Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has lost patience with his City Council, a 17-member governing body from which he ascended. Likely assuming a seamless relationship with many of his former colleagues, Mr. Kenney out of frustration now aims to mostly circumvent them in order to jump-start his inactive signature initiative, Rebuild.
The Mayor on Friday sent an assertive letter to City Council President Darrell Clarke stating that rather than continuing to wait for legislative approvals and risk losing a summer construction cycle, he would seek an alternate method to improve the city’s playgrounds, libraries and recreational centers. Mr. Clarke has yet to publicly respond to the letter, which was obtained and publicized by journalist Mr. Malcolm Burnley, who on Monday appeared on my podcast, Drumming for Justice, to discuss its implications.
Though largely framed as a legislative issue, the slow-walking of Rebuild by City Council appears to also be a matter of social justice. Lawmakers here want to ensure that the building trades – which historically haven’t been inclusive – truly diversify its ranks; a Memorandum of Understanding negotiated between the city and the building trades is deemed insufficient by the Philadelphia City Council.
“Philadelphia has failed miserably when it comes to minority hiring and local participation,” Councilwoman Cindy Bass wrote in a statement published by Mr. Burnley. “And so, while we have worked hard to do our due diligence in a timely manner, the fact that a rushed memorandum of understanding that was signed and dated the same day we requested it was presented to council and found to be insufficient raises multiple red flags.”
Mr. Burnley on Monday pointed to Councilwoman Bass as the biggest activist lawmaker on this issue. However, she’s not the only one speaking up. Republican Councilman David Oh also spoke to Mr. Burnley.
“What council wants is a clear understanding that skilled workers will not be discriminated against. So far, it’s unclear that the Rebuild folks can guarantee that,” the Councilman said.
In his letter, Mayor Kenny wrote that any further delay would negatively impact the city’s ability to leverage outside funding for the program. The Mayor has asked City Council to withdraw from consideration several resolutions germane to Rebuild, as he will “no longer be implementing the Rebuild program as contemplated by that legislation.”
Mr. Kenney – who’s willing to scale back his initiative in order to circumvent the legislative body – also noted that he will transmitting for Council’s consideration amendments to FY19 Operating Budget, FY19 Capital Budget, and FY2019-2024 Capital Program.
When I spoke to the Mayor on Monday, I asked him what he wanted now from City Council. He responded, “When we send the amendments to the Capital Budget, that they pass those as the normal course of action.”
CLICK HERE to hear my full conversation with journalist Malcolm Burnley.
Thanks for reading! Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® and I’m Drumming for Justice!™
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