Each of the six newest members of City Council introduced resolutions Thursday morning calling for Council’s Committee of the Whole to hold hearings on various aspects of the city’s tax delinquency epidemic. The group—comprised of Councilmen Bobby Henon, Kenyatta Johnson, Dennis O’Brien, David Oh, Mark Squilla, and Councilwoman Cindy Bass—is calling it the Taxpayer Fairness Initiative.
“Real estate taxes really matter. The revenues generated from real estate taxes support our schools, our teachers, our firefighters, our police officers, and our museums,” the group said in a statement and on a new website. “…We’ve heard the cries for action. Everyone should pay. Philadelphia should collect what we are owed. It’s only fair.”
The resolutions—announced just a few days after Mayor Nutter laid out his own strategy for delinquent tax collection, a $40 million program focused largely on technology updates for the Revenue Department—call for six separate Council Committee hearings.
· Councilman O’Brien called for a hearing on the “big picture,” understanding tax delinquency.
· Councilwoman Bass called for a hearing on delinquent vacant property.
· Councilman Squilla called for a hearing delinquent commercial property.
· Councilman Johnson called for a hearing on delinquent residential investment property.
· Councilman Henon called for a hearing on delinquent owner-occupied property.
· And Councilman Oh called for a hearing on national best practices for tax collection.
The goals of the program are to understand the delinquency problem, raise awareness of it citywide, and bring delinquent homeowners into payment plans with the city. These issues have been enumerated in an ongoing reporting project from PlanPhilly and the Inquirer.
The freshman City Council members took office in January of 2012. Toward the end of their first spring session, Council Majority Leader Curtis Jones, Jr., dubbed them “The Serious Six,” because of their immediate engagement in the AVI debate and other matters of municipal importance. Though they don’t seem to have repeated that name in their first initiative as a group.
Jared Brey writes about development, zoning policy, and city government for PlanPhilly.com. He wasn't interested in being a reporter until halfway through a master's program in journalism at Temple University that he intended to parlay into an academic career. His work has appeared in the Philadelphia City Paper, Philadelphia Business Journal, Daily News, and Metropolis.