Archive: March, 2009
The lengthy budget hearing process begins in City Council this morning with a session devoted to the five-year financial plan.
And Council is sticking by their word to take some of the budget hearings out into city neighborhoods -- in response to Mayor Nutter's public budget process, no doubt. The first of those neighborhood hearings will be on April 1 at 5 p.m. in Temple University's Ritter Hall. Several others are also planned, but locations have not been set.
Here's the Council press release:
The state Supreme Court just ruled that SugarHouse, a casino project proposed for the banks of the Delaware riverfront in Fishtown, can have a "special master" to mediate disputes with the city on development issues. Mayor Nutter has denied that his staff intentionally delayed the SugarHouse project based on his opposition to the casino's location. The city Law Department had argued to the court that a special master was not needed.
The court appointed Judge John W. Herron of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to be the special master. It also ordered the city to issue to SugarHouse without condition a foundation permit, the first step in construction.
Mayor Nutter just held a press conference to announce his task force on taxes. Here's the release:
MAYOR NUTTER APPOINTS TASK FORCE ON TAX POLICY AND ECONOMIC COMPETITIVENESS
Philadelphia, March 24 – Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced today the membership of the Mayor’s Task Force on Tax Policy and Economic Competitiveness. The Task Force is charged with making recommendations on improving Philadelphia’s competitiveness to the Mayor and City Council President by September 14, 2009 and will hold at least two public hearings to receive information and recommendations from citizens.
Francis Healy, an attorney who serves as special advisor to Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, told a City Council committee this afternoon that it should approve a local law to ban the use of cell phones by drivers in the city. Council members Bill Green, Bill Greenlee and Frank Rizzo introduced the legislation in September, which would require drivers to use a "hands-free" device for calls and would also ban sending text messages or e-mails while driving. The law would also apply to people using scooters, bikes and even roller skates and skate boards.
Councilman Frank DiCicco, who supports the legislation, said he considered introducing a similar bill a few years ago but held off when the city Law Department suggested it would conflict with the state motor vehicle code. Councilman Bill Green said the Law Department issued a memo, saying it could defend the local law. PennDOT has said the new proposal would conflict with state law.
"Whether or not we can enforce or not, at this point, really is not the most relevant aspect of this," Healy said when asked if the Police Department would enforce the law if it passes. "What it really does is send a message." That message, Healy said, would tell the General Assembly in Harrisburg to act on the issue.
To newsstand owners in the city, the ability to add a 24-inch flat panel LCD screen for advertising is a chance to make more money as newspaper and cigarette sales decline.
To SCRUB, an anti-blight group, legislation to allow the newsstand screens would open up the city to lawsuits from billboard companies "in their quest to colonize the public space."
Council's Committee on Streets and Services is now considering both sides of that argument.
Chris Brennan just sent us this budget joke from the City Council floor:
A witness in a Council hearing just complimented Councilman Frank DiCicco on the comfortable chairs at the witness table.
"They were bought before the budget crisis," DiCicco quipped. "We may be selling them and replacing them with wooden benches."
Court officials say Mayor Nutter's budget cuts may force them to close city courts some weekdays starting in July.
Many staffers shocked by the Wolf Block law firm's decision to dissolve.
Gov. Rendell removes Turnpike Chief Mitch Rubin, who has received a target letter in the Vince Fumo corruption investigation.
At a press conference this afternoon, Mayor Nutter will announce the chair and members of his new Task Force on Tax Policy and Economic Competitiveness. The group is charged with providing recomendations on how to make the city's tax structure more competitive.
Critics say the city doesn't need a new tax review group, noting that the Tax Reform Commission, already served that purpose. Approved by voter referendum, the Commission was given a year and $500,000 to review the city's tax structure and recommend reforms. Some of the group's recommendations were adopted, but not its entire package of reforms.
But Nutter says the new group has different responsibilities."The jurisdiction and responsibility is much broader," he said last month.