Federal, state and city officials are ramping up pressure on Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration in an effort to halt plans to implement asset testing for food stamp recipients.
“This is one of the most mean-spirited, asinine plans to come out of Harrisburg in a long time,” said Mayor Michael Nutter, in a burst of fiery opposition to the plan that seemed to sum up the opinion of all the government officials present.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, state Sens. Shirley Kitchen and Vincent Hughes and Nutter all voiced their opposition to the state’s plan to limit the value of assets held people who receive food stamps. People under 60 with more than $2,000 in savings or other assets – including an automobile – will be barred from receiving food stamps. For people over 60 that threshold would be set at $3,250.
Asset testing will go into effect May 1 unless opponents are able to convince the Corbett administration to reconsider. The food stamp program feeds 1.8 million Pennsylvanians, including 439, 245 in Philadelphia.
Vilsack, who spoke with Nutter and Brady at a press conference at City Hall, refuted the official reason for implementing asset tests – cost-cutting and fraud prevention – saying that Pennsylvania already had one of the lowest fraud rates in the nation, and added that the program is funded by the federal government.
“It’s not going to save the commonwealth of Pennsylvania a single dime,” Vilsack said. “The money for this program is federally funded. Number two, it’s likely going to cost the commonwealth of Pennsylvania money because when you institute an asset test you have to make sure that you create a process by which those applications are reviewed.”
Last fall, state Department of Public Welfare Executive Deputy Secretary Timothy Costa outlined plans to change eligibility rules. The department has the authority needed to make the changes without approval from the state legislature. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the food stamp program, does not need to sign off on the plan. In his testimony, Costa said the change would reduce the state’s costs and cut fraud. Officials hope to slash $470 million from the state welfare department’s budget.
Vilsack also said that the many stereotypes about who gets food stamps and why were wrong.
“Do we really want to reduce access for senior citizens who’ve played by the rules all their lives?” he asked. “Do we really want to say to children that they are not going to have access to nutritious food? Are we at a point where we really want to say to people with disabilities ‘you’re on your own?’ I would hope not.”
Nationally, nearly 75 percent of food stamp recipients are in families with children, and more than a quarter of them are in households with seniors or people with disabilities, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Nearly one-third of recipients work, according to the USDA.
“Before we take any action we want to make sure that the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the folks who are administering the program understand the full impact,” Vilsack said.
Brady, who has for weeks been urging Corbett the reconsider the idea, said there was little federal lawmakers could do, because while the food stamp programs are funded by the federal government, they are administered by the state.
“It’s a ‘state’s rights’ kind of thing,” he said. “We do fund them, and the funding is already there, but what do we say to them, ‘We’re going to decrease your funding next year?’ Then they make the asset test $4,000.”
He added that he was confident the Corbett administration would eventually come around.
“I really think that somebody made a mistake up there. I think they’re looking for a window to get out of,” Brady said. “We’re putting pressure to help them find that window. “I think Corbett probably grabbed a hold of somebody and said, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ because it wasn’t thought out.”
Kitchen questioned the administration’s motives, and said she had not seen numbers to back of claims of fraud.
“DPW maintains that it is working to ‘root out fraud and waste,’ yet it has yet to produce solid numbers on any fraud and waste in DPW programs,” she said. “Meanwhile, children, the elderly and disabled individuals and their loved ones are enduring the agony of losing their lifeline and scrambling to re-apply. It’s shameful.”
Hughes noted that the federal government already mandates income limits for food stamp enrollment, so asset tests are a waste of time and administrative costs.
“This is a misguided policy that does a disservice to the needs of Pennsylvania citizens,” he said. “Punishing low- and middle-income individuals for trying to lift themselves out of poverty is not only cruel, but also completely unnecessary.”
Key goal: More energy efficiency for homeowners
Will other cities turn green with envy? Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter pledged in 2008 to remake Philadelphia as a leading “green” city, and now, with the Energy Works Now initiative, the city is closer to realizing Nutter’s goal.
