Friday, October 24, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Wednesday, October 22, 2014, 6:41 PM

Yet another task force is being proposed to deal with the city’s crumbling infrastructure.

City Council’s Committee on Licenses and Inspections moved forward Thursday with a bill that would create a Vacant Property Task Force comprised of various city agencies to catalog and inspect large vacant commercial properties.

The task force -- an idea that arose from the fatal fire of a vacant Kensington warehouse in 2012 that killed two firefighters -- would focus on the estimated 400 large vacant and commercial scattered throughout the city.

POSTED: Wednesday, October 22, 2014, 11:31 AM
David B. Thornburgh (Photo from fels.upenn.edu)

Philadelphia government watchdog group Committee of Seventy has named its new leader.

David B. Thornburgh, executive director of the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania, will be taking the helm in December, the committee announced Wednesday. Thornburgh is replacing Zack Stalberg who retired in July.

“David checked all of the boxes we were looking for in a CEO,” Stephen S. Tang, Seventy's search committee chair, said. “But above and beyond that, the Committee was struck by his interest and passion for civic engagement and better government as well as his experience improving the economic competitiveness and public sector performance of Philadelphia and the region.”

POSTED: Thursday, October 16, 2014, 1:03 PM

City Council approved Thursday to extend a job creation tax credit for businesses that hire and pay new employees at least $12 an hour.

The Living Wage Job Creation Tax Credit Bill, sponsored by Councilman Wilson Goode Jr. and unanimously approved by Council, extends a $5,000 tax break from one year to five years.

For every new full-time job created, in which the employee is paid at least 150 percent of the federal minimum wage or $12 an hour (whichever is higher), businesses would receive a $5,000 credit each year for five years. The extension could provide businesses up to $25,000 tax break per employee during a five year period.

POSTED: Thursday, October 16, 2014, 8:42 AM

One more hurdle has been cleared in the lengthy process to get a land bank up and running in Philadelphia.
 
The Philadelphia Land Bank Board held a two-hour long public hearing Wednesday in which it received feedback on the strategic plan the board plans to submit to City Council for approval in November.
 
For the most part, the more than a dozen people who testified were supportive of the overall plan but had suggestions for tweaks and changes, such as accessibility for the handicap and a better defined plan to preserve affordable housing in the process.
 
The land bank was approved by through legislation in December and the interim board has been working on developing a strategic plan since then. The goal of the bank is to cut through City Hall red tape and create a comprehensive system for confronting blight by turning vacant and tax-delinquent parcels into tax-producing properties.
 
Some suggestions were specific to the city's role in managing the land bank.
 
"The land bank needs a plan for how it will maintain its own inventory, which will require more resources than are being allocated to that work now," Beth McConnell, of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations, said. (The land bank is starting with a $4.1 million budget.)
 
The land bank board and staff will be digesting Wednesday's testimony in the next few weeks and making revisions to the plan before presenting it to the board on Oct. 30 for a vote, John Carpenter, executive deputy director of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority who has been working to get the land bank up and running, said following Wednesday's hearing. Assuming the board approves the plan, it will be submitted to City Council for approval. Then the land bank would officially start working - transferring deeds from the various city agencies to the land bank for disposition.
 
How the properties are disposed of and to whom was of concern to some residents Wednesday.
 
"We are a community that's fighting gentrification," Tiffany Green, of Concerned Citizens of Point Breeze, said. "There needs to be an inclusionary policy here. You just can't have 10 properties go up for auction because developers are sitting back waiting."
 
Land Bank board member Jennifer Kates said after the meeting that it's a delicate balancing act. Some of the affordable housing advocates are calling for equity but the private market developers also want to make sure they have fair access to properties, she said.

The full strategic plan can be found HERE. The plan's executive summary, here

POSTED: Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 8:15 AM
Current City Controller Alan Butkovitz. (Charles Fox / Staff Photographer)

The city’s Department of Public Property City overpaid nearly $650,000 within a three-year span ending in 2013, Controller Alan Butkovitz found.

The controller’s audit on the public property department’s contracting practices, released Tuesday, showed that some changes to original contracts, including for labor and supervision costs, were higher than city standards.

Some examples cited in the audit include:

POSTED: Monday, September 29, 2014, 12:28 PM

Philadelphia received nearly $1 million in three different youth crime prevention grants from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

The grants will go toward improving school safety, keeping youth in school and out of prison and extend the city’s PowerCorpsPHL, a workforce development program which hires 18- to 26-year-olds to work temporarily in the City Parks and Recreation Department and the Philadelphia Water Department, city officials announced Monday.

The grants are the following:

  • $600,000 for the School Justice Collaboration Program: Keeping Kids in School and Out of Courts for the School Diversion Program;
  • $227,430 from the Corporation for National Community Service  Collaboration on the Youth Opportunity Corps for expansion of PowerCorpsPHL;
  • And $100,000 for the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention for expansion of Philadelphia’s Youth Violence Prevention Collaborative, which is centralized to North Philadelphia's 22nd police district.
POSTED: Thursday, September 25, 2014, 8:34 PM

Philadelphia kids (and adults) might soon not be able to play cops and robbers. At least not with the full effect of toy guns. 

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson introduced legislation Thursday that would ban the sale or use of fake guns.

Johnson, who represents the second council district in Southwest Philadelphia, also introduced legislation two weeks ago that would increase the penalties for anyone selling or using a BB gun (those are already illegal in Philadelphia).

POSTED: Wednesday, September 24, 2014, 5:50 PM

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown and Councilman Jim Kenney are introducing legislation Thursday in response to the Sep. 11 assault of a same-sex couple in Center City, that would add a hate crime chapter to the city code. 

If approved, the ordinance would mandate higher penalties for any crime committed against a person because of hatred toward that person’s “perceived sexual orientation, gender or gender identity, or disability.” A hate crime violation would add up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $2,000, the ordinance suggests.

The ordinance would amend the section of the code that addresses “Regulation of individual conduct and activity,” including ethnic intimidation and institutional vandalism. Violation of ethnic intimidation is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and monetary fines for a Class III crime offense.

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