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Whacked By Lawsuit Costs, Old City Civic Association Disbands

By John McDevitt

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A civic group championing the concerns of residents and businesses in the Old City section of Philadelphia is no more, the victim of lawsuits and high liability insurance premiums.

But a city councilman is trying to help.

The Old City Civic Association a couple of weeks ago did away with its lawsuit-luring liquor and development committees.

Since then, the association has voted to disband altogether, citing the ongoing cost of lawsuits and the high premiums for its D&O (directors and officers) insurance.

The Old City District, primarily representing businesses in the commercial section of Old City, remains in place.

"But the business interest and the community sometimes are a little different," notes Councilman Mark Squilla, whose district includes Old City.

"We don't want to lose the voice of the community," he tells KYW Newsradio, "and to lose that I think would be detrimental to the City of Philadelphia -- because the city is a city of neighborhoods."

Squilla says the Old City Civic Association was hobbled by the cost of getting sued.  Even though the cases didn't go to court, the OCCA faced thousands of dollars in legal bills after being sued twice in 13 months for objecting to liquor license transfers.

Now, Squilla is assisting members of the former OCCA as they try to create a stronger community voice for zoning and development issues.  He is floating proposals for risk management, including legislation that would shield civic groups from lawsuits, establishing an umbrella insurance group for all registered community organizations (RCOs) so it is not as expensive, and exploring the possibility of allowing RCOs to utilize the city's law department.

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