Philadelphia, June 10, 2013 – City Council on Monday announced the formation of a Special Investigative Committee to probe the deadly June 5, 2013, building collapse at 22nd and Market Streets and undertake a wholesale examination of City regulations and procedures in the areas of building safety, neighborhood development, construction and demolition, and licensing and certification.
Council President Darrell L. Clarke named the following members to the Special Investigative Committee: Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell (3rd District), chair of the Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development & the Homeless; Councilman Bobby Henon (6th District), chair of the Committee on Public Property & Public Works; Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. (4th District), chair of the Committee on Public Safety; Councilman At-Large Jim Kenney, chair of the Committee on Labor & Civil Service; and Councilwoman María Quiñones Sánchez (7th District), chair of the Committee on Licenses & Inspections.
“There are legitimate questions as to whether the deaths of six people and injuries to fourteen others could have been prevented,” Council President Clarke said. “While our City mourns this terrible loss, it is on our leaders to examine the events leading up to the 22nd and Market demolition collapse and come up with ways to ensure something like this never happens again. The time for truly proactive government is now.”
The Special Investigative Committee will engage in a comprehensive review of the management and oversight of vacant and blighted buildings across the City; invite industry experts from Philadelphia and elsewhere to give testimony on best practices; and request information from City officials and businesses involved in the 22nd & Market demolition, by subpoena if necessary.
“Property owners have to be held responsible for their actions as well as their inactions,” Councilman Henon said. “Whether it’s a decision to leave a property to deteriorate or it’s a decision to try to save a few bucks by hiring untrained and incompetent contractors to do work
on a property, owners are responsible for the harm their decisions cause. If they are getting away with it in Center City, they are certainly getting away with it in our neighborhoods. The time to make aggressive changes is now.”
“I have long been a proponent of increasing our budgetary commitment to Licenses and Inspections,” Councilwoman Sánchez said. “In light of this tragedy, we need to carefully review our standards and practices for demolitions to ensure that our public safety agencies are following best practices and are adequately funded.”
“Last week’s tragedy proves that a building can be just as deadly as a gun,” Councilman Jones said. “As with guns, responsible ownership and management are vital to the public good. The Special Investigative Committee will explore better ways to incentivize good building stewardship – and penalize neglect and abandonment.”
“Preliminary reports indicate that the workers at this demolition site had no business being there,” Councilman Kenney said. “Examining just how these workers are vetted and finding ways to ensure construction and demolitions are done by truly qualified individuals will be a top priority of this Special Investigative Committee.”
“Residents across the City sound alarms about dangerous buildings and site work every day. Last week’s tragedy makes us wonder if the people are actually being heard by their government,” Councilwoman Blackwell said. “This tragedy demonstrates there not only must be greater communication among City departments, but also greater communication between the City and the people it serves and protects.”
A resolution creating the Special Investigative Committee will be introduced on Thursday, June 13, 2013. The Committee will release its findings and recommend revisions of legislation and City procedures, departmental funding levels, and disincentives for owners of vacant and blighted properties in a final report.
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