Controller Butkovitz claims businesses dissatisfied with papal prep

Sam Newhouse

It’s just over three weeks until Pope Francis arrives.

But the city still has a long way to go to address the concerns of businesses with the secure area in Center City that are fearful trash won’t be picked up and employees won’t be able to get to their jobs, according to a survey released Wednesday by City Controller Alan Butkovitz.

“Philadelphia’s entering a phase now where we’re going to have the eyes of the world on us for this Pope’s visit,” Butkovitz said of the reason for this report.”It’s going to be followed a few months later by the Democratic National Convention. So if there’s stuff that we haven’t gotten nailed down, we have to get it nailed down by July.”

Related link:Butkovitz: How to create 4,400 jobs in Philly

Butkovitz said a survey of 68 businesses found 38percent said they didn’t get enough information about logistics and were unable to plan adequately, while48 percent said they got little to no information but are prepared for the pope’s visit.

That flies in the face ofMayor Michael Nutter’s efforts to smooth over the concerns of businesses who are going to be operating over the weekend of Friday to Sunday, Sept. 25 through 27, as a security borderperimeter is set up from Girard Avenue to South Street and from the Delaware River to 38th Street that no vehicles are permitted to enter.

Nutter’s spokesman Mark McDonald saidthe city has made massive efforts to provide businesses with enough information — including opening up the papalBusiness Resource Center hotline.

Related link: Butkovitz: Public schools in dangerous condition, need repairs

“The best thing the Controller could have done is to refer anyone who called him with concerns to the Commerce Department’s business center,” McDonald said. He said that through the hotline, 300 businesses have been dealt with, and that the city has also worked with the associations of city hotels, restaurants and healthcare workers.

There are 12,000 businesses within the event borders and 400 within the “secure zone” along the Parkway.

Related link: Butkovitz: Half of city departments don’t punish tardy employees

Even within Butkovitz’ report, some of the results don’t add up.

In response to aquestion about the changes due to the pope’s visit, seven businesses said they would be closed for the weekend of the papal visit.

In response to a questions about the planned security perimeter, sixteen businesses said they would be closed.

In response a question about revenue expectations during the weekend, zero said they would be closed.

Butkovitz said in response to these discrepancies that these are just the answers that businesses provided on the paper surveys.

Other stats from the report include that 86 percent of the businesses said Nutter’s administration has provided little or no detail, 91 percent said the security perimeter around Center City will create new challenges to their business, while 45 percent expected above-average revenues.

Questioned about why he would release this report now, Butkovitz said the city is not being sufficiently receptive to business-owners’ concerns.

“It’s better than a process where all you’re doing is broadcasting,and shutting down and ignoring the concerns of businesses,” Butkovitz said. “I’m more interested in solutions than criticizing … I’d like to solve them. There’s still enough time to engage with that kind of inquiry.”

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