The Street administration's several year battle to streamline its overlapping and too expensive housing agencies ended with victory yesterday as City Council approved a $3.1 million funding bill that will enable the Office of Housing to complete its reorganization.
The vote was 16 to 1 with Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell the lone holdout.
Indeed, Blackwell had singlehandedly stalled the process for more than a year, encouraging union employees to march on City Hall and making speech after speech to large throngs of city employees.
But yesterday, the banner-waving employees were nowhere to be found. Gone too was electricians union boss John Dougherty, chairman of the Redevelopment Authority, who had publicly fought with Street over the administration plans.
"I am thrilled that the legislation passed," said Kevin Hanna, secretary of housing, who has worked on the reorganization since his hiring in December 2002.
Street and Blackwell had reached an agreement last June on the broad shape of the streamlining, basically enlarging the Office of Housing by taking functions from RDA and the Philadelphia Housing Development Corp.
Since late last year, Blackwell held up a key funding bill that would have allowed for new hiring at the Office of Housing in the wake of layoffs at the other agencies. Her Council colleagues deferred to her for months.
But in recent weeks, administration officials became concerned that the job layoffs and the inability to hire was affecting proposed housing projects and the delivery of services.
Hanna said the new funds will enable the Housing Office to hire eight people laid off last December and to recruit for 20 new jobs.
Street said the city's housing efforts were hurt by a loss of $7.8 million in federal funds last year, and he said the city still has not completed a contract with AFSCME Local 1971. "There are some provisions in these contracts that need to be modernized and updated," he said.