PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia City Council gave final approval to a stripped down city budget Thursday along with a hefty agenda of bills and resolutions, as it wrapped up what is surely one of its most unusual sessions ever.
Council began meeting online when the COVID-19 pandemic started, and at first was doing only pandemic-related business.
But it’s ambitions grew as the full impact of the shutdown became clear and as calls for racial justice filled the streets, and it broke for the summer after passing dozens of bills offering worker protections, police reforms, restaurant support, new rules for the shutdown PES refinery, and a greatly reworked budget that compensated for three-quarters of a billion dollars in lost revenue with modest tax increases and hundreds of layoffs.
The final product had its critics.
Councilmember Kendra Brooks voted against it because the police budget, though it wasn’t increased, was not actually cut.
“I cannot accept a budget that allows the Philadelphia Police Department to make up 15% of the total operation budget when they have failed to historically make our operation safer,” Brooks said.
Her colleague Jaime Gauthier, though, said keeping the budget level was a step in the right direction.
“I want to say to everyone who has been protesting and emailing and calling and making their voices heard, that even though it may not be fully reflected in this year’s budget, your efforts are not in vain,” Gauthier said.
Gauthier is in her first year on council but she ventured that this year’s budget negotiations were the most difficult and high-stakes in the city’s history.
No one disagreed.