Not much to say on the first day

The Sunshine Law shined into City Hall on Thursday as Council grappled with the implementation of a Supreme Court decision to include public comment during regular sessions.

A lectern was placed outside the gates leading to the council-seating area at 10:53 a.m. The Sergeant-at-Arms tapped the microphone to make sure it worked at 11:22 a.m. Then, Anthony D’Angelo of George Smith Towing and two other speakers urged Council to vote against putting their industry under Philadelphia Parking Authority purview.

“Please do not take the ability to make an honest living away from us,” he said. (The bill was held without a vote.)

Comments lasted 12 minutes and included Darrell M. Zaslow, an attorney who involved in the suit that led to a yet-finalized public-commenting policy. Even though D’Angelo said afterwards that he felt “bulldozed” by the issue itself, Zaslow noted “regardless of how their issue comes down” the speakers’ desire and ability to speak their mind to Council “was a historic moment.”

Zaslow took some issue with Council’s limitations. The public “should have the right to express opinions on” non-agenda items, he said. He added the City wasn’t bound to spend money to mail agendas and other documents upon request, holding a stack of postage-metered envelopes. “The issue of public notice is different than the issue of public comment,” he said, questioning costs involved “as a taxpayer, when the city’s in a financial crunch.”

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown said relying on e-mail delivery isn’t feasible because “we have to be mindful of citizens who aren’t electronically fluent.”

Studying cell phone effects

A resolution offered by Councilwoman-at-Large Blondell Reynolds-Brown at Thursday’s meeting calls for hearings about potential health risks from cell-phone radiation and to educate “children and teens on ways to reduce radiation exposure by using headsets, speakerphones and texting.”

She said Israel and France have issued Cell Phone Radiation Advisories, Maine requires warning labels and San Francisco has passed an ordinance requiring merchants to warn customers about the risks.

A hearing date is yet to be scheduled.

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