Millions have been proposed for a city agency that’s neither meeting nor exceeding expectations.
Though I have my gripe with the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspection as it relates to convenience store oversight, I haven’t performed the same extensive research on the department as Mr. Sam Katz, a former mayoral candidate.
Mr. Katz has invested a sizable amount of his resources to produce a short documentary and policy paper on the reforms needed at the department, which include fixing the management structure to support three deputy commissioners.
Mr. Katz, who, according to sources, hasn’t ruled out running for Mayor of Philadelphia this year as an independent, said in the video posted to YouTube that L&I has been an “embarrassment for decades” and the “litany of deadly disasters resulting from laxity at L&I is a disgrace we all share blame for.”
The short, but informative documentary highlights five fatal failures of the department, which include the collapse of Pier 34 in 2000 and the 2013 collapse of the Salvation Army thrift shop at 22nd & Market Streets.
The reason Mr. Katz made the video was because he wanted to “start a conversation” during election time with hopes of making it a campaign issue. As a Philadelphian who witnessed firsthand the incompetence of the department, I support Mr. Katz in his effort.
Last fall, in South Philadelphia, I joined Mr. Anton Moore, a 2014 CBS Philly GameChanger, and a good number of concerned citizens in lobbying for greater penalties for store owners who are caught selling airsoft and BB guns, which, according to a city ordinance, is prohibited.
The bad news: within that same time period, Mr. Moore organized a town hall meeting, that I moderated, which featured L&I Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Ralph DiPetro.
Mr. DiPetro said, and Councilman Johnson confirmed, that there is “currently no way to track the sales of airsoft or BB guns in Philadelphia.”
Shortly after that meeting, Mr. Moore and I joined a closed door roundtable at City Hall where it was discovered that L&I and the Philadelphia Police Department have never coordinated to enforce the city ordinance.
To this day, no one from L&I has reached out to me nor Mr. Moore to inform us on the progress being made to augment coordination. Our activism around the BB gun issue took place a couple months before 12 year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed in Cleveland after police mistook his BB gun for a real firearm.
L&I officials acted with no urgency to our issue, despite records showing that from 2007-2013, there’s been 16 officer-involved shootings where the assailant had an airsoft or BB gun. Many Philadelphians, including Mr. Moore and I, were utterly disappointed by the department; they failed to meet our expectations, let alone exceed them.
Whereas, Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter last month proposed an increase in L&I’s budget by $5.5 million in 2016 and $10.8 million in fiscal year 2018, I echo the question of former L&I Commissioner, Mr. Bennett Levin, who said “until you fix the management structure, why spend all this money?”
Mr. Levin, who Mr. Katz interviewed in the documentary, said in the City charter L&I is “specifically charged with public safety functions that is equivalent to the police departments and the fire departments.”
If what Mr. Levin says is true, then Philadelphians should hold L&I to higher standards and demand, among many things, transparency, efficiency and excellence.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™