May 16: SEPTA considers reduced fare hike | 5 charters renewed | Nutter proposes cigarette and drink tax | Council absent for budget hearings | First responders sue Conrail | Lawrence O’Toole photos

Good morning Eyes! Here’s what’s making the news this Thursday.

SEPTA’s Board will consider a slight reduction in its proposed fare hikes, the Inquirer reports this morning. The reduction would apply to monthly and weekly passes, keep paratransit rides at their current $4 and increase the ride limit on weekly and monthly passes. 

In school news, the School Reform Commission voted to renew four charter schools and voted to reject the renewal of a fifth. To raise money for the struggling school system, Mayor Nutter has proposed to tax cigarettes at $2 per pack and increase the city’s liquor-by-the-drink tax from 10 percent to 15 percent. 

The Daily News asks why some City Council members were absent for many of the recent budget hearings. The paper kept tabs on each of the City Council members and found Councilman Bill Green missed 15 of 16 scheduled budget hearings. Councilman Brian O’Neill missed 11 and Councilwoman Marion Tasco missed nine. 

Two dozen first responders are suing Conrail over the train derailment in Paulsboro, N.J. last fall. The derailment spilled more than 100,000 pounds of toxic vinyl chloride, and the first responders are claiming that Conrail’s inadequate emergency plan did not properly protect the crews from the toxic chemical. 

Lawrence O’Toole has made a name for himself photographing Old City’s “ghost economy,” the neighborhood’s fading, hand-painted signs. Tonight he will present those photos at the Philadelphia History Museum at Atwater Kent, at 6 p.m. NewsWorks caught up with O’Toole to talk about his photos and provide a glimpse at the collection. 

The Buzz is Eyes on the Street’s morning news digest. Have a tip? Send it along. 

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