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The year in review: Philadelphia City Council

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It’s that time of year again when people look towards the members of City Council to see how well they performed in 2013. Maybe not so much perform as they perform every day with reckless abandonment, but help the city progress.

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The residents aren’t hoping for much because they never get it. Still they would have liked to see something good that City Council did even if it was by accident. Beneath every issue there will be a score as to well how good or how bad they did. Perhaps the members of council might want to skip their scores.

• Before the ink was even dry on the agreement to sell the vacant schools or the land bank bill members of City Council were jockeying for control of who these properties were sold to. It's not even just about the schools, but the land bank that will sell off other vacant residential homes. Through the agreement the members of council can put a hold on any sale for any reason they deem necessary. They can also sell a building to a certain developer with whom they can get compensation or gifts from down the line.

In fact a couple of council members are already doing this. Council President Darrell Clarke has retained 46 city properties, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell has possession on 43 and Freshman Councilman Mark Squilla has 11. Blackwell will probably make out like a fat rat because half the buildings that are now up for sale are in her district. So this isn’t as much about getting additional funding for the schools, but getting additional power over the city.

Blackwell even admits that the money collected probably won't help the poor and won't help the unemployed find jobs. Although it will help neighborhoods, but that help will come after council members cash in.
Score: -7

• After years of ignoring that there was a problem and as they watched absentee homeowners rack up $522 million in unpaid real estate taxes while contributing to the ongoing problem of blight in the city with 40,000 residential properties sitting empty in various neighborhoods it was refreshing to see City Council finally take an active interest. Just think it only took them eight years to do something either that or they kept asking for extensions of one or more years.

They finally passed a bill that will move the city closer to selling off these properties. So why did it take you so long? Perhaps the City Council members who have been around for the last eight years should answer that question. Darrell Clarke, Jannie Blackwell, Bill Greenlee, Kenyatta Johnson, Marian Tasco, W. Wilson Good, Jr., James Kenney, Blondell Reynolds Jones. Anyone want to go first? No. Didn’t think so. That’s okay, but perhaps you’ll want to start practicing your reasons for letting blight destroy neighborhoods once it’s time to be re-elected.
Score: -3

• This year you passed the Philadelphia Advertising on School Property bill which will permit companies to put advertisements on school buildings although there will be conditions as to what type of advertisement. It may come as a big shocker to City Council that despite their attempts to keep a foot on the city’s jugular this is a good thing because you understand that Philadelphia has to come up with their own money; that the government is not going to help you.

Other cities like Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Houston, New York and San Diego have been doing this. They’ve been able to make millions of dollars that helped their schools tremendously.

Sure the usual moaners and complainers (i.e. community groups) are against it. Just ignore them. These groups live in a fantasy land if they think that by staying the same course that led the school district down the path where they’re at now things will improve. They don’t offer any real solutions. They just scream and carry on about how the kids are suffering. Hopefully this bill will have the students suffering less. Oh, and City Council members better make sure that the school district gets the first slice of the pie.
Score: +8

• Right before City Council skipped off to have a Merry Christmas they decided to give some of their buddies the best gift ever. They approved a bunch of tax breaks for a $280 million 50-story hotel tower that will be built at 15 and Chestnut Streets. The tax breaks are about $33 million.

The titan of tax breaks Council President Darrell Clarke explained it to the dimwitted tax payers of Philadelphia. He said that these tax breaks were necessary in order for developer Brook Lenfest to move forward and build the monstrosity.

As usual Mr. Clarke you are so wrong. It’s unfair to give tax breaks to multi-million dollar companies as well as the rich who can well afford to pay taxes. It’s also unfair that you continue to squeeze the financial life out of Philadelphia residents. No need to be concerned though. These dim-witted taxpayers will most certainly remember your efforts when the time comes for you to run as mayor.

You also claim that if these tax breaks aren’t offered to big businesses as opposed to small businesses paying their fair share these companies would go somewhere else. Perhaps you should consider the idea that every year more people are leaving Philadelphia for good; they are going somewhere else. If you don’t do right by the residents by the time you become mayor Philly will become like Camden and then where will you get the money for any taxes let alone money for tax breaks?
Score: -15

• Finally City Council members you need to stop being the bullies on the playground by barring Mayor Nutter from presenting bills for consideration. Stop thinking about yourselves and those few privileged constituents. Start thinking about the entire city. Despite what you may believe your time as council members can be shorten come election time.

To the new City Council members when you were voted in there was an excitement in the air because there was hope that a change would occur in City Council chambers. Sad to say that the air has gotten a real stale, stench to it.

Stop this ongoing bickering between council members and Mayor Nutter. Act your ages and show the residents that they didn’t make a mistake when they got you elected or re-elected. Please stop embarrassing yourselves and this city.

Score: -6

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