What's moving & not moving in Council

Posted: November 22, 2013

TO PLOW THROUGH its preholiday deluge of bills, City Council in recent weeks has turned to using consent agendas.

That's when members agree to vote on many bills at the same time and approve them all unanimously.

The People Paper admires this efficiency, so here's our one-shot roundup of what our lawmakers are up to these days:

Land bank still frozen

Council was delayed for more than an hour yesterday as Council President Darrell Clarke and Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez met behind closed doors.

They were hashing out a dispute over Sanchez's bill to create a land bank, which would centralize sales of city properties into one agency. (That task is now run by a slew of entities and is criticized for red tape.)

It's unclear what happened in the meeting - both officials were diplomatic and unspecific afterward - but it's clear what didn't happen: an agreement.

Sanchez was expected to offer a compromise regarding the Vacant Property Review Committee (VPRC), which the original bill had disbanded. In committee, Clarke fought to preserve the VPRC, which critics say is exactly the kind of bureaucracy a land bank should cut through.

Sanchez offered no amendments yesterday and held the bill.

So will Philadelphia get a land bank for Christmas this year, as was hoped? Sanchez said she and Clarke agreed to get it done in December.

It'll be too late for her to unwrap it on her birthday. The councilwoman turned 45 yesterday.

Demolition bill moves

The Committee of the Whole approved the fifth and final bill from Council's special panel to revamp demolition standards following the deadly Market Street building collapse in June.

The ordinance seeks to increase work site safety standards and add new enforcement and inspection powers for the Fire Department at construction and demolition sites.

Proponents of the bill, sponsored by Councilman Jim Kenney, say it will close loopholes that allow unscrupulous contractors to skirt existing labor laws. The most controversial provision of the bill requires workers to carry photo IDs as evidence that they have completed a minimum of 10 hours of Occupational Safety and Health Association training.

"We've tried to keep L&I out of any additional work. The training entities, whoever they are, will issue the [ID] card," Kenney said.

Sanchez had opposed the photo ID, saying it would be unfair for undocumented workers. She was not present for the final committee vote.

3-D-gun printing banned

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson's bill to ban individuals from using 3-D printers to make guns passed unanimously.

It's unclear what the impact will be because gun manufacturers are not banned from using the technology and people who are not licensed manufacturers are already prohibited from making guns.

But the bill at least gets Philly ahead of the curve on an emerging issue. A representative of the Philadelphia Police Department said in a hearing that this could be the first municipal bill of its kind in the country.

Zoning hurdle for new medical offices in NE

One item that was not on the consent agenda was Councilmen Brian O'Neill and Bobby Henon's measure to require new medical and dental offices in most of Northeast Philly to get a zoning variance before opening.

Critics say it's a thinly veiled attempt to stop methadone clinics from popping up in their districts. Henon and O'Neill say it's a way to let the community have a voice in development.

The associations for Philly doctors and dentists testified against the bill in committee.

It was pulled off the consent agenda, presumably to give members the chance to dissent on a potentially controversial topic. But it passed unanimously anyway.

Twitter: @SeanWalshDN

Blog: ph.ly/PhillyClout

comments powered by Disqus