“The program we’ve established — Energy Works Now — has expanded to five counties. We wanted to create a model that would work well beyond investment,” said Sustainability Office Director Katherine Gajewski, who also serves as Energy Works director. “A model that isn’t superficial, but one that really helps us put the pieces together for a workable and scalable energy efficiency program.
“For a lot of contractors, their trucks don’t stop at the city line; they want to work as much as they can.”
Contractors like Melissa Mason and Verna Miller, co-owners of the Lehigh Valley-based Energy Savings Plus outfit, and widely accepted as the only female minority contractors taking part in the program.
“We wanted to create a program that gave work to energy auditors in the region … and thought it would be a great thing to diversify,” Gajewski said, noting that the energy contracting industry is usually dominated by white males. “One of those companies is Energy Savings Plus — the fact that they are entering the space shows the great opportunity for diversity.”
Mason has a master’s degree in business, while Miller has more than ten years’ experience as a contractor. They met a little less than two years ago through a non-profit function.
“The biggest thing is educating our customers, because it’s important for people to know what they can do with their homes,” said Mason, who also serves as operations manager for the year-old outfit. “We start out by finding out what the homeowner wants to do with their home, and what their goals are. We then take what they want and put our science behind it.”
Mason said there are myriad options for the homeowner, including various weatherization tactics they can employ, that will save even them even more green.
“Some people want to insulate their homes, but don’t know about air flow,” Mason said, in giving just one example of what Energy Savings Plus can do, besides also offering home energy audits. “They may also have it installed wrong or backwards, and we can educate them on that.
“Our customers are happy with that. The economy is tough, and a lot of people want to do the work for themselves,” but need proper know-how.
Gajewski’s office has established a website — www.energyworksnow.com — for both commercial property managers and homeowners alike. There, consumers can research information on everything from reducing operational costs for businesses to tips on how residents can save more than 20 percent on their utility bills.
“It’s really customer-driven. We’re learning that folks are interested in energy efficiency, but finding information can be difficult,” Gajewski said. “There was no one-stop shop, or a place you could go to get hooked up with an energy auditor, get debt financing assistance or for quality checks on the work completed on the back end.
“As a result of that, people weren’t doing anything for the people interested in energy efficiency and [the homeowner] then sits on his hands.”
Mason said her outfit provides all of those services, including certification — a crucial element when it comes to either selling or refinancing a home.
“We will do the work, and also help and educate them on any other work they may want,” Mason said. “Verna can certify a home for Energy Star compliance, which is important, especially if you’re doing an addition to the home.
“So if that home goes to market, that certification goes with it.”
The benefits of this program extend all the way to City Hall.
“We’re able to come out and make presentations to community groups and employers, so if someone has a lot of interest, we’d be happy to come out, make a presentation to know what the program is about,” Gajewski said. “As a city, we want to reduce energy use and increase the air quality and help people make their homes more comfortable and reduce their energy bills.”
The Citizens Bank Foundation donated $25,000 to the African American Museum in Philadelphia to underwrite the museum’s commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.
The grant will allow the museum to offer free admission and cultural activities to more than 3,000 museum visitors on Jan. 16.
As part of the museum’s Sharing the Heritage Day, visitors will enjoy a variety of family-friendly activities, including arts and crafts, historic reenactments, music, dance and other cultural performances. In addition, visitors can view a new exhibit entitled “Life and Times of Congressman Robert Smalls,” which officially opens on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. The exhibit includes furniture from the house where Smalls and his mother were enslaved, letters and pictures from his home in Beaufort, S.C., and movie screenings.
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s goal of promoting justice and equality for all people can never be overlooked or underestimated,” said Daniel K. Fitzpatrick, Citizens Bank president and CEO for Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
“The Citizens Bank Foundation is honored to commemorate Dr. King’s legacy by underwriting free admission for a special community day at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.”
