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New Panel Keeping Watch On Philadelphia Department Of L&I

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Philadelphia's beleaguered Department of Licenses and Inspections has a new watchdog -- a result of changes made in the wake of the 2013 Market Street building collapse.

The building collapse resulted in a task force that sent 37 recommendations to the mayor last fall. Now Mayor Nutter has created an oversight board to make sure that L&I actually follows through on those recommendations.

"These folks have been chosen, and have been put into place, to make sure that these recommendations not only have a fair hearing, but actually get done," says the mayor's Chief of Staff, Everett Gillison.

Heading the oversight board will be Mike Nadol, a former top official in Ed Rendell's mayoral administration. Gillison says the panel will report on the remaking of L&I to the public through a website:

"So that whatever L&I does with the recommendations -- or does not do with the recommendations -- will be reported and handled by that oversight board in a very public way."

The mayor, of course, has just one year left in office, so the oversight board creates the formal structure that will ensure the next mayor's L&I chief follows through as well, if any of these recommendations remain unfulfilled come 2016.

"If the (L&I) Commissioner decides that for whatever reason that there's something (in the task force recommendations) he does not want to get done, he has to justify it to these people," says Gillison. "They will have a give-and-take, I am quite sure."

The chief recommendation of the task force is a restructuring of the city administration, so that the Department of Licenses and Inspections is split in two. One new department would oversee all demolition and construction in the city; the other would handle L&I's other functions like permitting.

Meantime, Council President Darrell Clarke is calling for a single new cabinet level "Department of Planning and Development." It would take over all of L&I functions, but also those of the Planning and Historical Commissions, the Office of Housing and Community Development and the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Either approach would require voter approval to amend the City Charter.

Clarke's idea was approved by the full council last year and will appear as a referendum on the May primary ballot.

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