Phila. City Council: billboards and paid leave

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Philadelphia City Council took on two hot topics Thursday: regulating digital billboards and making paid sick leave the law.

A cadre of sign-carrying blue collar workers lobbied City Council one more time Thursday, demanding members pass a paid sick leave law. Council is slated for a final vote on the measure late next week.

The law is expected to benefit some 200,000 private sector employees from restaurants to nursing homes who lose a day's pay if they are too sick to come to work, or if they have to take care of a sick child or spouse.

"We do not feel it should be a government-imposed mandate. What's next, mandatory paid vacations?" said David Hammond of the South Street Headhouse District.

"It's good for public health. Half of all Norovirus cases can be traced to ill food service workers," said social worker Marla McCulloch.

Also due for an up-or-down vote next Thursday, a serious makeover for Market East. It was once the city's main shopping district, with stores like Strawbridge's and Lit Brothers. But it's long been in decline.

Under the bill, developers would be able to install digital billboards that could be several stories tall, if they invest at least $10 million in the building. The goal, economic stimulus for this part of town.

"It's certainly a step in the right direction to beautify the buildings. Make it bright, make it attractive and make it safe, in hopes of turning around the retail decline we've seen over the past thirty or forty years," Councilman Frank DiCicco told Action News.

But preservationists think digital billboards will destroy the character of Market East.

"These types of signs are really not appropriate on the historic buildings that line Market Street between 7th and 13th Streets," said John Gallery of the Preservation Alliance.

There is more much more on City Council's plate as well. Council still hasn't balanced the city budget and probable tax increases are looming. Another example is the task of raising for funds for the school district. And tomorrow there will be a city hearing on various plans, including the resurrection of the sugary drink tax.

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