By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia City Council is launching its own probe of last week’s fatal center city building collapse, though its review will focus on the broad issues of regulations and licensing that govern demolitions.
City Council president Darrell Clarke announced today he has formed a special committee to study the procedures, regulations, licenses, and permits surrounding building demolitions.
“And at the end of the day, this Council will come up with a set of recommendations, and this Council will enact legislation that we hope will create some of the strongest standards in the nation,” Clarke said today.
The committee will have subpoena power, but he stresses it is not a criminal investigation:
“We want to make sure that we don’t get in the way of that particular process.”
Among the lawmakers taking part is 4th District councilman Curtis Jones, who said, “We are going to demand answers, and out of a crisis will come good public policy.”
Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez, who currently chairs City Council’s committee on Licenses and Inspections, indicated that the findings would lead to a willingness to boost L&I’s budget.
“The dollars will follow what we need and what we outline,” she said.
Coincidental with this announcement is that City Council later this week is expected to give initial approval to a new operating budget. But councilmembers such as Jim Kenney don’t want to immediately boost L&I’s budget for more inspectors.
“There’s no sense in throwing a number at it in a week, when this committee is going to work through the summer,” he said.
Clarke had no timetable for the committee to act, though other members in addition to Kenney indicated willingness to meet during their summer recess, when the lawmakers rarely convene.
Mayor Nutter, when asked for reaction to Council’s move, was generally supportive.
“The point for us is: take the information, do something with it, and make things better,” the mayor told KYW Newsradio.
Mayor Nutter last Friday instituted some immediate changes at L&I including — apparently for the first time — a requirement that demolition contractors present credentials in order to get a permit. He also said he would ask for City Council approval to create, for the first time, a formal demolition contractor license.