Shortly after delivering his Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Address to City Council, Mayor Michael Nutter stopped by The Philadelphia Tribune offices and elaborated on many of the particulars included in his speech — chief among them the administration’s intention to sell the Philadelphia Gas Works.
“We have an asset that is PGW. I have taken the position that it is not a core service of the city government. We are the largest city in the United States of America that owns a gas line. Everyone else didn’t have one or either sold one and it is now in private hands. It’s would be as if the city thought, ‘well, maybe we should be in the electric business,’ and bought PECO,” Nutter said, adding that there were nearly three dozen bidders for PGW, and the preferred winner, UIL Holdings agreed to the city’s demands regarding programs for low-income customers, a guaranteed number of jobs and a rate freeze of three years, among other conditions. “The purpose of trying to sell a gas company is the tremendous financial risk, even though they are doing well. [In the ‘90s], PGW was on the verge of bankruptcy, [the city] lent PGW $45 million that we didn’t have, no one thought they would ever pay it back … in the meantime, the marketplace is saying there’s a strategic partner that we can align with that has value.
“ PGW can’t do a few things under municipal ownership. One, PGW can only operate in the boundary of the city of Philadelphia; a privately owned company is not constrained in that way. Two, a privately owned company has more access to more capital for investment than PGW does, and three, [PGW] under no set circumstances will be able to truly expand and exploit on the issue of Shale gas and its export in a variety of places. It’s not what they do, it’s not what they are set up for; it’s just not [PGW’s] line of business,” Nutter said. “And UIL, just like PGW today and just like PECO today, are still subject to jurisdiction and oversight by the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission, so this other issue that ‘well, after three years, they’ll suddenly jack the rates up,’ they can’t do it.
“By the way, in three of the last four years, PGW has sought rate increases and gotten them approved by the PUC under the current ownership,” Nutter said. “So let’s not act like under municipal ownership, rates never go up … Philadelphians are paying the highest gas rates certainly in our market and possibly in the nation. In a private ownership situation, they can spread their costs over all their other businesses and sectors, and keep the rates down.”
Nutter also voiced frustration at the slow pace of negotiations with District Council 33, the city’s blue collar union, noting that if the union had agreed to the city’s “last and best” offer, its members would have pocketed thousands of dollars via raises and seniority step increases.
Instead, the city and DC 33 are engaged in a sort of two-step, but Nutter is tiring of the dance.
“The part that is distressing to me is that DC 33 folks are now the only people who have not gotten a raise in our entire time. Everyone else has gotten one. They haven’t gotten one since July 1 2007, six months before I came into office. They got an $1,100 bonus in the summer of 2008 for the one-year contract, which expired in June 2009,” Nutter said, noting that his administration and DC 33 leadership still talk, but the union has yet to present to the city a written counter proposal. “They are running out of money. And their members have now forgone thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars.”
City Council President Darrell Clarke — who said he wouldn’t entertain the chaotic scene which transpired last year as Mayor Michael Nutter delivered his budget address — ensured that Nutter would have an unfettered platform to deliver the fiscal year 2015 Budget Address on Thursday.
With beefed up security — including uniformed and plainclothes officers who roamed several floors of City Hall, and particularly on the fourth floor where Nutter delivered his address — it was clear that neither Clarke, Nutter or City Hall security personnel wanted a replay of the embarrassing scene from last year, where catcalls from union supporters drowned out Nutter, forcing the mayor to deliver that address in another room.
Council expedited its usual business by holding all bills until next Thursday’s session, promptly clearing the podium for Nutter’s address.
The security and Clarke’s leadership helped produce a tranquil chamber for Nutter’s address, even as hundreds of District Council 33 members protested outside on City Hall grounds.
“Today, my proposed FY 15 budget builds on our collective track record of fiscal responsibility and strategic investment. It includes investments that support Philadelphia as we continue on the path to prosperity. It makes targeted investments for our children and adult citizens, in our neighborhoods and in public safety. This budget continues the incremental wage tax reductions that we restarted last year to bolster economic growth,” Nutter said. “This budget proposes no tax increased for the city’s General Fund.”
Nutter noted that on the whole, tax revenue is down $41 million, or 1.5 percent below predictions, due to the expiration of the one percent sales tax and other reforms to the Business Income and Receipts Tax.
