By Thomas J. Walsh
Eva Gladstein, who ran the troubled Neighborhood Transformation Initiative before it was taken over by the city’s Commerce Department earlier this year, was recommended Wednesday evening as the executive director of the Zoning Code Commission by Mayor Michael Nutter.
The announcement came during the ZCC’s first public outreach meeting, which was held tonight at City Hall. The commission as a whole will vote on Gladstein’s confirmation at the next meeting, Dec. 10.
The ZCC is made up of more than 30 city officials, members of the ZBA and Philadelphia City Planning Commission, representatives of city neighborhood organizations and chambers of commerce, and appointees from City Council members and from the mayor’s office. It is helping to re-write the city’s outdated zoning code, long a source of frustration for commercial developers and private homeowners alike. The commission was voted into existence in May 2007.
Since then, the city has hired two major out-of-town consulting companies to steer the multi-year process.
The hiring of an executive director has been problematic. The position was to be filled months ago, but had been delayed by emergency city budget meetings, according to Al Taubenberger, president of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and head of the ZCC hiring committee. In early October, he reported to the commission that eight people were interviewed for the job, with four of them recommended to Nutter for interviews.
Gladstein was among the four, said Andy Toy, a member of the hiring committee and a board member of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.
It is not known if Gladstein is being recommended because she is already employed by the city, a move that would reflect the current fiscal situation in which many municipal jobs will be cut, along with millions of dollars in budget cuts over the coming years. However, Toy and others said that would make sense, as the move would likely save the city one salary, expected to be at least $70,000 a year. (Her position within the Commerce Department would presumably be left vacant.)
Gladstein was executive director of the Philadelphia Empowerment Zone and Renewal Community programs before her stint at NTI.
In early June, Terry Gillen, Nutter’s senior adviser for economic development, was installed as an emergency executive director of the city’s Redevelopment Authority, after massive accounting and management problems were discovered within NTI. The initiative was started by former Mayor John Street as an anti-blight measure to condemn and bulldoze abandoned and dangerous homes, burned-out cars and other eyesores in poor neighborhoods, while consolidating parcels and clearing the ground for redevelopment.
In a six-year period, the city condemned thousands of homes at a cost of about $73 million, the Nutter administration revealed in late May, but that only about $41 million was available. To make up for the $32 million shortfall, the RDA took out another property-acquisition bond, valued at $44 million. The newer debt came with an obligation to sell land bought with the money at fair market value.
Toy said the hiring committee was concerned about this chapter of Gladstein’s career, but that their questions were answered satisfactorily. More important, he said, was the nominee’s prior service and organizational skills.
Once nominated, Gladstein will have to be approved by a two-thirds majority of all of the Zoning Code commissioners.
Gladstein could not be reached for comment early Wednesday afternoon. Messages were left with several other city officials with the Planning and Zoning departments, including Deputy Mayor Andrew Altman. This story will be updated before Wednesday evening’s ZCC meeting if other comments about the recommendation of Gladstein are received.
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ON THE WEB:
Philadelphia Zoning Code Commission web site: http://www.zoningmatters.org/
PlanPhilly (Oct. 9, 2008): Outreach for new Zoning Code is on deck; http://www.planphilly.com/node/4066
TONIGHT: First Zoning Code Commission Public Forum http://www.planphilly.com/node/4264