Budgets, iffy PHA appointments and 'upskirting' in Council

In a packed Philadelphia City Council session complete with some members visibly itching to get down the shore, lawmakers considered a raft of bills, including crucial 2016-17 budget legislation.

A slew of bills for the 2016-17 budget moved out of committee after hearings yesterday that saw the most controversial aspects – the competing soda and revenue taxes – tabled until next week.

Council also approved new appointments to the boards of the Old City and Germantown Special Services Districts, as well as the Philadelphia Housing Authority, where Frederick S. Purnell, former executive director of the housing authority in Wilmington, Del., was appointed to the board.

Purnell had previously taken flak from his own former board members for his role in allegedly concealing details about the embezzlement of $200,000 in rent money by a WHA employee. His appointment also drew ire from a PHA tenant board member in council today who said the boards had not been given a chance to vote on new members.

Purnell was recently tapped to be the city's Deputy Housing and Community Development Director. Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell said she would look into the tenant board complaint, but praised the credentials of the new board appointments.

She did not return a call for comment as of press time.

Council also unanimously passed a bill that would restrict the use of credit checks on current and prospective employees by employers, an increasingly common practice with disproportionately negative impacts on the poor. The new law classifies the use of credit checks in the hiring process and/or employee reviews as “unlawful discrimination.”

In a completely different vein, Councilwoman Cindy Bass offered a resolution urging Pennsylvania’s General Assembly to increase criminal penalties for offenders caught taking clandestine photographs or videos up women’s dresses or skirts — better known as “upskirting,” to use her description.

Also of note:

- The environmental committee, chaired by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, mulled expansions to the sustainable business tax credits program, as well as a requirement that all new large city building projects install LED lighting. Both passed with favorable recommendations.

- Councilwoman Helen Gym is pushing for hearings on the cumulative impact of 20 years’ worth of federal immigration policies on the “schools-to-prison-to-deportation” pipeline.

- Council called on the state legislature to amend recent medical marijuana bills to allow use of the drug to treat opioid addiction.

- Council will mull a bill to provide incentives for corner stores to offer healthier beverages.

- A string of property bills related to the expansion of Philadelphia International Airport advanced.


This story was updated to reflect that Purnell was recently appointed deputy housing director.