City Council members from Northwest Philadelphia spent Thursday’s meeting honoring locally raised filmmakers, getting resolutions passed to protect public-transit workers, proposing real-estate tax-related bills and, among other things, throwing down public challenges to raise education dollars.
As the session got underway, Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass — along with Councilman Kenyatta Johnson — honored Germantown-born filmmaker Rel Dowdell on the eve of the premiere of his second feature-length film, “Changing the Game.”
Dowdell was honored along with actress Irma P. Hall, a renowned actress who stars in the film.
Bass resolutions pass
Two resolutions that Bass introduced at the last Council meeting passed unanimously on Thursday.
The first was an effort to support a state-senate bill which, while stalled in committee since Jan. 2011, would add transit employees to the ranks of firefighters and police officers upon which attacks are automatically considered aggravated assaults.
When she introduced it, Bass noted, “When they’re driving a bus, other lives are in their hands. If they’re threatened while driving, attacked while driving, harassed while driving, it’s a very serious public safety issue. We can’t continue to act like it’s not happening.”
It passed with the same unanimous Council support afforded to a resolution extending the Mt. Airy Business Improvement District beyond its initial five-year run.
An entity similar to the Center City District, the BID levies taxes to provide cleaning, security and other services for those between the 6300 and 7600 blocks of Germantown Ave. The passage grants the BID an additional five years.
Tasco and Jones introductions
Responding to a lobbying push in Harrisburg to make currently illegal payday-lending loans legal via House Bill 2191, Ninth District City Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco introduced a resolution opposing that legalization push. It will be voted upon at next week’s session.
Fourth District City Councilman Curtis Jones, who led the charge to add the Thursday after Memorial Day to the legislative body’s active meeting calendar, introduced nine bills, four of which involved real-estate taxes.
Specifically, Jones is seeking the ability for residents to defer or pay installments on them, along with seeking tax exceptions for long-term residents and special credits for low-income residents.
“Time to man up”
Near the end of the meeting, Jones turned his focus on a collective ability for Philadelphians and their elected officials to fight to save jobs and Catholic schools like Saint Hubert Catholic High School for Girls, which was honored earlier in the meeting for its fight to remain open.
He contrasted that to the ongoing School District of Philadelphia woes, intimating that people do not rally in students’ support.
“Why is it that when it’s public-school children, we can not find the [initiative] within ourselves to reach deeper for them,” he said. “This is not a game. They are not poker chips. … They are our future. Man up. Our children deserve it. We will not abandon these kids. Not on our watch.”
What ensued was a back-and-forth discussion between Jones and Councilmen Bill Green, Wilson Goode Jr. and David Oh. They debated whether a dividing line between debates over school funding and those about the Actual Value Initiative “property tax-assessment” push could be established.
However, some council members have publicly stated those two issues are intrinsically connected.
In fact, Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen told the School Reform Commission that schools in the district, which faces a $218 million shortfall next year, might not open in September without funding culled from the AVI.
“I’m fearful of losing a whole generation to someone’s ineptitude. … We got snookered last year, but we’re not going to take it out on those kids.” Jones said of the school-budget process. “In September, those buses will be running and our kids will get an education.”