To encourage visits by families, the bank will offer the Citizens Bank Scavenger Hunt for Heritage, a fun and educational activity that will help children explore and experience the museum. More than 50 Citizens Bank volunteers will guide children through their list of clues to find specific artifacts. Each child who brings a completed list to the Citizens Bank table in the museum will receive either a copy of “Martin’s Big Words,” a picture-book biography of the civil rights leader or a book on Robert Smalls entitled “American Heroes: Robert Smalls: The Boat Thief,” compliments of Citizens Bank. Scavenger hunt participants will also receive a special commemorative button, compliments of AAMP.
“This is our fifth year partnering with Citizens Bank and, as always, we’re grateful for the support,” said Romona Riscoe Benson, the museum’s president and CEO.
“The Citizens Bank Foundation’s generous support enables us to open our doors to the community for our festivities and exhibits surrounding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This important event allows us to attract new community members to the museum and to showcase our continually updated facility.”
“The partnership between Citizens Bank and the African American Museum has significantly enhanced the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Philadelphia,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “The generosity of the Citizens Bank Foundation will allow thousands of people to walk through the doors of the museum and learn about a man who changed America for the better.”
Located at 701 Arch Street, AAMP will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. January 16.
Thousands of local residents, elected officials and community organizers filled the gathered at the Academy of Music at Broad and Locust streets for the inauguration of the mayor and swearing-in of City Council members Monday.
Also sworn in were members of the judiciary, the register of wills and the sheriff. Six new members were among the Council contingent.
Outgoing Council President Anna C. Verna, the longest serving elected official in the city, took a moment to thank her colleagues for serving with her during her 60 years in public office.
“I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on my years as, a Council staff member, and then councilwoman for the Second Councilmanic District, and finally, as Council president,” she said. Verna, who retires this year, suggested that those who were being newly sworn in to public service follow some of the principles which guided her decisions and actions during her years in office.
“Uphold the truth that has been placed upon you by the citizens of this great city. Treat your colleagues and constituents with dignity and respect, remember that compromise is an essential element in every legislative process and always remember that public service is a noble profession,” said Verna.
Verna’s seat will now be occupied by Darrell L Clarke, who was unanimously voted in as Council president during the proceedings. Clarke promised to work closely with Mayor Michael Nutter, who was sworn in for a second term.
Philadelphia’s poet laureate Sonia Sanchez opened proceedings with the recitation of a poem that she dedicated to Nutter.
“This city is not dead/ I am not dead/ we are simply falling nightingales,” she read.
Clarke was joined by his daughter Nicole as he took the podium and gave special thanks to both former Mayor John Street and Verna.
“I would not be standing here today were it not for John Street,” said Clarke of the former mayo, who was seated on the stage. “Paying attention to detail, understanding the importance of budget and its impact on services, the list goes on.”
He said that these things were important in his career, but the most important thing he learned from Street was the value of hard work.
It was Verna he credits for teaching him the art of listening to people and understanding the views of Council members.
“More importantly, I learned the true value of fairness,” said Clarke of Verna.
“If I could work as hard as John Street and be as fair as Anna Verna, I’ll have a solid foundation and the wisdom to lead this Council.”
Clarke recounted his days growing up in the Strawberry Mansion section of the city in a row-home community which he characterized as possessing quality public schools, thriving local businesses and strong families.
“Unfortunately, as with many Philadelphia neighborhoods, that is no longer the case,” he said. “The economic downturn has caused many local businesses to close and our neighborhood districts are not what they used to be.”
Clarke acknowledged that, although the city’s public schools have made some advances, more changes need to be made, with dropout rates remaining high.
He promised to work with the mayor and other city departments and agencies to create a more unified and cohesive local government that could better serve residents.
“To get where we must go, all parties involved, the City Council, the mayor, SRC and, most of all the parents ‑ every parent ‑ must work together,” said Clarke.
Creating a business-friendly environment was also high on the list of things he said the city must do to improve.
“It is extremely important that this Council and this mayor work together on the issues that unite us rather than those on which we disagree,” said Clarke, who wished Nutter well in his second term.
“As our economy begins to stabilize and we begin to generate creative ideas to strengthen our budget, we must deliver services without always resorting to putting our hands in taxpayers’ pockets,” he said.
