City Council passes bill banning cash gifts

Posted: March 22, 2014

PHILADELPHIA City Council passed an ordinance Thursday that bars city officers and employees from receiving cash from anyone seeking business or official action, while allowing receipt of non-monetary gifts worth up to $99 per donor per year.

The vote was unanimous. The bill amends the existing gifts ordinance with language that is easier to enforce, and some say stricter, than is on the books now. Mayor Nutter is expected to sign the bill into law.

The city code now prohibits gifts of "substantial economic value," but leaves the term undefined.

Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco, one of the bill's lead sponsors, said after the vote that the new rules were drafted so "people are clear on what they can take and accept from someone."

"If I want to give [to] my trash guys, there's a limit," Tasco said. "But no one is giving out $99; they probably give candy or something to say thank you."

Passage of the cash ban comes amid swirling controversy over The Inquirer's report that several state legislators from the city were tape-recorded accepting cash from a lobbyist in a sting investigation the state Attorney General's Office later shut down. No mention of that controversy was made as Council voted.

For the last six months, the city Board of Ethics, which endorsed the bill, had been debating gift regulations. It had settled on a $50 limit for non-cash gifts but put its plans on hold once Council drafted its own bill - albeit with a higher limit. The board's executive director, Shane Creamer, said the board and its staff would start working on new regulations once Nutter signs the bill.

In other Council action Thursday:

Members passed two of the five bills necessary to approve construction of the new Comcast tower, which would be the tallest building in the city.

They also approved a zoning bill to clear the way for construction of a 47-story hotel and condominium tower at Broad and Spruce Streets, a project led by local developer Carl Dranoff.

The Finance Committee gave preliminary approval to a bill authorizing the borrowing of $250 million to convert the historic Provident Mutual Life Insurance Co. building at 46th and Market Streets into a modern police headquarters.

Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. introduced a bill to raise many parking-meter fees from 50 cents to $1 an hour. Rates would rise from $2 to $2.50 in University City and some neighborhoods near Center City. The hourly rate in the core of Center City would remain $3.

Jones said the goal was to raise $1 million for the schools. "We're looking for quarters in the couch to fund books and buses, so we need to do something other than raise people's taxes," he said.

Members also passed a resolution to change the name of North Third Street between Market and Girard Avenue, where a number of high-tech companies have congregated in recent years. The new name would be "N3RD Street."

Nerd Street. Get it?

The sponsor, Councilman Mark Squilla, is hardly poking fun at the 30 or more tech ventures along the corridor. Rather, the change would mark the official recognition of a nickname - and a brand - that grew up organically among the companies there.


tgraham@phillynews.com

215-854-2730

@troyjgraham

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