Nutter’s budget has several spending proposals, including $2 million for the Office of Fleet Management to replace aged vehicles in the police department and other operating departments; $10 million for the Office of Fleet Management to purchase large vehicles such as medic units, pumpers and compactors; $2 million for the Department of Licenses and Inspections to hire 31 additional inspectors and supportive staff to strengthen demolition controls to ensure safe public and private demolitions; $3.3 million for Office of Innovation and Technology to fund costs associated with significant technology upgrades occurring at the city and to fund the one-time $1.5 million Data Center upgrade; $1.9 million for the Office of Property Assessment to fully maintain the property assessment function; $1 million to the Office of Supportive Housing to compensate for federal sequestration cuts; $1.2 million to the Sheriff’s Office to hire additional Deputy Sheriffs for new Family Court Building; $500,000 for Community College of Philadelphia to help offset tuition increases; $500,000 to Parks and Recreation to fund expanded programs at recreation centers; $500,000 to the newly created Land Bank for one-time startup costs and $500,000 to the Mann Music Center to fund continued operations.
Neighborhood-centric spending proposals include $15 million for Departments of Parks and Recreation to fund improvements to facilities across the city; $16 million for the Streets Department to pave neighborhood streets throughout the city; $7 million for Fire and Police station improvements as well as for the completion of the former Woodhaven U.S. Army facility for police use; $5 million for improvements to neighborhood commercial centers; $2.5 million for a concourse extension linking existing underground markets in Suburban Station to the new Comcast Tower and $2 million for improvements to several library facilities.
Nutter touched on several core issues during his budget address, including education, the sale of PGW, and the continued contract negotiations with DC 33, the city’s blue collar labor union.
Before getting into the nuances of his budget — and after thanking a litany of city workers — Nutter reflected on his six years as mayor.
“Working together, this City Council and our administration achieved a great deal. We’re attracting new business, creating jobs [and] we’re safer, greener and growing in our population and economy,” Nutter said in opening his address. “In just the last two years, working together, we transformed the city skyline with more than $7.5 billion worth of recently announced, under construction or completed projects, including Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, a new $1.2 billion development project we announced last month.”
On education, Nutter noted that high school graduation and college attainment rates have risen since 2007, but repeated his contention that the School District of Philadelphia has a “structural funding deficit.”
“Our administration and City Council have time and time again shown leadership, increasing annual, recurring education funding by $155 million over the last three years. Despite increased funding from the city and making tough decisions to reduce costs and implement savings, the School District is operating under a significantly constrained budget because it did not receive the full funding it needed for its current budget,” Nutter said, adding that the district recently requested $320 million in additional recurring funding — $120 million of which would be generated by the extension of the one percent sales tax, a tax currently being debated in council. “Because we’re required to budget revenues consistent with existing law for measures that have already been enacted, our budget assumes that the District will receive that $120 million. But, and I have been consistent on this issue, we are in agreement that a 50/50 split of the one percent sales tax extension, coupled with the implementation of the cigarette tax, is vitally important for the financial stability of the School District and the fiscal health of our City Pension Fund. And I will continue to advocate for change on the sales tax extension legislation in Harrisburg.”
Nutter also intimated that he would work to secure the $320 million in funding requested by District Superintendent Dr. William Hite for Action Plan 2.0.
Nutter also apologized for closing libraries due to the recession of 2008, but vowed to include an additional $2.3 million in fiscal year 2015 funding to bring branch libraries up to full operation six days a week. Nutter’s budget also includes an additional $500,000 to help offset rising tuition at Community College of Philadelphia, and another $500,000 for Department of Parks and Recreation-sponsored programming.
Regarding PGW, Nutter announced earlier this week that the administration has agreed to sell PGW to UIL Holdings, and during his budget address said the sale of PGW would lead to “incredible business growth” and job generation.
“The proposed sale would freeze gas rates for three years. That means no rate hike for three years and any new owner cannot raise rates without the approval of the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission, just like PGW now,” Nutter said. “The sale of PGW could go a long way to rejuvenate our severely underfunded Pension Fund. The $1.86 billion agreement with UIL Holdings could infuse between $420 million and $630 million into the Fund.”
Nutter also addressed the elephant in the room — the administration’s dragged-out contract negotiations with DC 33. As DC 33 members chanted and shouted outside — well out of earshot of Nutter, Council members and gathered city officials — Nutter that he “wanted to give DC 33 a contract,” and that Nutter set aside money in the General Fund in fiscal year 2015 for contract settlements.
