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Councilman Preps for Fall, Readies New Roxborough Office

Curtis Jones Jr. discusses fall agenda with Ridge Park Civic Association.

Philadelphia City Council's main focus may currently be the proposed elimination of a supposedly costly pension program, but Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. tells constituents he's busy with many matters—including a new office in Roxborough.

The Democratic councilman for the 4th district representing Roxborough and Manayunk, Jones told the Ridge Park Civic Association Monday, "I want to be a partner... in keeping Roxborough the best small town in Philadelphia."

Part of that is a more local approach to governing, with an office planned on Ridge Avenue near the Roxborough-East Falls border, in the Wissahickon neighborhood. Another office is planned for Wynnefield in West Philadelphia.

The other part is targeting key legislation in City Hall.

Mayor Michael Nutter requested City Council eliminate the Deferred Retirement Option Plan—a pension program where employees work for the city after retirement but no longer contribute to their pensions. Citing an August report, Nutter estimated the DROP program cost Philadelphia $258 million since 1999, and called for the council to end it.

Since the body reconvened Sept. 16, Democratic Council President Anna Verna has commissioned a study to evaluate the work done by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. 

Jones' Press Secretary Michelle P. Wilson said the councilman would await Verna's findings before deciding on the program's elimination, which six council members (not Jones) are enrolled in.

"Although DROP will bring intensity to council early throughout the fall session, Councilman Jones will continue his work for the people with an aggressive legislative agenda," Wilson said in an e-mail Monday.

Part of that "aggressive" attack includes hearings and potential legislation on the effect of hydraulic drilling, mortgage foreclosures, and the expansion of community courts.

"All politics is local. I may never rewrite the city charter, but what I want to be remembered for is being responsive to neighborhood concerns," Jones said to the civic group gathered at Church of the Living Saviour.

As chair of the Transportation and Public Utilities Committee, Jones said he'll hold hearings to determine the impact on the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers from hydraulic drilling by embattled natural gas company Marcellus Shale.

In a memo detailing the hearing, City Council said: "Every natural gas well project inherently has the potential to endanger water resources and pollute the environment, as the Marcellus well blowout in Clearfield County on June 3, 2010 illustrated."

Although in western Pennsylvania fallout from the incident caused the Delaware River Basin Commission to suspended Marcellus activity in northeastern Pennsylvania. Jones wants to investigate whether the economic benefits of drilling can be balanced environmentally.

Jones also wants to focus on exploring the affect of mortgage foreclosures on renters, in addition to expanding community courts.

The latter initiative partners Jones with Justice Seamus McCaffery and the Nutter administration to save the city money and expedite the judicial system.

According to Wilson, the program will "fast-track nonviolent offenders to local courts across the city, allowing post-hearing access to social workers, and giving quicker, immediate sentencing."

She estimates a $13,000s savings per offender.

Jones said he plans to attend the Ridge Park's December meeting to give a report card on the fall session.

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