Not a jab at Nutter, councilman insists

Posted: September 30, 2012

Rookie Councilman Mark Squilla made a bold proposal last week to change the way the city budget has been handled for the last 61 years.

His idea: Give Council members the authority to shift 10 percent of the money, now doled out by the mayor, as they see fit.

Or, as Squilla described it, Council would be allowed to move money around if members "felt the need to throw a couple million dollars extra" into a given city agency.

Because bestowing that authority on Council would require a change to the 1951 Home Rule Charter, the matter would have to be put to voters, who have been known to display occasional skepticism about Council's financial stewardship.

Mayor Nutter also might not be crazy about the idea.

"I'm sure he'd veto that, but then we'd have the right as Council to override the veto," Squilla said.

This all comes on the heels of Squilla's effort to get more money for parks and recreation centers by adding a $4 surcharge to parking tickets. The administration said the surcharge was illegal, and Nutter vetoed the bill.

Squilla chose not to call for an override vote.

He said he wasn't introducing this latest legislation as a jab back at Nutter's folks. Nonetheless, he seemed a little frustrated with the current system.

"I don't think it's about throwing it back. It's just about working as a team, together," he said. "We get to suggest certain ideas to the administration but there's never really that little give and take." - Troy Graham

System frustrates even elected state officials

Sitting in her wheelchair, snowy tufts of hair peeking out from beneath a tan cap, 99-year-old Alma White put a sympathetic face on the problems faced by people trying to get benefits from the state of Pennsylvania.

White's niece State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, (D., Phila.) wheeled her into a Thursday meeting between state Department of Welfare officials and advocates demanding a replacement for general assistance, a $150 million program Gov. Corbett cut that provided $205 a month to the disabled, victims of domestic violence, and recovering drug addicts.

White did not receive G.A, but until recently she was getting care through a state benefit known as a waiver.

When Deputy DPW Secretary Lourdes Padilla told the former G.A. recipients to call state and county welfare officials to make sure all information was up to date so they might more quickly qualify for Social Security disability, Brown jumped in with a reality check.

The state had abruptly cut off White's benefits, Brown said, because the family missed a paperwork deadline.

Brown said she had called everyone she knew to get care temporarily restored while she gathers the necessary documents, only to spend a lot of time on hold and receive conflicting answers. For now, she is taking her aunt to work with her.

"I am a state representative," she said, "and I can't work through this system." - Miriam Hill

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