Nutter also said he believes that the city has improved in the last four years, but feels much more needs to be done.
“As I stand before you at the beginning of my second term, it is not my intention to celebrate what has been done, but to talk briefly about the values needed to guide us in doing what must be done,” said Nutter, who spoke of his days as a youth growing up in West Philadelphia.
“We had respect for each other and our elders,” said Nutter, who listed public safety, education and employment as the key issues of his second term.
“There are too many Philadelphians who don’t feel safe in their own neighborhoods, whose children are in low-performing schools, who are struggling to find work and some who have even given up looking for a job.”
Nutter asked the audience to reject the notion of a dual city, divided into rich and poor, affluent and oppressed.
“I will spend every waking moment of every day of this new term working with Council, working with the state, the federal government, working with you and fighting for you, fighting for this city,” said Nutter. “We’re in this together. One city. One Philadelphia. No one left behind.”
While the commonwealth of Pennsylvania has no poet laureate (after a decade, the title was abolished in 2003), Philadelphia has staked out its position as a thriving artistic city with its second appointment in a year. Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced last week that Siduri Beckman has been named the City of Philadelphia’s first Youth Poet Laureate in a City Hall ceremony with the City’s inaugural Poet Laureate Sonia Sanchez. A position complementing the city’s poet laureate, the youth poet laureate was selected from among high school youth residing within the city of Philadelphia.
Sanchez, currently serving a two-year term, provided input to the Poet Laureate Governing Committee, whose members are Siobhan Reardon, president and director of the Free Library of Philadelphia; Al Filreis, faculty director of Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania; Beth Feldman Brandt, poet and executive director of the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation; and Greg Corbin, founder and executive director, Philly Youth Poetry Movement. After a rigorous selection process, two finalists were selected, Jaya Montague and Siduri Beckman, both of whom read their original poetry as part of the event.
“It is an honor to announce that the Poet Laureate Committee has selected a young person to promote poetry and the arts to the youth of Philadelphia,” said Nutter. “The city is proud to acknowledge the power and importance of poetry as an art form. Programs like the Philly Youth Poetry Movement have shown the impact that poetry can have on the positive development of young people, and it’s significant that we are officially recognizing this impact.”
Gary Steuer, chair of the Poet Laureate Governing Committee and chief cultural officer of the OACCE said, “We were pleased to see the caliber of talent displayed by the applicants for the position and look forward to working with the Youth Poet Laureate as she begins to fulfill the duties associated with the position. We look forward to seeing her grow as a poet and develop her talents while inspiring her fellow youth to greater artistic pursuits and success in life.”
Following the announcement of the Youth Poet Laureate, Beckman and Sanchez recited poetry together for the first time. “Poetry makes us remember the best of ourselves and others,” said Sanchez. “How it keeps us constantly confronting the most important question of this twenty-first century: what does it mean to be human?”
City Council President Darrell Clarke’s head is full of ideas, and he just wants to get on with it already.
“I have a sense of urgency,” Clarke said, as he reflected on his first few months as president. “I’ve got to do stuff. I’ve got municipal marketing. I’ve got a development district. And, the other members too, we’ve got projects.”
Some of his ideas — like municipal marketing, selling advertising space on city property — have been controversial. But, Clarke, at a recent Tribune editorial board meeting, said it's time for city government to begin looking at fresh ways to generate revenue.
He’s going to keep throwing out ideas until he’s solved the problem.
Clarke has been portrayed as something of a sphinx – quiet, diligent, a man who worked best behind the scenes. That’s pretty much how he’s operated since being first elected to council in 1999. He held a leadership role, majority whip, but it was one that allowed him to remain in the shadows.
That’s impossible as council president. Yet, his tendency to shun the spotlight is evident in his leadership style.
“I guess I’m decentralizing the council president’s authority. I think it’s been very helpful, and I think it’s been good for the members,” he said.
Already the tenor of council has changed.
