City Council: Chief Public Safety Director Amended; Tangled Titles Hearing Proposed

Jones Honors Defenders, Call for Tangled Titles Hearing

Councilmember Curtis Jones introduced a resolution declaring March 18th “‘Public Defender and Participatory Defense Day’ in the City of Philadelphia to honor the dedicated work that the Defender Association of Philadelphia and Participatory Defense Hubs do for Philadelphians.”

The resolution explains the history of the 6th Amendment to the United States Constitution, citing the Gideon vs. Wainwright case as the catalyst for right-to-counsel protections.

The Defender Association of Philadelphia represents seventy percent of those arrested in Philadelphia, with a smaller staff and less pay than their counterparts at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office. The Public Defender’s Office is not included in the city’s pension plan.

Jones also introduced a resolution authorizing the City Council Committee on Housing, Urban Development, and the Homeless to hold public hearings to examine the effects of tangled titles and gentrification on Philadelphia neighborhoods.

The issue of tangled titles, which occurs when the name of a person living in a residence does not match the name on the title of the house, has been a difficult issue in Philadelphia for decades.

Typically, tangled titles occur when a home is left to a relative without official documentation, such as a will. This can cause serious issues if and when the occupant of the home wishes to sell the property, or if the property is subjected to some sort of legal or governmental action.

The hearing will also look at how gentrification impacts neighborhoods most likely to be affected by tangled titles.

During the public comment section of the meeting, Philadelphia Register of Wills Tracey Gordon, expressed her gratitude to council for holding hearings on the issue.

“Your willingness to tackle this issue head on shows a commitment to ensuring that all members of our community are able to enjoy the security and stability that comes along with owning a home,” Gordon said. “The issue of tangled titles is a complex one that requires careful legal and administrative attention.

Bond Ordinance Introduced

The City of Philadelphia will look to issue $193,000,000 in bonds to pay for long-term capital expenses.

This particular bond issue does not need to be placed on the ballot via referendum and approval from voters because it does not cause the debt of the city to exceed 3% of the annual tax valuations of the city.

The funds will go to the following entities:

Transi:t $ 5,994,000
Streets and Sanitation: $ 51,484,000
Municipal Buildings: $ 79,104,000
Parks, Recreation and Museums: $ 41,552,000
Economic and Community Development: $ 14,866,000
Tota:l $ 193,000,000

Chief Public Safety Director Bill Amended

Introduced on Council President Darrell Clarke’s behalf, the legislation creating the Chief Public Safety Director has been amended, making the qualification for the position broader.

The previous description required the director to have led a law enforcement agency for at least five years. The new description softens that requirement.

The new language in the bill reads as follows:

“The Chief Public Safety Director shall have five years of senior leadership experience in a law enforcement agency, legal entity, or other public safety position.”

Phillips Introduces Truck-Parking Bill

Councilmembers Anthony Phillips and Brian O’Neill co-introduced legislation widening the city prohibition on semitrailer and truck parking on residential streets.

The legislation allows the Department of Streets to install no-truck parking signs on individual city blocks without requiring council to pass legislation. Currently, City Council must pass new ordinances for every block where they intend to limit truck parking.

The bill amends the language of the current law by adding the following language:

…any public street that has been determined by regulation of the Department of Streets to be a location with respect to which the safe and efficient use of the right-of-way by pedestrians or traffic would be impaired by such parking.

“It’s common sense to introduce this bill,” Phillips said. “(This legislation) will allow the Streets Department to more easily install these no truck parking signs. We will work with residents and other stakeholders to make sure that we’re enforcing it.”

Johnson Looks to Restore Tax Discount

Councilmembers Kenyatta Johnson and Brian O’Neill con-introduced a bill that would restore the one percent discord for early payment of real estate taxes.

The discount had been removed during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the city was unsure how projected reductions in revenues would affect city coffers.

If passed, the bill would reinstate the discount in FY 2024 for taxpayers who pay their real estate taxes by February 29th, 2024. Real estate taxes are due March 31st, 2024.

The elimination of the discount provided an extra $6 million in revenue in 2021.

Thomas Calls for School Facilities Plan

During the speeches section of the meeting, Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, chair of the Education Committee, decried the School District of Philadelphia’s lack of planning regarding facilities and infrastructure issues.

“Every time we’ve asked for a plan, we’ve been told by the district that they’re focused on academic achievement, and they’re going to let the Academic Achievement Plan dictate the plan around facilities,” Thomas said.

Thomas’ comments come just a day after a Philadelphia school was closed due to asbestos contamination-an issue that was thought to have been remediated in that particular building.

It would cost an estimated $5 billion to resolve all outstanding school district infrastructure issues fully-a staggering sum greater than the entire annual school district budget.

“We’re demanding that the school district of Philadelphia gives us a plan around facilities around capital,” Thomas said. “We’re going to keep doing our due diligence as it relates to legislation, and how we allocate money.”

Legislation Passed by City Council

Resolution No. 230161

Authorizing the Philadelphia Land Bank to execute and deliver to the Philadelphia Housing Authority a deed conveying fee simple title to 800 W. Cumberland Street located in the Fifth Councilmanic District of the City of Philadelphia pursuant to Section 16-706 of The Philadelphia Code. Click here to learn more.

Resolution No. 230169

Authorizing and ratifying Council President Clarke’s appeal, on behalf of and as representative of City Council, of the decision of the Zoning Board of Adjustment with respect to 1451 North Broad Street. Click here to learn more.

Resolution No. 230172

Renaming the 4300 block of Broad Street to “Prince Hall Way” to recognize, honor, and celebrate the life and legacy of Prince Hall. Click here to learn more.

Resolution No. 230115

Proposing an amendment to The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter to establish the Office of the Chief Public Safety Director of the City of Philadelphia; providing for the method of appointment of the Chief Public Safety Director and defining their powers, duties, and areas of responsibility; and providing for the submission of the amendment to the electors of Philadelphia. Click here to learn more.

Bill No. 220941

Approving a new plan, estimated costs and proposed method of charges of the City Avenue Special Services District for and concerning business improvements and administrative services to portions of the City Avenue area of the City of Philadelphia and Township of Lower Merion. Click here to learn more.

Bill No. 220973

To amend the Philadelphia Zoning Maps by changing the zoning designations of certain areas of land located within an area bounded by 17th Street, Indiana Avenue, Broad Street, and Glenwood Avenue. Click here to learn more.

Bill No. 230001

Amending Title 14 of The Philadelphia Code, entitled “Zoning and Planning,” by defining and clarifying certain definitions, all under certain terms and conditions. Click here to learn more.

Bill No. 230006

Amending Chapter 11-200 of The Philadelphia Code, to impose additional conditions on permittees and contractors to repair openings on public streets, under certain terms and conditions. Click here to learn more.

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