The Philadelphia Parking Authority has a new president and takes a step towards the fight against patronage
The Philadelphia Parking Authority, long a haven of political favors and patronage jobs, has a new leader – and may soon have a new way of doing business.
The authority’s board of directors voted unanimously on Tuesday to elect lawyer Beth Grossman as the new chair. Minutes later, board member Al Schmidt, a Republican city commissioner, proposed a rule change that could bar employees from serving as party neighborhood leaders or committee members, which would be a capital change for an agency that has gained a reputation for employing politically connected people. .
Grossman, a former district attorney and 2017 Republican candidate for district attorney, holds the post held by Joe Ashdale, who stepped down as president in August after leading the agency since a GOP takeover by the GOP by Harrisburg two decades ago.
“My priorities continue to improve various aspects of authority, including customer service, efficiency and public safety,” Grossman said in an interview. “I will always be dedicated to Philadelphia, and I’m happy to be in this role.”
Grossman is the program director of Scioli Turco Inc., a non-profit organization that acquires vacant properties in the name of burn reduction. Previously, she served as an assistant district attorney for 21 years and chief of staff for the Philadelphia Department of Licensing and Inspections. She received her law degree from Temple University and her undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University.
Serving as president of PPA is a part-time job, with a salary of $ 75,000.
Vice President Al Taubenberger, a former Republican city council member, had sought to succeed Ashdale but was unable to gain enough board support last month to even hold a vote. Schmidt said he encouraged Grossman to step into the void.
Currently, there are five Republicans and one Democrat on the board.
Before the pandemic, the Parking authority employed around 1,000 people and brought in more than $ 250 million in revenue per year.
Exempted from the city’s civil service system, the agency has long been known as a haven for political patronage jobs, with many of its employees linked to politicians and neighborhood leaders. Ashdale single-handedly saw 10 of his relatives hired at the agency during his tenure, The Inquirer reported in 2019.
In recent years, the agency has sought to combat this reputation for patronage, and Schmidt on Tuesday introduced a measure to take that effort further. His proposal, which could get a vote as early as next month, would bar PPA employees from serving as ward leaders or committee members.
“Real or perceived, authority has a reputation where – whenever it appears in the newspapers or, I’m sure, whenever someone gets a ticket – the specter of political patronage looms in the mind.” people, and I think it’s important that authority puts that behind us, ”Schmidt said. “Nowadays you would really need to justify why people should be able to hold political office. [and work at the PPA]. … I am not sure what the authority wins.
Neither Schmidt nor the agency could say how many employees could be affected by such a rule.
A 2020 audit by City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart found that the ranks of politically connected people remain predominant in the PPA. Out of a sample of 107 employees, the audit found 25 either held political office or lived with someone who did. The audit did not attempt to count employees “who might otherwise have an influential political connection, such as close friends or family,” meaning there are likely many more at the PPA. who got their jobs through political ties.
PPA’s longtime executive director Vince Fenerty Jr. – who resigned after 11 years in 2016 after The Inquirer reported the agency’s handling of sexual harassment complaints against him – runs two Republican theaters.
Also on Tuesday, the board of directors approved a proposal from Schmidt to create a pilot program to strengthen the enforcement of parking violations on bicycle lanes by hiring five officers to patrol on bicycles, looking for illegally parked cars. .
The one-year pilot will be limited to the area between Delaware Avenue and 40th Street, and between Spring Garden and Bainbridge Streets. The PPA expects program costs to include around $ 50,000 per agent, a staff member said on Tuesday.
The board will consider expanding the program after one year. Covering the entire city would require 35 officers and three supervisors, a staff member said.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the PPA paid to resolve sexual harassment complaints against Vince Fenerty Jr.