For the first time, a council president, who has traditionally exercised great authority in what legislation moves, when and who on council is involved, has delegated quite a bit of that authority.
“I think I’ve tried to be fair,” he said. “Every council person chairs a committee, which is unprecedented.”
As an example, he pointed to Councilman David Oh, a freshman and a Republican, two strikes against him under traditional council leadership, but Clarke has put in him charge of the Committee on Global Opportunities.
“He’s supposed to be chairing that committee,” Clarke said.
As president, he also expects every member to pull his or her weight.
“Don’t expect me to do the follow up,” he said. “You do the follow up and make sure the legislation gets enacted properly. They love it.”
Clarke recognizes that to get some of his ideas put in place he’ll have to collaborate even more – primarily with Mayor Michael Nutter.
“The reality is that the legislative branch of government cannot implement programs. That is, to a large degree, some of the frustration that a legislator suffers. Because at the end of the day, you can have nine million great ideas, but if the mayor chooses not to implement it that’s all it is, an idea,” he said.
The relationship between the two men – often acrimonious – is evolving.
“To be determined,” was how Clarke described it.
He stepped into the city’s top legislative job in January during a period that was deceptively quiet. Council, now knee-deep in budget hearings that are convoluted with concerns over a move to a property tax system based on full property values, and this week’s bombshell about the school district’s budget, is wrestling with issues that will shape the city’s long-term future.
Critics worried that the influence of his political mentor, former Mayor John F. Street, would be too evident.
Nutter campaigned vigorously behind the scenes against Clarke’s election to the presidency. The mayor backed former Majority Leader Marian Tasco.
Clarke doesn’t seem to hold a grudges.
He joked about Tasco’s recent participation in Dancing with the Philadelphia Stars, a charity dance contest Tasco won.
“It was a little bit rigged,” he said laughing.
As far as Nutter is concerned, Clarke admits that for progress to be made the two men will have to collaborate. The city made little progress under Mayor Bill Green, who was constantly at odds with council, he said. W. Wilson Goode had a better relationship with council but the city was broke at the time. Ed Rendell, during his tenure as mayor, managed to work well with Council President John Street.
“Street sat down and said ‘this is what I want’ and Ed said ‘this is what I want’ - they worked a deal and stuff happened,” said Clarke.
Whether that will happen remains to be seen.
In any event, Clarke now has a greater respect for former Council President Anna C. Verna, who steered council from 1999 to 2012.
“Every day I think about Anna Verna with a newfound respect,” he said, adding that he hoped he could be an example for his colleagues. “We’ve been given a significant opportunity and responsibility — and we need to treat it as such.”
Today marks the official opening of the Jon Paul Hammond Public Computer Center at Prevention Point offices.
Philadelphia FIGHT, an AIDS service organization, will host a ribbon cutting ceremony today at 11 a.m. at Prevention Point, located at 166 West Lehigh Avenue.
Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez and members of the AIDS service community are expected to join in the celebration.
Philadelphia FIGHT is one of thirteen local agencies and educational institutions participating in the program led by the city of Philadelphia’s Division of Technology and the Urban Affairs Coalition.
The computer centers were made possible through $18.2 million in grant funding from the Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (B-TOP).
The program is designed to provide broadband Internet access, computers and training to the most economically and socially vulnerable areas of the city. In total, 77 public computer centers will be created and 15,000 individuals will be trained in how to use computers thanks to the citywide initiative.
“This partnership will help more residents develop valuable digital literacy and workforce skills so they can remain competitive in today's 21st Century economy,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter.
“We thank Philadelphia FIGHT for partnering with the city to make valuable resources and services available to residents directly in the heart of communities across Philadelphia. Through this initiative, residents, particularly those in less advantaged neighborhoods, will have an opportunity to enhance their ability to work toward a better quality of life.”