“I have said many times that I want contracts with all our municipal unions, and I know City Council feels the same way, but the agreements in my view have to be fair both to the financial interests of our citizens and our public servants,” Nutter said, while referencing the Wednesday ratification vote cast by DC 47 members to accept their recently-negotiated contract with the city, which will add $122 million in costs to the administration’s Five Year Plan. “That remains my goal as we continue negotiations with District Council Union 33, which unfortunately is now the only group of public employees that doesn’t have a contract that provides raises for workers. We are also concluding the arbitration process with the Firefighters Union, whose members received raises last year, and entering the arbitration process with members of the FOP who received multiple raises in their five-year contract … therefore, we are setting aside some of our fund balance for future labor contract agreements, as we did in our FY 14 budget.
“We are committing more than $44.3 million for potential obligations with DC 33, Local 22 of the Firefighters Union, Lodge 5 of the Police union and non-represented employees for the new DC 47 contract in the FY 15 budget,” Nutter said. “Over the span of the Five Year Plan, we are reserving more than $375.5 million for contract costs, including the full cost of the contract with DC 547.”
Businessman and former state revenue secretary Tom Wolf has emerged as the front runner in this spring’s gubernatorial Democratic primary.
According to Wolf, the reasons for his lead go deeper than the $10 million in personal money he has already sunk into the race. Simply, what has driven Wolf to enter the race and invest so much personal capital is Wolf’s belief that “Pennsylvania can do more” and perform better.
“I’m a lifelong Pennsylvanian who grew up in a small town in south-central Pennsylvania, and I am a Pennsylvania fan. I think we can do so much better than what we’ve been doing,” Wolf said during a Tribune editorial board meeting, adding that he has been active in his community and with other service-providing agencies. “[Former Governor] Ed Rendell made me Secretary of Revenue in 2006, and I did it the same way I did the Peace Corps. I enjoyed public service and thought that was the right thing to do.
“And I was enthralled by what I saw. I loved doing things in the community,” Wolf continued. “So I decided to run for governor five years ago because I wanted to do something different for the state.”
Wolf said what separates him from a crowded Democratic primary field is his combination of business prowess and political acumen. In the five years that have lapsed since he decided to run and this year’s elections, Wolf has created the expansive and thoroughly detailed “Fresh Start” platform, which has four parts: job creation, enhanced education, attention to the state’s infrastructure and government reform.
Wolf’ outlines his plan to spur economic growth – and thus create jobs – by creating a Smart Growth and State Planning Office for all projects that receive state funding; creating fund revitalization projects; adopting a “Fix it First” approach that will better utilize the state’s existing infrastructure; implementing a blueprints grant program; providing technical assistance to older communities, in order for those communities to update their civic codes; encouraging “innovative and creative” land use; creating a technical assistance academy for governmental and non-profit leaders, and, lastly, refocusing on building mixed income, mixed-use communities.
Wolf, who once sold the family business only to repurchase it sometime later and turn it into one of the foremost cabinet-making and distributing companies in the country, believes that his business experience will go a long way with voters this spring.
“I would say I have better [business management] experience than anybody. Now, there’s nobody in this race on the primary side who have been governor of anything, but I’ve been a CEO, and I’ve managed things before. I know it would be hard to get a state House member or state Senator to go along with some changes, but imagine how hard it was for me at 19 years old to get Indian farmers in a remote village to go from their centuries-old way of cultivating to this new thing? That was hard,” Wolf said. “I think if I can convince a lot of people in the academic field that my ideas make sense, I think I can convince some people in Harrisburg.”
While Wolf presents a polished and accomplished platform and campaign, it wasn’t without its share of controversies. Recent media reports that Wolf at one time backed former York Mayor Charles Robertson, who in 1969 was arrested and charged in connection to a racially-motivated attack that left a young African-American woman named Lillie Belle Allen dead, have been troubling. Roberson was accused of providing the ammunition for the York Race Riots and yelling racial epithets.
Robertson was acquitted in 2002.
Wolf attempted to distance himself from his allegiance to an admitted racist.
