Philadelphia City Council held its first working session of the year Thursday.
And Council members burst out of the starting gate quickly.
City Council members came back to work with their arms full of bills and resolutions to introduce.
Amid cheers of support, Councilman Curtis Jones’ non-binding resolution to add two Muslim holidays to the city and school district calendars was approved. That reception was a sign of respect, he said.
“You have to start to talk to people” Jones said. “There are 200,000 estimated Muslims in the city of Philadelphia, and that’s an important group of taxpayers … you have to make sure the city sends that signal to them.”
Councilwoman Helen Gym began her first term by focusing on the issue that help her get into office — education — by calling on Council to hold the first of what are expected to be many hearings on the problems in the school district.
“I don’t think it makes sense to inundate, but I think it’s important to be targeted and focused on what we are trying to achieve,” she said. “I think we are talking about a restoration agenda for the Philadelphia public schools that restores public trust, that basic resources exist within every neighborhood school in the city.”
David Oh, among the Republican minority on City Council, brought back a package of bills that were soundly rejected two years ago. He’d like to see $100 million in targeted tax cuts as well as pension reform.
“It also involves insuring the pension money is not used to fund city projects,” he said. “It is retirement money and should not be a credit card for the city.”
City pension accounts hold less than half the money needed to meet promised benefits. And last year benefits were boosted to exacerbate the shortfall.
Council President Darrell Clarke also put forth a bill to strengthen oversight of city contractors and whether they are meeting minority hiring goals.
“People weren’t even doing what was required in the suggested guidelines,” Clarke said. “This legislation would require documentation of the measures that individuals take.”
The bill would allow barring a business from city contracts if it does not follow the guidelines.