Philadelphia FIGHT’s Critical Path Project has over 15 years of experience addressing the digital divide and serving citizens who do not have the resources in their own homes to access the Internet. For its part, FIGHT will expand the computer lab and staffing in its AIDS Library, Institute for Community Justice, and Youth Health Empowerment Project. FIGHT will also assist in creating or enhancing computer centers at 27 of the 77 locations, including shelters and drug recovery houses where FIGHT currently makes HIV counseling and testing available.
The new site contains five computers and is open to the public Monday through Thursday from noon to 4 p.m. Classes take place at various times and include lessons in basic computing skills, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, digital storytelling, and blogging as well as FIGHT’s signature workshops “Finding Health Information Online” and “Finding HIV/AIDS Information Online.”
For information about computer classes, call (215) 634-5272.
As he dives into a new legislative session with plans to press forward with gun control legislation and expanded voting among other things, Sen. Anthony Williams also has his eye on another option — running for mayor.
“I think I have some ideas I would like to try in the form of chief executive,” he told the Tribune this week. “That’s why I ran for governor.”
Williams, who ran for governor in 2010, outlined his legislative agenda for the upcoming session in an editorial board meeting with the Tribune.
In a spirited conversation, the senator discussed a range of legislative topics from gun control to education and voting rights. He also took a moment to mull over a future outside the state legislature.
“I’m actively investigating the possibility,” replied Williams when asked if he was considering a run for mayor, something long rumored.
His decision would hinge on several factors, Williams said, including finances, and gauging popular and party support for his candidacy
He didn’t expect to make a decision this year, he said. Mayor Michael Nutter’s term runs to 2016 — a campaign would likely start in 2014, as candidates vie for a nomination in the primary in early 2015.
Turning back to his plans for the coming senate session, Williams said his top priority would be job creation.
However, several of his other proposals are likely to garner more attention in the press.
The Philadelphia delegation is working on a package of gun proposals. Williams has come up with a bill that would create a statewide database to track guns. Despite the fact that it is what Williams describes as a moderate approach to gun control, it is something that could generate debate. Gun control measures of any kind have long been a non-starter in the state legislature.
The shootings at Newtown, Conn., have changed that dynamic somewhat.
“There are extremes on both sides, and members in between — and the ones who are in between are indifferent, ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ — but now some of these folks are willing to talk about it,” he said. “The epidemic of these guns has been with some of us for a while.”
It’s difficult to tell where the proposal might go.
“Where it will go? I’m not exactly sure,” he said, adding that Pennsylvania officials might delay until another state took action. “The timing is right. The votes are there. I don’t think you have the right governor.”
Williams also expects to introduce another bill — one that would create an early voting period — which he also expects the governor to oppose.
“With this particular gentleman, there are things that are problematic,” Williams said.
Under Williams plan, voters would be able to cast their ballots, in person, up to two weeks before an election. Pennsylvania is one of only 15 states that doesn’t have early voting.
Voting became a controversial issue this year as the state enacted a voter ID law that angered many. Williams, along with other members of the Philadelphia delegation, is party to a lawsuit seeking to have the law overthrown.
The senator also has a plan he hopes will energize Philadelphia voters during judicial elections. Under the proposal, names for judge candidates would be rotated on ballots across the city, rather than the current practice of candidates randomly drawing their ballot position from numbers in a coffee can. Williams hopes the move will wake up apathetic voters by forcing them to pay attention to the names on the ballot thus forcing judicial candidates to campaign more actively.
“The quality of the bench has devolved,” he said, the change “would guarantee that people are looking for your name — as opposed to just looking for your position.”
In general terms, Williams said, Pennsylvania is at a political crossroads.
“Pennsylvania is at the intersection of how it wants to operate,” he said. “Is it a D state, an R state, or always operate independently. I think it’s always going to be more independent.”
“Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work” by Edwidge Danticat has been chosen as the 2012 One Book, One Philadelphia selection.
The book is a collection of essays and a memoir that urges immigrant writers to record the oppression they witness.
“Philadelphians will be drawn to these thoughtful and thought provoking essays, many of which are inspired by … Danticat’s experiences growing up in Haiti,” said Siobahn Reardon, director of the Free Library of Philadelphia, at the announcement Wednesday at the Central Library.
