Councilman Oh: City should control on-street parking

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Councilman David Oh's proposal to give the city control of on-street parking and collections failed to move to a vote, Monday. The city solicitor has said Council does not have the power to shift responsibilities from the state-run Philadelphia Parking Authority to the city.

A proposal that would transfer some control of the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) to the city is on hold indefinitely after the city solicitor labeled the ordinance unlawful.

The ordinance, pushed by Councilman David Oh, would hand over control of on-street parking and other functions of the state-run agency to the city. 

The problem is that the city doesn’t have the legal authority to do that, City Solicitor Sozi Tulante wrote in a memo to Council. Under state law, the PPA would have to dissolve itself.

Tulante's opinion made for a lonely hearing Monday. Neither the Streets Department nor the PPA attended, citing the memorandum.

“The central provisions of this bill would conflict with state law unambiguously,” the city Office of Transportation and Infrastructure wrote in a statement. “We therefore respectfully decline to comment on the merits of the proposal and are unable to offer support for it.”

Oh argued that a section of the Pennsylvania Constitution that forbids state interference in city governments is on his side. He presented a 30-minute legal defense of the bill.

“The ordinance I’m introducing is legal. It’s lawful,” Oh said. “This would not only benefit the city and reduce tax burdens on citizens, but it is also a protected provision under the Constitution of Pennsylvania that the General Assembly not interfere with the  functions of the city.”

Oh, a Republican, has been a longtime critic of the Republican-controlled PPA. The agency has been the subject of renewed scrutiny since the recent resignation of its executive director, Vincent J. Fenerty Jr.,  as a result of a sexual-harassment scandal, and the auditor general opened an investigation into its management and finances last year.

Oh’s colleagues on the Committee on Law and Government said continued watch over the agency is important but tabled any vote on the measure, which will likely languish in committee. It’s rare for Council to go against the advice of the solicitor, who is counsel for both the administration and Council.