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July 25, 2014, 3:03 am

Council mulls school policies after kidnapping

Lawmakers consider advertisements on public buildings

 

Sinking their teeth into a number of meaty issues, members of City Council this week took steps to address: voting rights, revenue shortfalls, immigration reform and the school district’s dismissal policy.

Members agreed to hold hearings to investigate the school district’s dismissal policy on the same day that they honored Nelson Mandela Myers, the man who found 5-year-old Nai’lla Robinson shivering on a West Philadelphia playground on Jan. 15 just days after her abduction.

“I was just doing what a good man is supposed to do,” Myers said.

Shortly afterward council approved hearings, at the behest of Councilman Curtis Jones, to look into the school district’s dismissal policy in the wake of the kidnapping. Robinson was taken from school by a woman in a full burka.

“It allows us to work [with the school district] to examine the extraction policies that are currently on the books,” he said. “We need to codify that policy. In addition, we need to explore different policies that allow for IDs and even from time to time to remove people from the lists for things like divorce. We need to update those policies and procedures in light of what is going on in our school system today.”

In other news, Council President Darrell Clarke asked council to begin considering the idea of allowing advertisements on city-owned property — an initiative he expected to generate about $10 million a year.

“We cannot continue to nickel and dime the taxpayers because our public schools and our pensions are underfunded,” Clarke said. “Cities across the country have found innovative and tasteful ways to sell advertising on public property.

There are already examples in Philadelphia.

“Locally, entities like SEPTA and Amtrak are already bringing in millions by selling advertising space,” he said.

Clarke noted that New York City started allowing advertising on city property in 2006, a move that has generated roughly $1.4 billion. Chicago anticipates $18 million in new revenues from its program this year.

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown introduced a resolution urging the state general assembly to bring early voting to Pennsylvania.

“This is not meant to give one party an advantage over another. For seniors and students, working moms and dads alike, it does not matter whether you are in a red, blue or purple county—sometimes life can just get in the way of getting to your polling place on Election Day,” Reynolds Brown said, noting that 32 other states have early voting. “We need to be doing all we can to increase voter participation in every single precinct across the commonwealth.”

Council also unanimously approved a resolution urging Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

The vote came after several city residents urged members to support the measure introduced by council members Maria Quinones Sanchez and Jim Kenney.

Ignacio Flores, an immigrant from Santa Cruz, Mexico, said that immigrants have helped Philadelphia prosper.

“We’re working and paying taxes,” he said in Spanish, speaking through an interpreter. “We would be able to grow the city.”

And, they’ve put their lives at risk to do so.

“I don’t think it’s fair that after the dangerous journey to here, we not face the dangers of deportation,” he said.

Kenney, just before the vote invoked the memory of the city’s many Irish, Italian and Jewish immigrants in urging members to approve the resolution.

“People know they’re going to have a chance here,” he said.

 

To comment, contact staff writer Eric Mayes at 215-893-5742 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .