City Hall: City Council Highlights for Jan. 30, 2020

Philadelphia City Council’s stated meeting of Jan. 30, 2020 saw each resolution put forward at the last session of council pass unanimously, while Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson addressed his federal indictment

For Johnson, a third term Democrat representing the Second Councilmanic District, the indictment is the culmination of a five-year investigation into his activities while in office, resulting in charges against both he and his wife, consultant Dawn Chavous, and two others associated with Universal Companies. The charges include racketeering conspiracy and related crimes including bribery, honest services fraud, multiple counts of wire fraud, and tax offenses. 

Johnson said the charges were “distractions” as he thanked his colleagues who had sent encouraging messages. 

“I think it’s unfortunate, just based upon these overreaching circumstances, that I know have put some of my colleagues who are doing great work in a precarious situation,” Johnson said. 

Council President Darrell Clarke said both Johnson and Councilmember Bobby Henon, who is also under federal indictment, were entitled to a presumption of innocence and he would not push to remove them from committee assignments. Currently, Johnson chairs the Transportation and Public Utilities Committee and the Rules Committee. Henon chairs the Public Property and Public Works Committee and the Licenses and Inspections Committee. 

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to indict or cast a guilty verdict on an individual who serves in this body,” Clarke said. “The lineup in terms of committees were assigned based on individuals willingness to serve and their ability to serve.”

New Business

Councilmember Katherine Gilmore-Richardson introduced a resolution celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution which granted women the right to vote. Gilmore-Richardson’s resolution calls for the nickname of the city, currently “The City of Brotherly Love,” to be changed to “The City of Sisterly Love” for the entirety of 2020. 

“Although the resolution is inspired by the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the language does not shy away from acknowledging that the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote in print, but not in practice,” Gilmore-Richardson said. 

Despite the passing of the amendment, Gilmore-Richardson said a vast number of women of color were still fully disenfranchised until the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Councilmember Cherelle Parker introduced a resolution that would put a question on the November ballot potentially eliminating stop and frisk. 

Parker said this was the perfect time to offer voters the opportunity to decide the fate of the controversial practice. 

“While this is a complex issue, with decades of federal and state case law differentiating between constitutional and unconstitutional stops, I believe Philadelphia residents are ready to have a conversation about this subject and collectively share their opinion,” Parker said via press release. 

Biased application of the law only serves to erode community trust, Parker said, which ultimately makes it harder for law enforcement to do their jobs.

According to the release, ending stop and frisk has the support of District Attorney Larry Krasner. 

“As prosecutors, we see the destructive effects of illegal stop and frisk every day, whether it’s when a violent crime goes unsolved because of a lack of community trust in police, when a young person turns away from a career in law enforcement after being humiliated in an illegal stop and frisk,” Krasner said. 

Councilmember Derek Green introduced a resolution authorizing the Committee on Commerce and Economic Development to hold hearings regarding comprehensive, qualitative, and quantitative efforts to improve the ease of doing business in the city of Philadelphia. 

Green said the resolution was a continuation of the work the committee had started last term that focused on making it easier to do business in the city of Philadelphia. 

“I’ve been working with the Chamber of Commerce and a number of the other chambers, such as the African American Chamber, Hispanic Chamber, and the Asian American Chamber, to try and really grow jobs in the city,” Green said.

Green said the most important issue facing the city is poverty, and the best way to address poverty is growing small businesses. However, local entrepreneurs have expressed concern regarding onerous city regulations that can make doing business difficult. 

“We hope to have a robust conversation,” Green said. “[We are looking for] more input from small business owners and others that can come to City Council and tell us about some of their challenges.” 

Old Business

City Council passed seven resolutions, including Clarke’s resolution authorizing Council to retain counsel and file a lawsuit compelling the Commonwealth to enact, or allow municipalities to enact, gun laws. 

Coming Up

The Special Committee on Gun Violence will meet on Thursday, Feb. 20 at 1 p.m. to hear testimony on the effects of gun violence on victims and co-victims, as well as discussing resources of which they can avail themselves. 

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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