“I was president of an organization called Better York for 12 years, which was a civil organization. I was in my eighth or ninth year when the Lillie Belle Allen case came up and [at the same time] Roberson was running for his third term. Before any of that came up, a friend of his came to me and asked if I would serve as chair of his campaign, and I said yes,” Wolf explained, adding that he believed then and still does now that the Roberson administration has done a lot of work civically for York, including fostering a sense of inclusion and diversity. “Robertson won the primary, and was then formally charged after he won the primary, and Robertson withdrew from the race and the campaign was over.
“But I look at my record in York, and I was trying to bring the community together, to work toward racial justice, and to actually figure out why it was one of the most racially-segregated cities in Pennsylvania,” Wolf continued. “My record, I think, is really good on this.”
Wolf most likely will face attacks for sinking so much of his personal wealth into this election, and will have to fend off accusations of a bought win, should he emerge victorious from the primary.
Wolf contends that he is playing by the rules in using his own wealth, but concedes that, once elected governor, he will look to for ways to reform campaign finance. For now though, Wolf believes his wealth can counteract his relative lack of name recognition.
“I’m the ‘ten-million-dollar man’ and I know this will sound hypocritical, but we ought to have campaign finance reform. I’m playing by the rules as they are now, but I recognize as well as anybody that we can do better,” Wolf said, admitting that the criticism he has received on that front is valid. “Constitutionally, [candidates] are limited as to what you can do with your own money. By the way, there are other things most rational people would have done with $10 million. But if you look at my proposals for campaign finance reform, you’ll see that I’m looking for caps, a public match and [efforts] to level the playing field.
“I can’t do anything constitutionally about taking my own money and say ‘I can spend it on this if I want to,’ but I can help other people get to a point where someone who isn’t known and who hasn’t been in public office for 20 years actually has some wherewithal to compete,” Wolf continued. “I recognize the system is not optimally democratic, but I’m playing by the rules of the game right now, and this is all I got because no one knows who I am, I don’t have a record and no name recognition before these ads started running.”
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court this week released two new rulings relating to people with disabilities and court proceedings. One prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in accessing or participating in judicial proceedings or activites. The other requires all courts to publish grievance procedures addressing any disability-related accommodation requests that are denied.
The new rules — which cover provisions for court interpreters for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing — apply to all courts throughout Pennsylvania, and went INTO effect the moment issued.
According to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, the new rules, officially referred to as Rules of Judicial Administration Nos. 250 and 252, will “direct all entities to formalize their ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) policies, forms and procedures” thereby ensuring ensure uniformity of statewide policy and practices.
Both rules buttress Rule 251, which notes “rules shall apply to each UJS entity which includes, but is not limited to, all appellate courts, judicial districts, boards, committees and agencies” under the administrative authority of the Supreme Court.
Rule 250 prohibits “discrimination against any individual with a disability, as defined by the ADA, in accessing or participating in judicial proceedings or other services, programs, or activities of the Unified Judicial System.”
Meanwhile, a portion of Rule 252 reads, each court entity “shall adopt and publish a grievance procedure, substantially similar to the procedure appended to this rule, for requests that have been denied in whole or in part. Any denial of an accommodation request based upon undue burden or fundamental alteration to services and programs shall be put in writing by the head of the entity or his or her designee and shall provide specific reasons for the denial.”
Even before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced the new rules, it already had a fairly robust policy – one that encouraged disabled Pennsylvanians to seek out and take advantage of the array of free accommodations.
“Pennsylvania’s judiciary has always been committed to all aspects of access to justice, including a commitment to the ADA, making sure that every citizen has equal access to courtrooms and related facilities,” said Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille. “These rules will help to ensure our courts’ policies are consistent with all ADA requirements.”
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act currently reads “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.”
“Pursuant to that requirement, if you are an individual with a disability who needs an accommodation in order to participate in any judicial proceeding or any other service, program, or activity of the UJS, you are entitled, at no cost to you, to the provision of certain assistance,” Pennsylvania’s ADA Act II policy states. “The ADA does not require the [UJS entities] to take any action that would fundamentally alter the nature of its programs or services, or impose an undue financial or administrative burden.”
The ruling on 251 requires each court entity to “develop a written policy to receive and process requests for reasonable accommodations from individuals with disabilities. The policy shall be posted on each UJS entity’s respective website and in each facility.” Court entities must include “appointment of an ADA coordinator, [who] must be identified on all court or program materials and the following information shall be provided, the coordinator’s name, work address, work fax number or e-mail address and work telephone number.”
Other required elements inlcude notice of the right to request free accommodations, a proper explanation of the process for making the request and a timeline for request and response.
