Archive: June, 2008
A City Council committee this afternoon endorsed an idea to fold the Fairmount Park Commission into the Department of Recreation, which would give the mayor control over the massive stock of public land for the first time since 1867. Council's Law and Government Committee approved legislation that would ask voters if they want to combine the two agencies into the new Department of Parks and Recreation.
That agency would report directly to the mayor. The legislation would create a Commission on Parks and Recreation that would be radically different from the current Fairmount Park Commission, which is selected in secret by the city Board of Judges. The new commission would draw its members from applicants who are interviewed in a public City Council hearing. Council would select 25 names to send to the mayor, who would nominate nine members. The 15-member commission would be rounded out by elected officials. It would advise on park policy but not control it.
Current Commission president Robert N.C. Nix III today said he had no problems with the way the members are now chosen but granted the political climate has changed. Council and Mayor Nutter want to shift control for park land. "As long as you get good applicants, its fine," Nix said. But Commission vice president Alex Bonavitacola cited the old adage: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" while opposing the move.
Jennifer Serrano was a tough act to follow. The young lady testified through tears this morning to a City Council committee considering legislation that would require employers to grant unpaid leave to victims of domestic violence. Serrano told Council that she has lost jobs during an abusive relationship with a man who would lurk near her bus stop because he knew how she traveled to work.
Duane Bumb, deputy director of the Commerce Department, and officials from the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, expressed sympathy for domestic violence victims but expressed concern about the economic impact of the legislation. Bumb called for it to be held until a cost-analysis of that impact could be measured. Denise Earley of the Chamber said business owners are worried that the ability to take time off could be abused by employees and that the legislation allows repeated use of the leave policy.
The proposed legislation would require companies with more than 50 employees to grant up to eight weeks of unpaid leave. Companies with fewer than 50 employees would have to provide up to four weeks.
The Daily News takes a look at how cops are paid while recovering from on-the-job injuries.
The mayor and new school district superintendent head to Harrisburg to rally with the governor for more school funding.
This sweaty city just keeps getting hotter.
Foxwoods, a casino proposed for the banks of the Delaware River in South Philly, announced a new leadership team today. Brian Ford is leaving Ernst & Young's Gaming Industry Services Group to become chief executive officer for Washington Philadelphia Investors, the local group of investors that partnered with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation of Connecticut to run the casino here.
Jeffrey Wosencroft, former chief of staff to the tribal nation's chairman, will be managing director of the Foxwoods Development Company, the corporation set up by the Mashantucket Pequot to work on gaming projects outside of Connecticut. Leonard Shore, formerly of Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, will become executive vice president of Washington Philadelphia Investors. James Dougherty, who has general manager of the project for two years, has been promoted to president and chief operating officer.
The state Supreme Court in April ordered the city to issue zoning changes needed for Foxwoods to start construction, saying that City Council had improperly delayed the project. The high court last month rejected City Council's request to reconsider that ruling.
City Council's Committee on Law and Government will hold its first hearing tomorrow morning on legislation that would ask voters if they want to combine the functions of the Fairmount Park Commission and city's Department of Recreation. Council members Darrell Clarke and Blondell Reynolds Brown have proposed a change to the city's Charter to create the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Mayor Nutter backs the idea, saying it would help the city coordinate more efficient services. Nutter spoke today during the release of a report by The Trust For Public Land, created for the Philadelphia Parks Alliance. That report found that the economic benefit of Philadelphia's parks far exceeds the amount the city spends to maintain them.
Nutter has boosted funding for Fairmount Park by $2.5 million for the fiscal year that starts on July 1 and wants a 46 percent increase in funding over the next five years. "There's still work to be done," Nutter said. "But I think the opportunity is right here, right now, especially with this report. Everyone is recognizing the true value of parks."
The Cira Centre South, a proposed office tower near the Cira Centre next to 30th Street Station along the western banks of the Schuylkill River, took a step forward today with support from City Council's Committee on Finance to extend tax benefits for developers by seven years. The committee voted to support legislation that would extend the Keystone Opportunity Zone benefits to 2025. That move needs approval in Harrisburg.
Mayor Nutter supports the plan. "It's an incredible opportunity for the city to bring net new jobs to Philadelphia," Nutter said of the committee's vote. "We're going to do our part. Hopefully the state will take action as well."
Two Center City landlords sent a letter to Council, objecting to the extension of the KOZ, but did not testify during yesterday's hearing against the plan. Some Center City landlords previously objected to granting KOZ benefits to the Cira Centre. Both projects are being overseen by the Brandywine Realty Trust.
Mayor Nutter was elected chairman of the Redevelopment Authority this morning in the agency's first meeting since he appointed himself and two others to the board last Thursday. Terry Gillen, one of his most trusted aides, was approved by the board as the agency's new executive director.
Robert Guerra, the Redevelopment Authority's longtime general counsel, lost his job in the agency shake-up. "It was really just a changing of the guard and he was part of it," Gillen said of Guerra. "The mayor seriously wants to revamp the Redevelopment Authority. This is just part of that revamping."
Nutter replaces electricians union chief John Dougherty, who stepped down as the RDA's chairman after losing an April Democratic primary election for the state Senate. Mike Fera, leader of the Cement Masons and Plasterers Union, Local 592, also recently left the board. Nutter appointed to the RDA board his deputy chief of staff, Wendell Pritchett, and Jennifer Rodriguez, director of community and economic development at Asociacion Puertorriquenos en Marcha.
Weekend violence visits a party.
The city offers advice for surviving the heat wave.
But the scorching weather doesn't scare away cyclists and their fans in Manayunk.