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Phila. City Council Presses Ahead With New Structure For L&I Oversight

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The grieving mother of one of the victims of the 2013 Market Street building collapse today asked City Council members to put the brakes on a plan to change parts of the city charter related to the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections ("L&I").

But the lawmakers ignored her plea and gave preliminary approval to the plan.

Testifying was Nancy Winkler (top photo), mother of Anne Bryan, who was one of six victims of the building collapse.  Winkler is the city treasurer but was testifying as a private citizen, not for the administration.

She said she opposes City Council president Darrell Clarke's plan to create a new Department of Planning and Development that would oversee L&I.   She said that would perpetuate the problem that led to the June 2013 collapse.

"Development trumped safety on June 5," she said.  "L&I was reporting to an economic development czar, whose focus was on development."

Winkler said L&I needs to put safety above development:

"The public wants real reform and a public safety focus.  This charter amendment (Clarke's plan) would enshrine the status of safety as secondary to development.  Forgive me, but I do not think this is the right way to proceed on a matter of such life-and-death circumstances."

So, Winkler urged council to put off a vote on Clarke's plan:

"Please do not rush a change on the city charter that does not go far enough to protect public safety," she said.  "That is the least that the families of the victims, and the citizens of Philadelphia, deserve."

The mayor's development czar, commerce director Alan Greenberger (below left), also asked for a delay.

"There's a lot of questions that need to be answered," he said.  "There's a lot of people who have a specific interest in how this goes, and they're going to need to understand better.  We're going to need to understand better."

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(City commerce director Alan Greenberger, left, and City Council president Darrell Clarke at a committee hearing on changes to the city charter. Image from City of Phila. TV)


But Clarke quickly pointed out to Greenberger that his plan to some degrees mirrors the mayor's own governmental structure, in which L&I reports to Greenberger.

"Just for the record, I want to make sure that people understood that what we're proposing is very similar to what you've done," Clarke told Greenberger.

Greenberger did not disagree.  And Clarke noted that his proposal mirrors governmental structures of other cities.

Despite Winkler's plea for a delay, and despite concerns voiced by other speakers, City Council's Law & Government committee approved the measure and sent it to the full Council.

Clarke said the proposal will be amended further before any final vote.

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