Council honors ‘living legends’, authorizes hearings on emergency shelters for domestic abuse victims

City Council passed only a few planning and development measures Thursday, in a meeting which was largely taken up by honorary resolutions for prominent Philadelphians. In one such resolution, Council members honored Philadelphia “Living Legends” in commemoration of Black History Month. The honorees included Philadelphia’s first Poet Laureate Sonia Sanchez, Philadelphia Sports Hall of Famer Sonny Hill, and Philadelphia Sound pioneers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.

In paying tribute to the seventeen Living Legends, 4th-District Councilman Curtis Jones said, “Of all these folks on this stage—if they’d decided not to show up to work, where would our city be?”

Council passed a resolution introduced by 2nd-District Councilman Kenyatta Johnson authorizing the Committee on Public Safety to investigate the availability of emergency shelters in the city for victims of domestic abuse. A Philadelphia-based group called Women Against Abuse had lobbied for the bill, saying that the number of shelters available is grossly insufficient to match the number of women forced from their homes because of domestic violence. The group reported having to turn down nearly 8,000 requests for shelter from domestic abuse victims because of a lack of space.

Among the witnesses who testified during the public comment portion of Thursday’s meeting was Karen Brown, the Republican candidate for Mayor of Philadelphia in the 2011 race. Brown testified in favor of the domestic abuse bill, saying the city should convert some of its vacant properties into emergency shelters.

The bill passed without opposition.

Throughout the public comment period, Council President Darrell Clarke struggled with the politics of the three-minute rule. As he has done in each meeting as Council President, Clarke repeated the rules at the beginning of the comment period: each speaker gets three minutes, a series of green, yellow, and red lights indicate the speaker’s remaining time, and the microphone will be disconnected at the end of three minutes.

Several of the witnesses were cut off mid-sentence when the microphone disconnected at the three-minute mark and, in each instance, Clarke asked the witness to finish. In one case, Clarke allowed a witness to continue her testimony after the three-minute cutoff only to ask her to stop a minute later, when she still hadn’t finished. Clarke is clearly trying to find a balance between inviting public participation and conducting an orderly meeting—a task which will only get more difficult as more bills come before Council.

8th-District Councilwoman Cindy Bass introduced a resolution, on behalf of the Nutter Administration, to approve a Redevelopment Authority Contract for a property at 5935 Kemble Avenue in Germantown. The contractor, identified as Solomon Builders Corporation, was selected by the RDA last year. The property is in a row of homes on a residential street.

1st-District Councilman Mark Squilla introduced a bill granting a seating platform to a restaurant at 200 Market Street in Old City. The restaurant apparently already has obtained an outdoor-seating license, but is looking to build a platform on a portion of the sidewalk. The restaurant owner did not immediately return a call seeking details on the plan.

Councilmen Bill Green and Bobby Henon co-introduced a series of bills that would allow citizens to contest municipal violations, including parking tickets, online, rather than simply in person.

“Paying a ticket is usually cheaper than fighting it, when people have to take time off from work to challenge it,” Green said in a press release issued by his office.

Green also introduced a handful of bills as part of his open government agenda, which require greater data gathering and disclosure by the City for capital projects.

Contact the reporter at jaredbrey@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @jaredbrey

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