Archive: October, 2009
It looks like Mayor Nutter won’t get his way on a pension measure he hoped would help him in contract negotiations with city unions.
Tomorrow is the deadline for the city to enter a state recovery program that would require the administration to set up a lower cost pension plan for new hires.
But to enter the program, City Council must pass a resolution pledging to create a lower cost pension plan for new city hires. Council has balked at the request from the mayor to do so and no member would even introduce a resolution.
Some members felt the administration tried to strong-arm them into passing the bill with misleading information. Last week, the administration sent around a memo which said the city could face legal action from the state Public Employee Retirement Commission if the resolution wasn’t passed.
But the administration later retreated on that position. City Solicitor Shelley Smith sent testimony to Council this week, which said that the original analysis of the situation was “overly aggressive.” A new version of the memo said that legal action was unlikely if Council didn’t act.
Nutter has said that he needs to reign in benefit costs for city workers, citing the woefully underfunded pension plan as a key liability for the city.
Gov. Rendell just urged the Transport Workers Union, Local 234, to drop the threat of a strike this weekend if it is still making progress with SEPTA in negotiations for a new contract. Rendell said a strike while national attention is focused on the World Series games being played here by the Phillies and Yankees would be "a little bit of black eye" for the city but produce no real gains for the union since the series shifts back to New York City -- if necessary -- next week.
"This is a great opportunity for the city to shine in these next three days," Rendell said of the series, with games scheduled at Citizens Bank Park tomorrow, Sunday and Monday. "It's not like the union can get leverage by doing this because the leverage goes away in three days. By the time the weekend is over, the leverage is gone. All they do is give the city a little bit of a black eye."
Rendell said he has not been asked to intervene in the contract dispute but would be happy to do so if asked. Here's a run-down of what SEPTA services would be impacted by a TWU Local 234 strike.
Here's the press release:
Friday, October 30, 2009 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA DECLARES PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY
Enables steps to be taken to alleviate burden on emergency rooms caused by H1N1
Philadelphia, October 30 – Today the City of Philadelphia issued an official declaration of a public health emergency, an administrative action which will enable hospitals to take steps to alleviate the burden on emergency rooms caused by an increase in the number of patients requiring care. The declaration was issued by Mayor Michael A. Nutter, acting upon the recommendation of Health Commissioner Dr. Donald Schwarz, working in close conjunction with the city’s hospitals that have experienced substantial increases in the number of patient visits in light of the H1N1 Influenza pandemic.
Dr. Schwarz delivered the following message to Philadelphians: “I cannot stress this enough – if you have mild flu symptoms please do not go to the emergency room. Emergency rooms are for the very sick. If medical staff and hospital staff have to deal with non-emergency cases, this diverts resources away from where they are desperately needed.”
Gov. Rendell sporting a Yankees skirt? He doesn't think so.
After more than two decades, Pat's Steaks wit sidewalk seating is going legal.
The Yankees are coming to town. Can a transit strike be far behind?
And doctors are predicting an increase in H1N1 "swine flu" cases among adults in the city.
Who should be collecting back real estate taxes on behalf of the city?
Councilwoman Marian Tasco raised that issue today in Council with a blistering speech criticizing the Nutter administration for allowing a New Jersey based collection agency to pursue delinquent property taxes. Tasco said a Center City law firm hired by the city to collect some taxes has sub-contracted with the New Jersey firm XSPAND, which she says uses predatory lending tactics.
“I am so angry I can hardly speak,” Tasco said. “I want to know from our City Solicitor why this transaction was allowed.”
Mayor Nutter said the city would review the business practices of the firm. But he said the city’s priority was getting the money owed.
“As long as we’re getting done what we need to get done and collecting the dollars we need to collect, that’s our primary focus and point,” he said.
A little research on XSPAND reveals that this is a company founded by former New Jersey governor James Florio, which buys up municipal tax liens and then turns a profit by charging tax delinquents hefty service fees and interest rates. The company, a subsidiary of JPMorgan Chase, applied for a city contract earlier this year, but failed to receive it.
Looks like City Council and the administration are close to revising the $500 trash fee for small businesses, included in the Mayor's budget this year.
Councilman Frank DiCicco today introduced legislation that would reduce the fee to $150 and include small apartment buildings among those taxed. Currently, the bill says it would cover landlords with six or more units in a building, but DiCicco said ultimately he'd like to revise the bill to include landlords with two or three units.
If all those landlords are included, DiCicco said about 47,000 entities will be taxed, which should capture the $7 million that the original tax was expected to raise annually.
The $500 trash fee was part of Mayor Nutter’s compromise budget with City Council. The original fee would have applied to 15,000 small businesses. Council balked at the fee and introduced legislation to repeal it. The city has not yet implemented the fee.
DiCicco said he thinks this is a good compromise.
"I'd like it to be zero," he said. "I think it spreads the pain around, if you will. I think it's a reasonable fee."
There have been all sorts of political bets this week on the outcome of the Phillies-Yankees World Series but U.S. Rep. Bob Brady's ranks as the strangest. Brady's staff just called PhillyClout to let us know that he has offered to shave his head of thick hair in the unlikely event of a Yankees victory. TMZ.com broke the news after catching up with Brady with a video camera in Washington D.C. Brady's fall-back bet was to offer up a Mohawk hair-do.
"Nobody would shave their heads with me," Brady said of New York's congressional delegation. "None of them New York people had any guts."
Well U.S. Rep. John Hall, a New York Democrat, apparently found the nerve. TMZ.com reports that Hall has agreed to shave his head if the Yankees can't prevent the Phillies from repeating as World Series champs. Wow. Way to go, Congressman. Hall, by the way, is bald.
Today, City Council literally sent in the clowns.
Councilman Curtis Jones this morning brought a clown to Council to be honored with a resolution.
The entertainer, who goes by the name Onionhead, is part of the Universoul Circus, which is currently doing shows in Fairmount Park. He was wearing giant shoes, a floppy tie and full sad face makeup.
“Entertainment is an important part of our cultural affairs,” Jones said.
Mayor Nutter just appeared on Good Morning America with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, where both politely talked a little trash about the World Series.
The duo were on-air -- from their respective cities -- to talk about their World Series bet. The mayor of the losing team must travel to the winning city to take part in a community service project while wearing the winning team's jersey.
"We’re sizing up that jersey for you and look forward to having you down here too," Nutter said to Bloomberg. Bloomberg responded: "Michael what size is your jersey?"
So the big news is the Philles taking game one of the World Series.
Seth Williams, the overwhelming favorite to be the next DA, details his plans for the job.
SEPTA instructs riders on how to act during a strike.
A woman is held for trial for assaulting a police officer.
Councilman Bill Greenlee writes in to explain why he thinks 3-1-1 shouldn't replace calling Council offices.