February 21, 2011
Eighth Council District NN Adopts A Platform
It Puts People, and Communities, Before Profits
By Stan Shapiro
After two energizing and productive meetings among NN members in the 8th Councilmanic District, the group endorsed a platform for Council candidates at its February 8th meeting. It stresses community, jobs and government transparency. Here it is, in its entirety.
I. Government Transparency accessibility and accountability
A) Council members should maintain an office in the district (if they represent one) so their constituents have more direct access.
B) Decisions about large funding streams shall require community input to make sure they benefit the local community. Funding of CDC’s, and other quasi-governmental organizations, shall be approved by City Council after public hearing and subjected to regular financial and performance auditing. Audits shall be published on the City website and subject to public hearings when requested by affected residents, communities or advocacy groups.
C) All meetings of government and quasi-public bodies shall be widely publicized in local as well as citywide media, with substantial advance notice, and held at convenient times and locations. Any changes in zoning shall require public input, prior to submission to City Council. Local neighborhood groups shall be informed of proposed changes in a timely manner.
II. Create More Housing Opportunities
A) Reorganize the acquisition and distribution of abandoned houses in the City. The City needs a single agency to be in charge of acquiring, disposing and rehabilitating abandoned homes that blight communities across the District and the City.
B) Funding streams must be developed that enable local residents to acquire abandoned properties, rehabilitate them employing local residents to the extent possible to do the work, and maintain them as their primary residence.
C) Developers should be compelled to contribute funding into a linked development fund to build low-income housing or renovate existing housing.
Here's the Rest
III. Funding Essential City Services Fully and Fairly
A) Reform the Business Privilege Tax to Raise Money for Services. The Business Privilege Tax can and should be restructured so that it exempts tens of thousands of small businesses from the tax entirely, and brings in a much higher proportion of the tax from out of city big businesses. While making the tax more fair and wide-ranging in this manner, the City should use it to raise more revenue to fund essential services.
B) Go after tax delinquents. A website should be maintained of serious City tax delinquents who clearly have the resources to pay.
C) Make Major Non Profits Pay for Services. Major nonprofits like Penn and Temple should be compelled to pay service fees in lieu of taxes to fund their fair share of services. Their for-profit leasing activities should be audited and fully taxed.
IV. Jobs and Economic Development
A) Reform PIDC. PIDC is the major economic development agent for the City. It must be reformed in the following manner:
1) Its board should be reconstituted to have a majority of public and community representatives rather than Chamber of Commerce representatives;
2) Its proceedings should be transparent and public;
3) it should require hiring of Philadelphia residents as a condition to its loans and grants;
4) it should recover any loans and grants given on the condition that new workers be hired if those hires don’t take place;
5) it should have a priority to finance environmentally sustainable jobs that pay a living wage;
B) Give City Workers the right to bid on contracts. City unions should be allowed to bid on all new and renewing contracts to provide opportunities for public employees earning living wages and living in Philadelphia to obtain jobs at lower cost to the City.
V. Invest locally: Pension Fund Reform
A) Recoup losses due to advisor malfeasance. The Pension Board should investigate whether any of its losses since 2007 are the result of fraud or conflict of interest on the part of any of its investment advisors, or as a result of any recommended investment choices. Any advisors found to have acted contrary to their fiduciary duties should be sued for restitution and fired.
B) Adopt pro-Philadelphia, and socially progressive investment policies. The City should apply its Pension Fund Power to spur investment in the City and to deter negative behavior. For instance:
1) A specific percentage of the fund should be made available, and an investment advisor should be hired, to help support promising in-City investments:
2) Investments should be withdrawn from any company engaged in Marcellus Shale drilling that fails to disclose the chemicals it uses in the process.
C) Vote shares to promote progressive corporate values. By virtue of the City’s ownership of stock in major corporations, it gets to vote on issues of corporate policy and governance. The City should do so to promote policies that advance the interests of sustainability, of social and economic justice, and of Philadelphia residents.
VI. Inclusive Planning
A) Government should promote community-based redevelopment that is planned and executed in an inclusive and democratic manner. Redevelopment projects should be acceptable to local communities and should employ local contractors and workers.
B) Curb City tax abatements. They are now handed out like candy to almost any person or business that builds anything. They should be limited to areas that are deteriorated and where it’s clear that otherwise little or no new construction would take place.
VII. Environment and Jobs
A) Green employment opportunities should be expanded. City pension funds should be used to provide weatherization financing across the City, and other City nonprofit institutions should be encouraged to invest portions of their endowments and pension funds to similar ends.
B) Retailers should be prohibited from packing goods in non-biodegradable plastic bags.
C) Adopt a progressive food policy. The City should increase purchases of locally produced produce, and stop buying genetically modified foods, for prisoners and nursing home residents. The School District should do the same.
D) Making PGW an asset, rather than a liability. PGW should issue bonds to finance solar and insulation projects that reduce fossil fuel consumption in the City. If within its legal rights, it should extend this assistance to suburban homeowners and businesses as well.
VIII. Campaign Finance Reform
A) Council should enact a program for public financing of primary and general election campaigns for City Council and Mayor
B) The Charter should be amended to permit city worker participation in political campaigns on their own time.
IX. Criminal Justice Reform
A) Reduce the jail population. Although Philly’s crime rate has stayed relatively stable over the past decade, its jail population jumped 49% from 1999-2009. More individuals convicted of minor property crimes should be diverted away from the prison system toward programs that will rehabilitate them. Prison funding should be reduced in stages to force reduction in prison population.
B) End the City’s cooperation with ICE. The City should stop referring the names of persons arrested to the ICE
C) End Stop and Frisk. The Police Department should terminate its stop and frisk program. Police must be well trained to avoid other forms of misconduct, and quickly and severely punished when it occurs.
X. Health care
A) Make health care affordable to City residents and businesses. Creative ways to cover city residents for health care should be looked at, such as development of a cooperative model for providing health care coverage, and using the City’s power as a customer of Blue Cross/Blue Shield to influence the design of the products it makes available to all of its customers.
B) Adopt a mandatory sick leave policy. Council should enact bill 080474 now pending before City Council, requiring businesses to provide employees with paid sick leave;
C) Make day care available to more working parents. Council should investigate ways to require or encourage more onsite day care centers for employees of City businesses.
XI. Education. Take back control of the School District. The School District was removed from local control ten years ago due to its inability to put its fiscal house in order. It is now in worse fiscal shape than when it was taken. Local control should be restored immediately.
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