Jan 19, 2023 - News

Philadelphia City Council members set priorities for 2023

Illustration of Philadelphia City Hall with lines radiating from it.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: BasSlabbers/Getty Images

Philadelphia City Council members reconvening today for the first time this year say they're ready to tackle a host of issues as election campaigns heat up.

Why it matters: Legislators enter a lame-duck session in which they'll try to address long-term problems of crime, poverty, affordable housing and the opioid epidemic that have plagued the city throughout their terms.

  • Plus, term-limited Mayor Jim Kenney will unveil his final spending plan in the coming months, a process that's sure to trigger intense debate among some legislators who want to keep taxes flat in an election year.

The big picture: All council seats are up for election on the November ballot — along with the mayor, sheriff and other offices. But most races are settled during the May primary.

  • That's because Democrats who win their party's nomination in the primary typically go on to win in November, as registered Democrats significantly outnumber their Republican counterparts in the city.

Between the lines: It remains to be seen how much legislators can accomplish this session while contending with the vacancy created by former councilmember Helen Gym, who resigned in November to join a crowded mayoral field.

  • Council President Darrell Clarke hasn't said whether he'll schedule a special election to fill Gym's seat.
  • Republican councilmember David Oh is also expected to give up his seat to enter the race.

What they're saying: Alleviating poverty and putting the "spotlight on city personnel hiring practices" are among Clarke's top priorities heading into the new session, his spokesperson Joe Grace told Axios.

  • The city will hold hearings to determine why 4,000 job vacancies remain in police, fire, water, sanitation and other city departments.
  • Clarke told WHYY that at least 25,000 people were on a waitlist vying for those openings.

What we're watching: Several other legislators, in lockstep with Mayor Kenney, told Axios that public safety remains their top priority.

  • Councilmember Jamie Gauthier intends to "keep pushing" Kenney to declare a state of emergency on the gun violence epidemic, an overture he's previously resisted, a spokesperson told Axios.
  • Councilmember Mark Squilla, meanwhile, will work to establish an oversight committee that'll determine whether millions of dollars in opioid settlements are being properly invested in the city, his spokesperson told Axios.

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