Jan 25, 2024 - News

New-look Philadelphia City Council sets priorities for 2024

Illustration of Philadelphia City Hall with lines radiating from it.

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

The new-look Philadelphia City Council returns Thursday for its first working meeting of the year.

Why it matters: The success — or failure — of both the 17-member legislature and newly-elected Mayor Cherelle Parker will depend on how well they work together to achieve their agendas.

State of play: New Council President Kenyatta Johnson leads a relatively inexperienced group — the majority of members (12) have served a single term or less.

  • The legislature also has four new lawmakers, including councilmembers Rue Landau, the chamber's first openly LGBTQ+ member, and Nina Ahmad, the first immigrant to hold a seat in recent memory.

Between the lines: Progressives gained ground: Members of the Working Families Party have two seats, up from one last term.

  • Those two join Democrats Landau, a civil rights attorney, and Councilmember Jamie Gauthier to make up the more liberal wing of the legislature.

Zoom in: Johnson said after being elected that he would prioritize gun violence, education, affordable housing, poverty and business development.

  • Under Johnson, committee hearings will be in-person, which have been held virtually since the start of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, other members tell Axios their priorities include:

  • Ahmad wants to use public health solutions to address violence and create more pathways for science and technology jobs.
  • Councilmember Isaiah Thomas expects to focus on traffic safety and benefits for college athletes, per spokesperson Ben Wilcox.

Plus: Councilmember Quetcy Lozada has said she wants a tougher law enforcement approach to the open-air drug markets and encampments for the unhoused in Kensington, per the Inquirer.

Zoom out: The 76ers' proposed arena in Center City is among the biggest issues confronting legislators this year.

  • The council needs to provide the necessary approvals for the project to move forward but is waiting for the Parker administration to release impact studies for the proposal.

Zoom in: Councilmembers are awaiting more info about Parker's agenda as she continues to ramp up her administration and fill top-level positions.

  • Many of those details will come in March when Parker unveils her first city budget.

What they're saying: "Council is focused on the biggest concerns in the city," Gauthier tells Axios, adding she expects Johnson to create a sense of unity with the Parker administration.

  • "We're looking forward to seeing Mayor Parker's priorities through her first 100 days in her budget. At the moment, we're really looking to support her," Wilcox says.

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