“If you require an accommodation under the ADA, it is recommended that you make your request as soon as possible or at least three business days before your scheduled participation in any court proceeding or UJS program or activity,” the policy stated. “All requests for accommodation, regardless of timeliness, will be given due consideration and if necessary, may require an interactive process between the requestor and the [UJS entity] to determine the best course of action.”
It stated, “Each UJS entity shall adopt and publish a grievance procedure, substantially similar to the procedure appended to this rule, for requests that have been denied in whole or in part,” read a portion of Rule 252. “Any denial of an accommodation request based upon undue burden or fundamental alteration to services and programs shall be put in writing by the head of the entity or his or her designee and shall provide specific reasons for the denial.”
Support is rising for Pennsylvania’s network of volunteer firefighter and EMS companies. In February, the federal government granted to Pennsylvania’s volunteer firefighters and EMS companies exemption status from the Affordable Care Act’s business-provision mandate, and last week, State Rep. Steve Barrar, R-Chester/Delaware, convened a pair of hearings on the feasibility of the state funding the recruiting and training of future volunteers.
Those hearings focused on House Resolution 315 of 2012 — with authorized the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee and the Joint State Government Commission to analyze the current volunteer system and provide a report to the General Assembly — and House Bill 2001, which would reimburse volunteer units for nontransit services related to emergency calls.
In terms of recruitment, Barrar, chair of the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, said the state owes it to its citizens to support the volunteers.
One of the greatest challenges facing Pennsylvania’s emergency services system is its ability to recruit and retain volunteers. These volunteers are critical to public health and safety — particularly in rural areas. We need to identify ways to build our volunteer force and maintain it,” Barrar said. “These men and women sign up to be firefighters and EMS responders, not to spend the majority of their time fundraising. “If we can find more ways to fund emergency services, we will have an easier time recruiting and retaining volunteers. Today, we also learned that training requirements, although not mandated by the state, are at times burdensome. Various incentives were discussed, such as college tuition, tax credits for emergency responders, and tax credits for employers who permit employees, who serve as emergency responders, to take paid leave to attend an emergency.”
According to Barrar, HB 2001 would help volunteer EMS companies recoup resources lost during an emergency call that doesn’t result in transportation to a nearby hospital.
I am sponsoring HB 2001, which would require managed care plans to pay all reasonable costs for medically necessary emergency care provided by EMS units, even if the patient is not transported to a hospital,” Barrar said. “Too many times EMS providers show up at an accident or other emergency and administer treatment, but are not reimbursed. No other sector of the health care industry operates in this manner.”
The Barrar-led committee heard last Wednesday the report from the HR 315-related report, which Barrar said the deficiencies facing the state’s EMS units have their roots in a dearth of finding.
“It was clear from the hearing that we need to take another look at how we fund EMS and to determine what efficiencies may be necessary,” said Barrar. “The report presented today shows a decline in the EMS portion of funding collected from traffic fines, and fees paid for participation in the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program for drivers charged with driving under the influence. EMS providers contend the money is not being collected in a timely manner, services are not being adequately reimbursed and some are not being reimbursed at all.”
Bicameral approach to energy
Both House Republicans and Senate Democrats are looking at energy providers, the services they provide and the revenues these companies are collecting. In the lower chamber, State Rep. Robert Godshall, R-Montgomery, held a hearing last Tuesday at the State Capital on Act 2008, a wide-ranging piece of legislation that required the state’s seven largest utilities develop efficiency and conservations plans, especially for implementation during high-peak times.
“While this legislation has made our electric utilities operate more efficiently and provided consumers with a greater awareness about energy conservation and reduced emissions, there are some aspects of the law that need to be revisited,” said Godshall, noting that officials with PECO, Duquesne Light, First Energy and PPL “This hearing brought together various stakeholders to offer their insight on the impact of this legislation on their operations and their ability to provide consumers reliable, cost-effective electric power now and into the future.” Godshall, who will convene the next hearing on the issue on March 20 in the Majority Caucus Room, 140 main Capitol at 9:30 a.m., said he was concerned about the penalties incurred for companies that couldn’t meet all the requirements of Act 129, most notably the smaller companies which Barrar believes would be forced to close. Of note, however, is that funds collected due to Act 129 would be passed on to consumers by way of a lighter bill.
