Mayor Luke Ravenstahl may return to his office in a walk this fall, but if last week's city council meeting was any indication, getting re-elected may be the easy part.
"We control the purse strings," Council President Doug Shields said last week. "I wonder if the people that come before us actually know that."
Shields was venting over Bill 2007-1462, which would spend $10,000 on a pilot car-share program through the Flexcar company. The mayor's office says the program will shrink the city's vehicle fleet and reduce pollution. That would be great, except that the plan doesn't cut one car from the fleet, gives access to 20 more vehicles (see City Paper, "Emission Control?," May 23) and still spends $10,000. Originally, the bill was set for a final vote May 22, though bickering has delayed action. During the debate, councilors questioned whether the contract should be opened for bids. That prompted a legal opinion featuring the brilliant analysis: "It's a close one." The bill was sent back for a final vote May 29.
Bill 2007-1428: As if to further illustrate that the city isn't serious about fleet reduction, council allocated $7 million to pay for new vehicles, mainly for public-safety departments and public works.
Bill 2007-1463: How long should authorities wait before sending abandoned animals to doggie heaven? Council argued the issue long enough to make you think that euthanized pets were the lucky ones. Council was on the fast track to approve a bill reducing the time stray animals would be held from three days to two ... until animal-rights activists started baring their claws. "Do not shorten the precious time an owner has to be re-united with their family pet," said Lauren Zabelsky, who used to work for the Animal Rescue League to reunite pets and their owners. On May 23, Councilor Darlene Harris made a motion to "euthanize" the bill by tabling it. It's not the end of the issue, however: The Animal Rescue League, which acts as the city's de facto pound, is raising its rates for boarding animals from $38 for each cat and $48 for each dog to a whopping $182 flat fee for each. Killing's on the house because they've agreed to wave their $27 euthanasia fee. What a bargain -- unless you're a lost puppy, of course.
Upcoming legislation and public hearings:
Bills 2007-1468, 1469, 1470: Council will debate funding and approval of the mayor's summer job program at a total cost of $125,000. The youth will work with the city's Redd-Up crew. The program is important because it will give city children their first taste of cronyism. No word on whether Councilor Jeff Koch is donating T-shirts to the new employees. Bill 2007-1465: That soreness you feel in your backside is from the last official pop in the seat from former Mayor Tom Murphy. He privatized the city garage because it would save the city some cash. Guess what? It didn't. Instead, council has to approve further appropriations to the private repair shop, making it more expensive than the old city garage. If you thought the Flexcar debate was fun, you ain't seen nothing yet.
Quote of the Week: "God Bless the First Amendment." Council President Doug Shields following a three-minute song by a woman during the public-comment period. The song was sung to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and it urged Gov. Ed Rendell to abolish the property tax.