on behalf of her constituents. To me, it was a no-brainer that we started here.
Did you know: Since 2008, 49 million pounds of trash and debris has been removed by CLIP and vacant lot programs?
CLIP programs encompass neighborhood beautification and community service. My office has partnered with CLIP on a number of fronts since I launched my Bad Neighbor Initiative shortly after taking office in January, 2012. Essentially, once a complaint is received, they will inspect the proprerty in question. If it's deemed in violation, the property owner receives a citation. Not cleaned up in time? That's where the abatement crew comes in.
My first stop was to serve an abatement and clear a vacant lot that was overrun with high weeds and trash. In this case, the offending property owner was served a citation from CLIP to clean the property. Even though this was the first offense for this property, the crew was sent. It’s important to catch these issues early so the problem doesn’t snowball into something larger. It's also important to report these issues, anyway, so we can work as a community to keep home and property values from declining.
|Appreciated the campaign flyer - but not in the yard!|
How much work can these guys get done? According to the CLIP office, it takes the standard four-person crew about 1.5 hours to clear a standard lot - with a large yield of weeds, branches and other debris (left).
I whacked as many weeds as I could before moving onto my next project: inspecting properties that had received similar citations to check on their progress. Typically, these are in-and-out procedures as many residents comply. According to CLIP, residents have about two weeks to comply with a citation. Both sites I visited were in compliance, so we headed on to my last job of the day.
The last, and maybe the most satisfying, was clearing graffiti. I got to see immediate results and clear one of the most recognizable signs of blight. Graffitti is a massive and ongoing scourge, not just in our neighborhoods, but on the sides of many abandoned (and occupied) buildings - such as the one we worked on here. CLIP cleans thousands of properties of graffiti every year - using both paint to cover up and a chemical and water powerwash to remove completely, where possible. Graffiti is tricky because offenders are apt to go back and ‘tag’ the area again, meaning the community has to be just as vigilant in having it removed as soon as they see it. This is where those community-agency partnerships are critical. Staying in constant communication with eachother and monitoring our neighborhoods, we can fight these battles and win.
|Thanks to the CLIP crew for letting me tag along!|
As I headed back to City Hall, I was tired but encouraged by the work that the CLIP office does with and on behalf of the community. Clearing blight and keeping our streets and neighborhoods clean is one of the most basic components of City government and is critical to quality of life. My first dispatch as Undercover Councilman reinforced my strongly-held belief in keeping our quality of life at the highest levels possible. I can't wait to get back out there and spend time with Philadelphia's municipal workforce and get a firsthand look at how they do what they do!
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