Hall Monitor spoke with several members of council to hear their priorities for the upcoming session.
On Thursday, Philadelphia City Council will convene for its first meeting of the fall session. While all council sessions have their quirks, this particular session will be more unique than most. Coming into this session, council has already seen four members resign to run for mayor, with the possibility of more to come, causing a major shift in how the body will do business. The city is still grappling it’s violence epidemic, fueled in part by the 26% poverty rate still plaguing the city.
There is some hope on the horizon, however. The city is currently sitting on over $400 million in surplus funds, and still has hundreds of millions of dollars remaining in government COVID relief money. One key item to watch this fall is how these funds are appropriated. While we do not expect much of a change in strategy regarding the COVID funds, it would be a major surprise if a large portion of the surplus funds were not used.
But how to use them? Our early canvassing of city council members suggests some possibilities; a constant refrain throughout our late-summer interviews pointed to housing as an early target. How any potential housing legislation is shaped remains to be seen; legislation has to be written, introduced, heard at a public hearing, and voted on twice by council. The earliest new legislation could be passed is mid-October.
Special attention will once again be paid to the surging violence in Philadelphia. As of this writing, homicides are up 4% from this time last year. If the trend continues, the city will top last year’s 562 murders. More investment is likely to be made in anti-violence programming, but the results will not be immediate.
Another contentious item is the ever-present opioid epidemic, which has firmly rooted itself in Kensington. For what seems like decades, we have heard government agencies commit and recommit themselves to solving this issue, but very little, if any, progress has been made. Opioid settlement funds are due from the commonwealth, but logistics are still being considered before the funds arrive. In the meantime, it appears the status quo will remain.
With all of the above in mind, the Philadelphia Hall Monitor offers you the following city council preview; we will add to this as we speak to more councilmembers. Below you will find an early snapshot of council’s priorities heading into the fall.