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Between now and June (or July, if they’re late) Philadelphia City Council will hold hearings, introduce legislation — in some cases, at least — vote on a slew of big, complicated, and controversial issues.

AxisPhilly will be following most of these issues closely. And we want to know what you think. Which of these matter most to you, and why? Let us know.

Meanwhile, Council’s weekly Tuesday meetings can seem a little … dry … for the uninitiated — but the politics behind all the formalities are often lively indeed; and we’re hoping to take readers behind that Council curtain.

Paid Sick Leave – When At-large Councilman William Greenlee introduced a bill to require Philadelphia businesses to grant their employees paid sick leave today, it marked the second attempt to introduce such a law. While a similar bill passed in Council in 2011, it was vetoed by Mayor Michael Nutter, and the bill’s sponsors, Greenlee and Council President Darrell Clarke, couldn’t get the two-thirds majority required to overturn the mayor’s veto.

As was the case in 2011, a number of progressive, activist, and union voices have coalesced around the issue, making it probably the second-most prominent labor campaign going on right now (the first, of course, is the ongoing negotiation between the mayor and the city’s unions).

Supporters of paid sick leave showed up in full force today, though they were asked — by  Councilman Greenlee, the bill’s very sponsor — not to testify about why they were there, thanks to a Council rule banning public testimony on anything but bills being voted on that day.

What this coalition needs is 11 votes — enough, that is, to overturn the mayor’s veto again. That means, presumably, picking up two new votes.

Schools (and distorted reality fields) – While Council has no direct control over the Philadelphia School District, it does have the power to hold hearings on how the District uses city money and the power of the bully pulpit when it comes to District decisions. Today, Council passed a resolution calling for a one-year moratorium on proposed school closings. The resolution, sponsored by Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, is non-binding — that is, symbolic.

But it managed to stir up controversy within Council anyway. Dissenting from the vote were Council members Maria Quinones-Sanchez and Bill Green. Quinones-Sanchez said she thinks the language in the bill creates a “zero sum game, and that to me sounds irresponsbile … I want to continue the dialogue.” Green asked whether Council had walked through “a reality distortion field” that day, pointing to year-old reports by the Philadelphia Public School notebook citing a need for school closings, and making the case that Council asked the District not to close schools last year. “There has been a one-year moratorium,” he argued.

Zoning — After two long, grueling years of meetings, the city’s zoning commission produced a complete overhaul of the city’s zoning code last year. And then one Councilman, 10th District Councilman Brian O’Neill, introduced a bill seeking to return several aspects of the code to their pre-overhaul state. That bill has been amended, and was not put to a vote in Council today. It may see more changes in the coming weeks as Council members weigh its consequences internally.

Meanwhile, Council voted today to take back some of the control it lost in the zoning redo, by overriding the mayor’s veto of a bill sponsored by 3rd district Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, which changes another aspect of the new zoning code regarding Registered Community Organizations (RCOs). Council members favoring the bill seek to have more direct influence over zoning decisions than they feel the current code provides.  At-large Councilman Bill Green and 1st and 7th District Council members Mark Squilla and Quinones-Sanchez were the only “no” votes to override the mayor’s veto.

Coming up …

AVI – If you’ve heard that Philadelphia’s City Council has yet to pass the sweeping (and sometimes controversial) real estate tax reform known as the Actual Value Initiative, you heard it wrong: Council passed AVI last summer, and the administration’s reassessment of every property in the city, nearly complete, does not require Council’s authorization.

At-Large Councilman Bill Green made this point rather forcefully himself today, declaring that “The debate is over. AVI Passed.”

But Council still has to figure out whether and where it will set exemptions like the anticipated homestead exemption and possible protection for residents in gentrifying neighborhoods, and it has to settle on a final tax rate: Because so many properties have been so under-assessed for so long, the total assessed worth of real estate in the city is expected to more than double under AVI. Council is expected to lower the tax rate accordingly — but exactly where Council sets that rate has yet to be decided.

Land Bank – Hearings on a proposed “Land Bank” are expected this winter or early spring. While there are tens of thousands of vacant lots across the city, policies around the sale of that property to individuals, community groups, or other developers have been fairly conservative for the past few years. The land bank, championed by 7th District Councilwoman Maria Quionones-Sanchez, is one proposed way to get vacant land back into productive use. It would allow a body separate from Council and the city — though well-represented by both — to convey land, in some cases for low or nominal fees.

What’s your take on one or all of these issues — and what’s missing from the list? Drop a line ( isaiah at axisphilly.org ) or, better yet, leave a comment. 

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Read more about City Council:

Inquirer: Philly Council hears plan to raise revenue from nonprofits, charities

PlanPhilly: Council overrides Mayoral veto of RCO bill as O’Neill backs off community garden

City Paper: City Council calls for moratorium on school closings, overrides veto on zoning

The Notebook: City Council passes resolution to support moratorium on school closings