Archive: February, 2010
A DROP bill is expected in City Council today, and unlike its lonely predecessors greeted with disdain, this one should have a chance.
Councilman Bill Green's bill would fulfill the state legislature's requirement that City Council bar future elected officials from the city's deferred retirement option plan, or DROP.
DROP was created in 1999 to retain veteran city workers by allowing them to collect both their pension and a paycheck for up to four years at the end of their city careers. Elected officials have jumped on the perk, and even found a loophole allowing them to collect their four-year DROP payment and still seek reelection.
City Councilman Frank DiCicco said Wednesday he will propose extending the city's 10-year tax abatement to 15 years in some neighborhoods bypassed by private development.
In a bill to be introduced at Thursday's regular Council meeting, poorer areas would qualify for the extended tax abatement. Such factors as median income would determine which parts of the city qualify, DiCicco said.
The current 10-year tax abatement applies citywide, but some neighborhoods have seen only publicly subsidized development. Critics say it has benefited large developers and Center City at the expense of the rest of the city.
Despite a brutal economy and deep city budget cuts, Philadelphians remain relatively optimistic about the city's future as worries over crime and violence ease, according to a new survey of 1,602 city residents by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Sixty-three percent of those surveyed rated Philadelphia as a "good" or "excellent" place to live, compared to only 36 percent who labeled it a "fair" or "poor" place to call home. Forty one percent of respondents said the city was on the right track, compared to 34 percent who said the city was on the wrong track. And where last year 45 percent of Philadelphians identified crime in an open-ended question as the thing they liked least about living in the city, that figure dropped to 35 percent in the poll released this morning
“This generally positive outlook is somewhat surprising, considering how hard Philadelphians have been hit by the economy, especially when it comes to jobs,” said Larry Eichel, project director of the Philadelphia Research Initiative and a former Inquirer reporter.
Vehicle accident injury claims are way down and police vehicle accidents down by 15 percent, all while the Philadelphia Police Department tripled its driver training sessions, Deputy Police Commissioner Patricia Giorgio-Fox said Monday.
Targeting officers with five years or less on the job -- who are involed in the "vast majority" of traffic accidents, Fox said -- the department is on target to reduce its injury claims from $3.6 million in the last budget year to $1.6 million for the year ending June 30. Also, "preventable," traffic accidents were down 20 percent from calendar year 2008 to 2009, and non-preventable are down 10 percent, or 15 percent across the board, Giorgio-Fox said. An accident is defined as "preventable" if the officer played some role in the accident, she said.
Giorgio-Fox credited the city's expanded driver training program, both on the road and in virtual similators, with six times more training sessions than the previous year. The department also strongly discourages the use of cell phones while officers are driving, she said. The deputy commissioner presented the statistics at a PhillyStat meeting Monday afternoon.
Former Inquirer colmunist Tom Ferrick has a fictional and still unfolding peek into the city's future up at his new publication PHLMetropolis. Ferrick's take is based on what he sees as the not-so-long-term consequences of the city's tax and spending policies, which, with a little bad luck and another recession, could yield a one year budgt deficit of $450 million by 2019-2020.
It's not a pretty picture. The city's infrastructure is literally falling apart and killing people in Ferrick's fictional future, and the elected leaders - Blondell Reynolds Brown is the mayor, Mike Huckabee is the president, and Butler County State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe is governor - are not exactly inspiring confidence.
But wait, John Street could be coming to the rescue...
Philadelphia firefighters this weekend cited 32 colleagues for life-saving actions and honored the first firefighter to be promoted posthumously under a law approved by voters last year.
The family of Lt. Stephen M. Cospelich, promoted to captain by the Fire Department on Jan. 29, accepted the Medal of Honor award Sunday from the Philadelphia Firefighters Union, Local 22 of the International Association of Firefighters.
Cospelich, 56, collapsed following his shift on April 17, 2009, after battling a residential fire in the 6300 block of Ogontz Avenue. He fell into a coma that day and died May 20, one day after voters approved a change to the city’s Home Rule Charter mandating a posthumous promotion for any firefighter, paramedic or police officer who dies in the line of duty.
Also receiving the Medal of Honor on Sunday were the families of George Shultz, who died in the line of duty on Nov. 24, 1924, and firefighter Albert Anderson, who died July 29, 1964 while battling a blaze in Center City. His son, Albert Jr., is now a battalion chief with the department.
