June 14: AVI, cigarette tax passes Council | Salvation Army didn’t decline scaffolding | Blight abounds | Delinquency, vacancy roundup | Lovett Library modernization

Happy Friday, Streeters. Make it a good one.

Yesterday was a big day for tax legislation: The Actual Value Initiative passed City Council, establishing a property tax rate of 1.34% of assessed value, a $30,000 homestead exemption, and setting a means test to provide relief for longtime residents in gentrifying neighborhoods. Council also approved bills to tack on $2 to every pack of cigarettes to raise money for schools (which requires state approval) as well as a bill to cut the wage tax slightly.

Did the Salvation Army decline an offer to put a protective scaffolding structure over its store at 22nd and Market? No. The Daily News reports that despite the assertions of two lawyers, a statement from the Salvation Army denies that scaffolding was ever offered, much less declined. It reads: “We have found no employee, representative or document stating or suggesting that The Salvation Army received and/or denied any alleged request to erect scaffolding on The Salvation Army Thrift Store roof.”

Blight is everywhere, even in the city’s plushest corners. Inga Saffron looks at the example of a long-decrepit building at 18th and Delancey streets, where the owner has largely evaded the city’s enforcement attempts, surrounded by some of the city’s most wealthy and powerful residents. “If Philadelphia’s most influential people can’t get City Hall to lay down the law about a blighted property in the best part of the city, who can?”

Patrick Kerkstra has a helpful roundup of state and local legislation to help combat property-tax delinquency, vacancy, and blight on PlanPhilly that is well worth a read. There’s a lot in play at the state level, including sweeping powers to collect back taxes, tighter timelines for tax foreclosure, and an expansion of Act 135’s conservatorship powers. Among the local reforms City Council is contemplating is a “non-use” tax on vacant property, possibly selling tax liens.

Lovett Memorial Library in Mt. Airy is one of four Free Library branches selected to be part of the 21st Century Libraries Initiative, a pilot program to modernize Philly’s libraries. NewsWorks reports that neighbors discussed their hopes for the library’s renovation at a community meeting: community space, quiet study areas, more computer infrastructure, more comfortable furniture, and respect for the library’s historic wing. The other three libraries that were selected for the pilot program: Logan, Tacony and Lillian Marrero.

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