The Philadelphia City Council on Thursday continued to turn over large swaths of real estate for use as affordable housing in its first in-person meeting in more than two years.
“I think we have about 400 lots in total, and now we’ve started the process of developing the Turnkey Homeowner initiative,” said Board President Darrell L. Clark. The plan is to build 1,000 houses next year, he said.
The members’ desks were further apart and they used wireless microphones at the stations. Additionally, based on recommendations from city health officials, seating has been limited for all other public gallery spaces. There were about 40 people in the gallery, but some of them were city employees.
“Now we are back. We sought advice from the Department of Health in several briefings with the commissioner,” Clarke said. “We believe that everything went well. As you can see today, when people came, I think people were excited. Council members were delighted to be in the hall. They interacted on a personal level, face to face.”
At a City Council meeting, Philadelphia became the latest of the 10 largest city governments to do so.
“The virtual nature of what we were doing worked,” Clark said. “We had a significant level of participation, but it was virtual.”
Several resolutions were passed to honor the lives of Philadelphians Rakin Hashim Allen, aka PnB Rock, a hip-hop artist who was recently killed in a shooting in Los Angeles; and Michael Hinson Jr., an LGBTQ rights activist who also advocated for increased funding and services for people experiencing homelessness and HIV, who recently died.
Councilwoman Cindy Bass said Germantown’s PnB Rock has been an inspiration to many young people and a symbol of the many young black men who are dying from gun violence. The council also passed resolutions recognizing police officers Taylor Sidler and Paul Watson for their heroic actions following the shooting at the Shepherd Recreation Center in August. The board also honored Quinta Brunson and Sheryl Lee Ralph, wife of state Sen. Vincent Hughes, for their Emmy wins for their hit television series Abbott Elementary.
In other Council news, there have been some changes in leadership and committee appointments for positions due to the resignations of Councilors Derek Greene, Alan Domb, Cherelle Parker and Maria Quiñones-Sanchez.
All but Dombo have announced they are running for mayor to replace Jim Kenney, who has served two terms and is barred by law from running for a third consecutive term.
Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., whose 4th District includes parts of West Philadelphia, Manyayunk and Roxborough, was elected as the new majority leader, a position Parker had held.
Mark Squilla, who represents the 1st District, which includes parts of downtown and south Philadelphia, was elected by a majority vote over Jones. Cindy Bass, who represents parts of North Philadelphia and Germantown in the 8th District, was elected deputy whip, replacing Skilla.
Clark also announced several new committee appointments Thursday, with Jones now chairing the Appropriations Committee, which Sanchez held. Squilla became the new chairman of the finance committee, replacing Green. At-Large Board Member Isaiah Thomas, a former teacher, is the new chairman of the Education Committee, replacing Sanchez. At-Large Councilwoman Kathryn Gilmore Richardson is chair of the Law and Government Committee, replacing Parker. The new chairman of the Licenses and Inspections Committee is Mike Driscoll, who represents the 6th District, which includes northeastern areas such as Frankford, Port Richmond, Ronhurst and Tacony.
Meanwhile, a group of party leaders at the Democratic Town Committee chose Sharon Vaughn, who served as chief of staff for Councilmember Green; and Jimmy Harrity, who was running for state Sen. Sharif Street for positions in the Nov. 8 election to replace Greene and Domb, who were both at-large or city-at-large members of the Council.
Democratic leaders were scheduled to vote on the pair Thursday night after the Philadelphia Tribune’s press time.