The following is a list of on-the-job awards handed out by the union at its annual banquet Sunday, with accounts of the events as they were described at the award ceremony:
-- Firefighter Robert Green climbed into an upper floor of a burning home at Bustletown and Bergen Streets on Jan. 1, 2009, and pulled out an elderly woman overcome by smoke.
-- Firefighter Sean Nelson on Aug. 13 entered a burning building without a water line after hearing reports of children trapped inside. He rescued an infant from inside the house in the 1900 block of Carpenter Street, and then went back to help put out the fire.
-- On Oct. 1, 2008, Lt. Paul McDevitt and firefighters Rick Madison and Gregory Pridgen saved a worker buried in gravel after a trench cave-in at in the 400 block of Flamingo Street. They first cleared the dirt from his head and face so he could breath, then shored up the trench while they removed him. The incident occurred while the city was replacing sewer lines in Roxborough. Paramedics Roy Burkett and Mark Williams and firefighters Randy Cunningham and William Perrone received distinguished service awards for their actions at the scene.
Distinguished Service Awards:
-- Paramedics Patrick Carey and Scott McGarrigle on Oct. 14 pulled Dr. Joe Jelen from a car wreck at Roosevelt Boulevard Circle near Nazareth Hospital, first prying the dashboard away from Jelen’s neck. He had no pulse, but Carey and McGarrigle revived him.
-- Firefighter and experienced lifeguard William Auty was recognized for his off-duty effort to rescue and revive a drowning victim in North Wildwood, N.J.
Paramedics Khary Hunt and Karen Bucca-Lee, along with firefighters Andrew Sayers, Eric Howe and Stephen Bauer, combined to revive a five-week-old infant in cardiac arrest during a call on Sept. 18 in the 6300 block of Ditman Street. The boy was found to have extensive injuries, and his parents were later charged with child abuse.
-- Paramedic Matthew Flannigan used a defibrillator and advanced life-support to revive a 38-year-old woman who collapsed during the 2009 Philadelphia Marathon.
-- On Nov. 7, Capt. Joseph Breen and firefighters Jamie Dignam, Michael Cameron and Sean O’Neil had to fight back flames while they cut the driver and passenger out of a vehicle that had crashed into a tree and caught fire in the 4100 block of Levick Street. Paramedics Brian Anderson and Mark Doyle provided life-saving first aid.
-- Capt. Richard Romano and firefighters Charles Kobierowski, John Mooney Jr., Robert Colfer, Francis X. Chaney and Charles Sgrillo rescued six adults from the second floor during a heavy fire at a residence in the 2900 block of D Street on Dec. 5.
-- On May 28, 2008, firefighters Francis Killian and Jamal Walker, using a portable ladder, pulled a man and woman from the third floor of a smoke-filled building in the 2100 block of South 15th Street. Killian helped the partially-paralyzed man make it down the ladder, and Walker grabbed the woman while she was hanging from a window and carried her down.
Click here for Philly.com's politics page.
Mayor Nutter on Friday defended his administration's decision to resume trash pickup with plowing still to be done, and he identified unshoveled sidewalks, snow mountains and ice flying off moving vehicles as his chief public safety concerns as the city emerges from more than 45 inches of snow in a week.
The city will begin writing citations for sidewalks that are impassable. "Clearing sidewalks is not only a city ordinance, it's a public safety issue as well," said Nutter, speaking to reporters in the hall outside his office. "I'm not saying it has to be perfect ... but give it your best shot."
A number of Streets Department employees who were detailed to snow removal in recent days are picking up trash today. Nutter said the decision was a "balancing act," taking into consideration that "storing two weeks of trash coming off Super Bowl week could be a bit of a challenge for some people."
City Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco did not have to be at Council's regular Thursday meeting because it was canceled. But when Mayor Nutter announced he would be up in West Oak Lane shoveling snow with Tasco, alarms went up immediately about the safety and sanity of the 72-year-old Democratic majority leader.
Tasco announced, however, that she simply showed up in the 1600 block of East Tulpehocken Street to thank the young folk who were shoveling, and to spread her gospel: "I said people over 50 should not shovel snow," Tasco proclaimed, saying she wouldn't even try to fake it.
"That would be disingenuous, because I don't shovel snow, not at may age," said Tasco. "That's why I'm still here."