City Hall: Council Week In Review for Sept. 30 – Oct. 4, 2019

Three committees of City Council approved legislation that will be heard at future general council sessions.

Streets Services Committee

The Streets Services Committee approved 19 bills to be heard at the next general session of City Council. Many of the bills dealt with parking ordinances in individual neighborhoods or individual streets, vendors and street paving.

Environmental Committee

The Environmental Committee met and approved three bills, including 190600, which would require owners of certain large buildings conduct tune-ups of energy and water systems.

Lindsey Walaski, project engineer with Practical Energy Solutions, said that the tune-up process evaluates existing equipment and control systems. Keeping upfront costs low and generating revenue returns in less than two years.

“Based on our experiences, there are always opportunities to save energy in a building, regardless of the building’s age, type of control system, and maintenance demands,” Walaski said.

Walaski said that by 2050, two-thirds of the buildings in Philadelphia will be comprised of buildings that already exist.

“This legislation will capture a substantial portion of the building stock in Philadelphia and align with the city’s carbon reduction goal of 80% by 2050.”

The committee also heard testimony and approved bill 190636, which would revise the standards and permissible grades and sulfur content of commercial fuel oil.

Joseph Minott, the executive director and chief counsel for the Clean Air Council, said this was exactly the type of policy needed throughout all sectors of the economy so that the use of all fossil fuels can be rapidly phased out.

“Given the lack of leadership addressing environmental health issues at the national level, it is up to state and local governments to take the action needed to protect the public from the environmental health impact from air pollution,” Minott said.

The Environmental Committee also passed bill 190703, which would allow for members of the Environmental Justice Advisory Committee, which will begin meeting in 2020, to be compensated $40 per meeting, up to $240 per year.

Public Property and Public Works

The Public Property and Public Works committee approved a major change to the way city-owned vacant property is sold, eliminating the Vacant Property Review Committee (VPRC), which is composed of city officials and City Council staffers, and delegating the process to the individual land-holding agencies such as the Department of Public Property and the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority.

Bill 190606 would establish uniform procedures for approving applications for the sale of city-owned land, and would streamline and accelerate the process. But lingering questions remaining

Councilmemeber Maria Quinones-Sanchez said the reform process had moved a long way and that, conceptually, all the major agreements had been reached.

“Like any piece of legislation, (it depends on) how the administration operationalizes it because they have a lot of discretion around these issues,” Quinones-Sanchez said. “But I think we’re very clear that we need the strategic plan.”

Quinones-Sanchez said the bill helps ensure people are notified of their application status on a timely basis and outlines mandatory deed restrictions to revert titles when problems arise.

“We need to make sure that we’re not overthinking this, we can be targeted and transparent; they are not conflicting terms,” Quinones-Sanchez said. “That’s what we’re trying to get here.”

Lawrence McGlynn is a recent graduate of Temple University’s Klein College of Media and Communication where he earned a Master’s in Journalism. For the next several months he will be reporting out of City Hall on various council and committee meetings, the city’s budget, and how these impact the daily lives of Philadelphians.

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