One Book, One Philadelphia celebrates is 10th anniversary this year and was in the spotlight earlier this week when it was announced that the first author honored by the program, Lorene Cary, had been appointed to the School Reform Commission.
The program started with the hopes that it would encourage literacy by fostering a citywide discussion of just one book. Thousands read the selection annual selection, which is available at every library in the city. In addition, readers are encouraged to come together at more than 100 events centered on a theme generated by the book.
This year that theme is Haiti and events will include panel discussions, film screenings and musical performances.
“This book is a call to arms for all of us for many different reasons,” said Marie Fields, chair of One Book, One Philadelphia. “Through our shared reading and programming experience we shall celebrate and embrace the rich diversity and common humanity of everyone who lives in our community.”
Mayor Michael Nutter, also on hand for the unveiling of the title, lauded the program, which also included a teen and children’s book selection.
The teen selection was “A Taste of Salt” by Frances Temple and children’s title was “Running the Road to ABC” by Denize Lauture.
“It’s important to Philadelphia because it brings together people from all walks of life, all parts of the city, all races, all colors, all genders and preferences,” he said. “It just brings people together in one place around one particular theme … and it really promotes life-long learning and literacy among a whole host of folks.”
Danticat said via a videocast that she was “very excited to be selected. What a great honor.”
For more information visit the library’s website at www.freelibrary.org
Mayor Michael Nutter Thursday signed into law a bill that rewrites and simplifies Philadelphia’s zoning code for the first time in 50 years.
It took four years, 50 public meetings, extensive interviews and surveys for the Zoning Code Commission to modernize Philadelphia’s development regulations concerning land use throughout the city.
“Today, we all have the distinct honor to be able to help Philadelphia take an enormous leap forward in terms of planning and protecting our communities,” Nutter said.
The mayor described the previous zoning code as intense and challenging to decipher. The new code includes changes to the city’s development regulations and approval procedures such as making the zoning code more user-friendly; reducing the number of zoning classifications; incorporating a civic design review process and establishing the role of citizens in the zoning approval process.
In 2007, there was a unanimous vote by City Council to approve a revision to the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter to create the Zoning Code Commission. The revision was submitted to voters, and 80 percent of Philadelphians voted in favor of reforming the city’s zoning code.
“It was the thousands and thousands of Philadelphians who came out to meetings, who learned why zoning code was important, they made recommendations, they gave their advice, they gave their time, they gave their effort, because they too care about this city,” Nutter said.
Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger said the innovations to the code will advance business and community development in Philadelphia.
“Our new code will help to attract investment to Philadelphia, and will also give our communities an organized means for their thoughts, concerns and input to be considered in the planning process,” Greenberger said.
“This transformative code will prevent many of the roadblocks that currently inhibit growth and will make Philadelphia’s development and planning more coherent, consistent and predictable in the future.”
Eva Gladstein, executive director of the Zoning Code Commission, explained the significance and use of having a revised zoning code.
“The newly reformed zoning code will be a tool that all Philadelphians can understand and use. The ZCC received tremendous and valuable feedback from citizens that drove this process and is reflected in the final code. The engagement of Philadelphians throughout this process contributed greatly to its success,” Gladstein said.
Nutter thanked the 31 members of the Commission for their efforts.
“I think it is quite remarkable 31 people from all over the city taking on the complicated, bizarre zoning code of Philadelphia and revolutionizing our zoning code,” Nutter said.
Councilmen Frank DiCicco, Brian O'Neill, William Greenlee and Darrell Clarke served on the commission, as well.
After his remarks, Nutter signed Bill 110845 into law.
“I am delighted to sign this once-in-a-generation legislation that makes Philadelphia more attractive to developers, promotes growth, and brings our zoning code into the 21st century,” said Nutter.
“Good planning is our best way to preserve the past and to anticipate the future. This modern code will help Philadelphia, in the years to come, to ensure healthy, sustainable development that protects our neighborhoods and grows our city.”