In the upper house, State Sen. Rob Teplitz, D-15th, is pushing for wider acceptance of the benefits of that came with the 1996 deregulation of the electricity market, which allowed consumers the choice of electricity providers. Teplitz’ office last week held in Harrisburg held an Electric Choice Public Forum, which further educated consumers about electric choice. And while not coming outright and saying it, Teplitz’ seems to favor Senate Bill 1121, which would eliminate the default service — with customers of the default service being auctioned off to an existing service provider. The receiving company would then have to pay the state $100 for every new customer it receives, and $50 to the new customer.
State Sen. Bob Mensch, R-24th, introduced SB 1121 in 2013, and the bill is now making its way through the legislature.
Antibullying bill enjoys bipartisan backing
Anti-bullying champion City Councilman James Kenney — who fought for the public school broadcasting to the documentary “Bully” — would be proud. In a truly monumental moment when political gridlock is tying up things in Harrisburg much as it is in Washington, 100 State Representatives — 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans — have signed on as cosponsors of the Pennsylvania Safe Schools Act, sponsored by State Rep. Dan Truitt, R-Chester.
The PASS Act — House Bill 156 — amends the Public School Code and calls for increased “certification of teachers, further providing for program of continuing professional education; and, in safe schools, further providing for definitions, for reporting and for policy relating to bullying and providing for powers and duties of Department of Education.”
“I am very pleased to see lawmakers from both sides of the aisle coming together to protect children and curb violence in our schools. Having an equal number of Republicans and Democrats willing to sponsor the same bill is extraordinary, especially when we’re talking about 100 members of the House. This is very encouraging,” Truitt said. “This bill is very important. Bullying not only causes very real, lasting physical and emotional trauma to its victims, but it also is one of the primary reasons behind incidents of gun violence in schools … this is one effective step we can take to enhance school safety and prevent gun and other types of violence in the classroom.”
Truitt now hopes the House Education Committee will either advance the bill to the full House or refer it to the Children and Youth Committee.
Planned Parenthood PA endorses Schwartz
Planned Parenthood PA, intending to be very active in this year’s gubernatorial race, recently established the Women Are Watching campaign to “educate voter’s about candidates’ positions” on women’s health. “As we see an unprecedented level of attacks on women’s health across the country and here in Pennsylvania, support for access to affordable birth control, Planned Parenthood’s preventative health care services, and access to safe and legal abortion have become a litmus test for many people when deciding who to vote for,” said PPPA Executive Director Sari Stevens. “We know that women’s health is a winning issue. That’s why we’ve launched Women are Watching, to give women a place to share their energy and important information regarding what’s at stake in the upcoming election. Our message to candidates that demean and dismiss women is clear: do so at your own peril.”
PPPA endorsed U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Phila., as its pick to win the Democratic Primary and challenge Gov. Tom Corbett in the fall. PPPA’s endorsement comes as Schwartz is losing ground to unlikely frontrunner businessman and former Pennsylvania Treasury Secretary Tom Wolf.
City Council President Clarke announces special election
The At-Large City Council seat recently vacated by former Councilman Bill Green — who accepted Corbett’s appointment as Chairman of the School Reform Commission — won’t go unfilled much longer. Council President Darrell Clarke announced on March 4 that a special election will be held, coinciding with voting in May’s primary.
Clarke will issue a writ of election to fill Green’s seat, with elections taking place on May 20.
In order to give the County Board of Elections time to prepare the voting machines and for other steps required by the Election Code, and in order to avoid having other required steps fall on a weekend, I will issue the writ of election on Monday, March 24,” Clarke said, adding that this is a “one-step” election, and the victor will serve the balance of Green’s term, which ends Jan. 4, 2016. “I encourage all Philadelphians who aren’t already registered to get registered and vote on May 20. The predictions of a low turnout this spring are troubling. If you want more representative and responsive government, whether in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, or Washington, D.C. — you must take the time to vote.”
Hearings on railway safety
City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., aren’t the only ones concerned with the crumbling infrastructure of the state’s vast network of passenger and cargo railway beds and bridges. While the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee held a hearing on March 5, City Council’s Joint Committees on Transportation and Public Works and Public Safety will hold a hearing in Room 402 of City Hall at 1 p.m. on March 10 on Bill No. 140028, which authorizes said committee to investigate “the conditions of railways, bridges and other surface transportation infrastructure owned, operated or maintained by CSX Transportation.”