Commission on L&I seeking public input via website

Posted: May 20, 2014

Have a complaint about L&I? A new website wants to hear from you.

The Special Independent Advisory Commission, which is studying the way the city Department of Licenses and Inspections does business, seeks information from the public as it prepares a comprehensive report.

Mayor Nutter appointed 17 people to the commission in October at the urging of city treasurer Nancy Winkler, whose daughter Anne Bryan was killed in the Salvation Army thrift shop at 22d and Market Streets on June 5, when the building next door collapsed on it during demolition.

The commission is looking at a broad scope of L&I activities, including structure, management, operations, and policies and procedures.

"The commission is dedicated to developing a set of progressive proposals that will improve public safety for the City of Philadelphia and its citizens well into the future," announces the website, scheduled to go live at noon Monday.

The commission wants to speak to current and former L&I employees as well as contractors, business owners, and developers.

"We want quality," Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison told the commission last week when granting the group more time for its work. Originally due July 1, the report is now to be filed by Sept. 15.

"I'm not looking to put it [the report] on a shelf," Gillison said.

The report would be the third to dissect L&I operations in one year.

After the Market Street collapse, City Council formed its own investigating committee on demolition practices and issued a report in September with 70 recommendations, many of which made their way into legislation.

The administration thought Council's recommendations were worthy of further review and established the commission to determine "what is working well, what is not working well," and propose ways to improve the department, according to the mayor's Oct. 31 executive order establishing the commission.

In February, a grand jury report based on the fatal fire at the former Thomas W. Buck Hosiery factory in Kensington drew a scathing picture of L&I operations and procedures.

"We saw systemic failures at every level of L&I," the report on the York Street fire said. "We believe it is time for a thorough review of the entire department by a truly independent agency."

The report acknowledged the mayor had appointed an advisory panel but asked that a broader review be done "by a group of outside professionals and experts."

The current commission - led by Glenn P. Corbett, associate professor of fire science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice; and Peter Vaira, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania - is made up of people from inside and outside government. They include labor leaders, construction executives, and, in a nonvoting capacity, Streets Commissioner David Perri and John Elfrey, director of operations for the mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities.

The commission did not begin full efforts until January, said its chief of staff, Ned Dunham. "It held up on launching the website to ensure it had sufficient context about L&I operations to be able to respond appropriately to questions from the general public," Dunham said.

The commission's website is:

www.phila.gov/specialadvisory


cvargas@phillynews.com

215-854-5520

@InqCVargas

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