Rocked by resignations, a depleted Philly City Council says it’s staying on task

As the 2023 race for mayor heats up, four councilmembers have departed in less than 30 days

By: - September 13, 2022 10:17 am

Philadelphia City Councilmember Cherelle Parker (Philadelphia Tribune photo).

By Stephen Williams

PHILADELPHIA — Members of City Council said sacrifices must be made to be sure that the body functions to address the many urgent challenges facing Philadelphia, despite the resignations for four members in less than 30 days.

Last week, three Council members resigned: Derek Green, an at-large member; Maria D. Quiñones Sánchez, who represents the 7th District, which includes part of North, the lower Northeast Philadelphia, including Kensington and Frankford; and Cherelle Parker, whose 9th District includes parts of Mount Airy, East and West Oak Lane and other parts of Northwest and Northeast Philadelphia. All three said they are running for mayor.

Allan Domb, who resigned in August from his at-large member seat, is expected to run for mayor, but hasn’t announced his intentions.

Curtis W. Jones Jr., whose 4th District represents parts of West Philadelphia and neighborhoods such as Overbrook, Wynnefield, Manayunk and Roxborough, is a member of Council leadership as majority whip.

Jones and other members in leadership, including Council President Darrell Clarke and Councilmember Mark Squilla, are assessing which remaining members should be on, or chair or vice chair of certain committees that have been left vacant, he said. Squilla represents the 1st District, which includes the river wards and parts of South Philadelphia.

“We have to deal within the reality that the city charter requires us to pass a law we still need nine votes,” Jones said. “We will have a reduced number of members that are needed to create a quorum and pass things out of committee.”

On Friday, Clarke announced that special elections will be held Election Day on Nov. 8 to fill vacancies in the 7th and 9th Districts.

“We have urgent issues confronting our city — public safety and gun violence, restarting our economy after the pandemic, and creating more jobs, affordable housing and hope for every Philadelphian,” Clarke said. “It is vitally important that more than 339,000 residents of the Seventh and Ninth Districts have full, active representation in Council, with access to the specific kinds of constituent services and district-specific legislation that can only be provided by their district Councilmember.”

The political parties will nominate the candidates to run in the special election in November. Those nominees will be on the ballot along with choices for Pennsylvania governor and U.S. senator.

Next year, all 17 seats in City Council are up for election.

According to Jones, Clarke decided to maintain all the staff from those who resigned so that their constituents will have access to services in the interim.

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“We are all going to have to do double duty,” Jones said.

“At the end of the day we all know that the city has quite a few challenges right now,” said Councilmember Cindy Bass, whose 9th District represents Germantown, Nicetown, Tioga and Chestnut Hill. “It’s going to be figured out.”

She applauded Clarke’s call for special elections.

“That speaks to the understanding of the urgency,” Bass said. “We need to have these elections to make decisions and we can’t have any of our neighborhoods left behind. We need to have committee members at the table.”

Jones said he will miss the members who resigned “and the intellectual property that they possessed. And it is going to be hard to replace,” he said. “We are going to meet with members to decide those kinds of replacement issues. That is least of our worries. We are going to do what is in the best interest of the body and the public.”

Asked if she would be interested in a leadership role, Bass said, “I think there are some great opportunities and as a member of Council for quite some time, I am hopeful that there might be some consideration. We have to wait and see. As always we are happy to work with the Council president and what he thinks is the best thing for our city.”

Stephen Williams is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.

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