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Archive: June, 2013

POSTED: Thursday, June 27, 2013, 1:59 PM
Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke

City Council turned its attention to the construction industry’s best safety practices Thursday in the second hearing of its demolition investigation, prompted by the fatal building collapse that killed six people at 22nd and Market streets three weeks ago.

A series of safety experts from the building and construction trade unions described extensive safety training required  through union apprentice programs  and continuing thereafter.  Their over-riding message was that responsible building owners could find a number of experienced construction firms that made worker and public safety a priority in all their projects.  

 Bruce Crawley and Anthony Fullard described their involvement in an “emerging contractors program” they developed 10 years ago at the African American Chamber of Commerce. allowing 66 mostly-minority contractors to qualify for demolition work under the city’s Neighborhood Transformation Initiative, funded by bond proceeds under the Street administration to demolish hundreds of abandoned homes.

POSTED: Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 10:39 AM

Stanley L. Straughter, an international trade consultant based in Philadelphia, has given up his position as chairman of a city commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs, after agreeing to a guilty plea of making illegal corporate campaign contributions, in a Washington D. C. political scandal.

The city commission was created in 2005 by former Mayor John Street, at the urging of City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. Straughter, elected to head the panel by his fellow commissioners, submitted a letter of resignation to Blackwell Sunday, according to Mark McDonald, a spokesman for the Nutter administration.

Nutter has had no involvement with the immigrant panel, McDonald said.

POSTED: Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 11:29 AM

Gary Steuer, the city’s chief cultural officer and director of the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy since 2008, will leave his post in October to join an arts foundation in Denver, the Nutter administration said Tuesday.

Mayor Nutter said he expects the search for a new director to begin immediately.

Steuer’s “work has been invaluable and I am sorry to see him go,” the mayor said in a news release. “I know that he will be the highly respected civic leader in Denver that he has been here in Philadelphia.”

POSTED: Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 6:23 PM

Mayor Nutter ended his term as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors this past weekend during the organization’s annual meeting in Las Vegas.

Leading the organization gave Nutter – a frequent guest on cable news shows – a national forum in an election year, as well as a speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention last summer. But, at home, critics often complained that his duties and travel for the conference came at the expense of city business.

During his tenure as president, Nutter advocated for cities on topics like the federal sequestration, municipal bonds, infrastructure investment, homelessness and gun violence. He also launched Cities United, a national effort to reduce violent deaths among African-American males.

POSTED: Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 5:57 PM

The State Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday passed three bills related to Philadelphia’s property tax reform, as well as a bill authorizing the city to create a $2-a-pack cigarette tax.

All four bills could be heard as early as Wednesday in the Appropriations Committee before going to the full Senate. The cigarette tax bill would have to go to the House for passage as well.

The cigarette tax is key to the city’s plan to raise $74 million toward the School District of Philadelphia’s $304 million budget shortfall. City Council, which recessed last week, unanimously passed a bill to create the tax, but the state must give permission to enact it.

POSTED: Thursday, June 20, 2013, 1:07 PM

Good to their promise to wrap up business on-time and on-schedule, Council members Thursday passed the remaining budget bills and two more major pieces of legislation intended to blunt the impact of Mayor Nutter’s new property tax system on low income homeowners.

Council did not take a vote to pass two other controversial bills – one that would raise the business Use and Occupancy tax and one that would have capped and altered the 10-year tax abatement for new residential construction. The Use and Occupancy bill was held over, while the abatement bill was amended Thursday.

Council passed the operating by a 14-2 vote, with Democrat Bill Green and Republican David Oh voting against. The capital budget was approved by a 15-1 vote, with Democrat W. Wilson Goode Jr. voting against. Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco was absent.

POSTED: Thursday, June 20, 2013, 11:10 AM

Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez said she would not call for a vote on her bill to increase the business Use and Occupancy tax during Thursday’s final Council meeting before the summer recess.

The bill would have raised about $30 million toward solving the School District of Philadelphia’s $304 million budget crisis. Council raised that tax last year as well, and the business community fought against a second straight increase.

Instead, Council and the Nutter administration will rely solely on improved tax collections and the creation of $2-a-pack cigarette tax – that needs state approval to enact – to raise $74 million for the schools.

POSTED: Thursday, June 20, 2013, 7:59 PM

Amid all the budget news Thursday, Mayor Nutter took time to answer questions on the simmering mini-controversy of his failure to pay a Philadelphia Gas Works bill, thus having a lien placed on his family’s Wynnefield home in May.

Nutter paid the bill two weeks later and the lien was removed, but the whole affair was rife with irony — the mayor has preached about cracking down on tax delinquents while also contemplating the sale of PGW, a public utility.

“I was in touch with them, asked what was due and paid it,” he said. “I'm current and have taken care of my responsibility.”

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