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Highlights from Thursday’s final City Council session

After voting “Aye” to legislation that would allocate tax revenues for the cash-strapped and otherwise beleaguered Philadelphia School District, 4th District Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. turned in his seat and pointed in acknowledgement to purple-shirted representatives from “32 BJ,” the union that represents PSD building and transportation workers.

It was one of the more demonstrative moments at the final City Council meeting Thursday prior to the legislative body’s summer recess.

Jones, along with 8th District Councilwoman Cindy Bass and 9th District Councilwoman Marian Tasco, voted for the measure, which would allocate real estate taxes to the PSD. This bill, along with legislation that would repeal wage tax concessions for low-income residents, and the passing of the city budget for fiscal year 2013, were the emotional high points of the session.

After a lengthy public comment session – with many of the speakers imploring council members to retain the wage tax forgiveness – Jones and Tasco both voted to repeal. Bass was alone among Northwest Philadelphia councilpersons not inundated with boos and cries of “shame” from the gallery.

2013 budget passes 

Rancor turned to veritable giddiness with the passing of the 2013 budget – Councilman Jones was seen smiling and bouncing in his seat.

He was later to turn these feelings into praise for Council President Darrell Clarke and the freshman council colleagues, to whom Jones referred as “The Serious Six.”

“This wasn’t easy,” Jones said of the various negotiations undertaken in the budget process.

“This was probably the hardest thing you’ll have to undertake in these chambers,” he said. “You found your voice about issues that you care about and that you were elected to implement.”

And, in an unorthodox gesture of natural healing, Councilman Jones also distributed plastic bags of herbal teas to his council colleagues.

“Every now and then,” he said in regard to the summer recess, “I want you to sit back and think about the work you do.”

Invoking them to avail themselves of the tea’s restorative properties, he encouraged them to “mellow out” and remember “that we have to look forward to doing this all over again in September.”

Dissatisfaction with superintendent hiring process 

Echoing earlier sentiments by Councilman-at-Large James Kenney, Councilwoman Tasco expressed displeasure on Thursday with the SRC in regard to the superintendent hiring process.

As explained by Kenney, the SRC gave notice on Saturday for a Sunday hearing with a finalist for the PSD’s top spot.

“Any indication that they were looking for help, support, and guidance is lost in that translation,” said Kenney, prompting Councilman-at-Large Dennis O’Brien to refer to the search as a “drive-by process.”

Tasco called the 24-hour notice “unforgiveable.”

“That’s a disservice to us,” she said, “particularly because [the SRC is] asking us to provide money.”

Tasco also encouraged her colleagues to contact state senators and legislators in regard to pending “pay-day loan” legislation, which she has spoken out against in the past.

Noting that it could lead people into a cycle of debt, Tasco said payday loans and other predatory lending practices “bring an ill-wind of no-good.”

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