By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – When Philadelphia City Council convenes its 2012 legislative session this morning, it’ll have a very different look, with new leadership and six new members. But the biggest issues are anything but new.
Gaveling the session to start will be the new council President, Darrell Clarke, who says his priority will be avoiding new tax increases.
“To broaden our revenue base, using some creative measures that will put us in a position where we will not be looking to increase any taxes in this upcoming year,” Clarke says. “Our initial response to most of the problems that we’ve experienced during this downturn has simply been to raise taxes, fees and fines. We have to do things differently.”
The vexing problems facing Council and Mayor Nutter this session include trying to help out the deficit-ridden school district, and moving to a new property assessment system.
Factoring into any resolution of those issues is a big uncertainty: how well Clarke — in his new role as President — will work with Nutter.
“I’m prepared to work with Mayor Nutter,” says Clarke. “I think that people’s willingness to work together is real, is strong.”
The mayor, for his part, isn’t worried:
“Council President Clarke and I have known each other for 20-plus years. I think that has somehow passed everyone’s attention.”
Another uncertainty is the impact of six new council members, and those freshmen lawmakers may be looking to make their marks out of the gate.
The six new members are Mark Squilla of the First District, Kenyatta Johnson of the Second District, Bobby Henon of the Sixth District, Cindy Bass of the Eighth District — all Democrats — and two Republican at-large councilmen, David Oh and Denny O’Brien.
Councilman Bill Green, who was a freshman four years ago, expects the six newcomers to be extremely active.
“I hope that the freshmen come in and rock the boat. Its six new people, which is over a third of the body. It’s a great big new energy.”
And overall, Green — often one of the mayor’s staunchest critics — expects a tumultuous legislative session.
“There’s a lot of controversial stuff that’s going to come up. And this new council is going to be put to the test.”