Stephen N. Huntington, Esq.: How do you wish to address the pension deficit of 6 million dollars without the sale of a city asset? If we had to sell an asset what would it be?
Kenney: The city worker’s pension fund, as you know, is sorely underfunded and its costs drag down the government’s entire budget. Â I’m committed to workingÂ with CityÂ Council and the city’s unions on ways to improve the health of the fund, and we’re working with union andÂ other representatives on the pension’s board to reduce management fees. Â Asset sales, while a potentialÂ tool to bring the city new revenues, only results inÂ one-time infusions of cash. The reforms needed by the pension fund must be long-term and sustainable.
Concerned Citizen: Could you briefly tell us why Saint Josephâ€™s hospital was closed? Wasnâ€™t a buyer available? And if you can, also tell us what will be replacing it on that location or will it become a blight?
Kenney: The loss of St. Josephâ€™s is tremendous. This decision was made by the North Philadelphia Health System, a subsidiary of the State government, not the City. Weâ€™ve been assured that the state is working to make other health resources accessible to the community and the City will do whatever possible to facilitate the sale of the land to a buyer who will utilize it for positive community value.
PCA employee: How are you addressing issues that affect seniors in Philadelphia, issues such as housing, health care and access to city government?
Kenney: I have long been committed to improving and protecting the quality of life for Philadelphiaâ€™s senior citizens. Currently, the City operates six BenePhilly Centers at different social service agencies throughout the city. I hope to expand the number of these one stop shops which provide seniors with everything from discount prescription drugs to real estate tax and rent abatement services to almost every neighborhood.
The City is also working closely with SEPTA to develop better ways to accommodate seniors and improve on CCT/Connect services and ensure that service providers are held to high standards. Also as the new SEPTA Key system continues to roll out senior citizens will only to swipe their key or state issued identification to access their free ride.
The City recently broke ground on the Martin Luther King Jr. Older Adult Center which will feature a lunchroom, commercial kitchen, billiard rooms, a multipurpose room as well as classrooms for art, fitness and computers. Also thanks to the Rebuild Philadelphiaâ€™s recreation centers will have numerous improvements for seniors to take advantage of and provide life to the centers during school hours.
Matthew Kilonzo: First, the number of immigrants in Philadelphia is increasing, and there is a need for a political visible position covering matters of immigrants, from education, child care, support employment and elderly care of immigrant population. Are you going to employ more immigrants into public positions?
Kenney: It is the City of Philadelphiaâ€™s goal to ensure that Limited English Proficiency (LEP) residents can meaningfully access all City services, programs and activities. Our administration is strongly committed to making City services and information about those services available to everyone, regardless of language barriers. This commitment stems from overall City goals of efficient and effective government, community engagement, and customer service. With the launching of Language Access Philly, all residents, workers or visitors who are limited English proficient will be receive fair and equal access to service. For more information contact the Office of Immigrant Affairs at OIA@phila.gov
As for employing more immigrants in public positions, I want my administration to look like our City.Â Immigrants are a part of our City and they too should be a part of City government. There are currently immigrants in public positions within my administration and throughout City government.Â As part of Immigrant Heritage Month, we will be highlighting the immigrants that are currently employed with the city.Â I am proud of our immigrant community and am proud to employ immigrants.
Matthew Kilonzo: Will there be more visible jobs for immigrants at the municipal level especially for small business startups?
Kenney: We are very aware of the critical role that immigrants play in revitalizing our neighborhood commercial corridors and we want to do everything possible to further that trend. Our Cityâ€™s Commerce Department has long championed language access; the City now has three bilingual business services managers providing assistance to those who speak Korean, Spanish and Chinese. We also continue our efforts to translate several documents necessary to starting a business into Spanish, Chinese and any other necessary language. We will also continue to work with CDCâ€™s, nonprofits and lending intermediaries that work with immigrant populations.