Phila. voters make LGBT post permanent

Philadelphia voters approved two changes to the City Charter on Tuesday, making a permanent city post to advocate for LGBT issues, and reorganizing the departments that handle planning and development.

The Mayor's Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs has been a temporary city office since Mayor Nutter created it by executive order in 2008. The ballot question, introduced as legislation by City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, will make that office permanent.

"Like the voters' decision last spring to make the Office of Sustainability a permanent part of our government, I am excited that voters today have decided to make permanent the Office of LGBT Affairs," Nutter said in a statement. "The LGBT community is a large and growing part of our city, and the government should have a permanent structure to work on issues important to the LGBT communities and all Philadelphians."

The one-person office, led by director Helen "Nellie" L. Fitzpatrick, supports LGBT policy development and community outreach. Recently, Fitzpatrick advocated for legislation, passed by Council, that requires all single-occupant restrooms in the city to become gender-neutral.

Separately, voters approved creation of a Department of Planning and Development that will act as an umbrella for the Planning Commission, Historical Commission, Housing Authority, Art Commission, and Zoning Board of Adjustment.

The new department, proposed by Council President Darrell L. Clarke, will have three divisions: zoning and planning; housing and community development; and development services. The Division of Development Services will help developers navigate approvals needed for their projects.

Voters also approved a city request to take out a $155.9 million bond for capital expenses in five main areas: transit; streets and sanitation; municipal buildings; parks, recreation and museums; and economic and community development. City officials said the funds will pay for expenses in the capital budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.

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