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Tussle Over Credit For New Regulations After Center City Building Collapse

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(City councilman James Kenney, left, in file image from City of Phila. TV.  Mayor Michael Nutter, right, in file photo. (credit: Mike Dunn)

(City councilman James Kenney, left, in file image from City of Phila. TV. Mayor Michael Nutter, right, in file photo. (credit: Mike Dunn)

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Tragedy can lead to legislative change.  And that, in turn, can lead to politicians tripping over one another in the rush to claim credit.

A case-in-point came this past week in Philadelphia.

Last year’s Market Street building collapse, in which six people were killed (see related story), prompted a host of changes.  One that took effect this past week involved new mandatory signage at all construction sites.  Mayor Nutter unveiled the first sign on Thursday (see related story) and claimed the change began with an executive order his issued shortly after the tragedy:

“In the aftermath of the tragedy last summer, a series of executive orders were issued and a process was started with regard to signage requirements.”

But in fact nothing in the mayor’s June 2013 executive order pertained to signage, and a spokesman later admitted the mayor erred.

This prompted city councilman Jim Kenney (left photo), a member of City Council’s special committee on demolitions, formed after the building collapse, to weigh in.  He claimed it was Council, not the Nutter administration, that spurred the new signage requirements:

“The administration fought everything tooth-and-nail, all along the way,” Kenney said Thursday afternoon. “And we basically had to force our will as a Council on the city (administration) to accept these standards.  There were a myriad of excuses of why they couldn’t do it.”

The back-and-forth continued, as mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald insisted that the signage requirements did begin at the mayor’s initiative, even if they were not contained in the executive order.

“I’m not sure what planet Mr. Kenney was on when those discussions occurred,” McDonald said.  “The mayor gave very clear directives to the L&I commissioner to develop appropriate signage.”

No member of City Council attended the mayor’s news conference on Thursday.  Two, including Kenney, sent staffers to observe.

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