A representative for Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office used a hearing intended to discuss how crime in the city is impacting economic development along business corridors to pitch cost-of-living raises for employees of the DA’s office.
At the Monday hearing, First Assistant District Attorney Robert Listenbee spent his first two minutes of speaking time acknowledging the topic at hand, then swerved into prepared remarks on the need for $4.7 million in raises.
“First, he [Krasner] went through and looked at what was happening with pay. He decided to adopt the principle of pay equity — men and women, and people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds should be paid equally for the same jobs and historical pay inequity should be addressed immediately. And the DA did that.”
“He told the entire staff that all staff will be provided annual cost of living [raises]. This is based upon conversations that he had with city government. Third, he informed all staff that they would be provided annual pay increases within a modest range,” Listenbee continued.
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“These were not gigantic pay increases, just a regular pay increase. And why did he do that? Because we have a lot of people who want to start families. We have a lot of people who want to buy homes in the communities, throughout the city, and we wanted to give them a reasonable expectation of what they can do and how they were going to be able to finance their homes and their families.”
The pitch earned a polite but pointed rebuke from City Councilwoman Cherelle Parker of the city’s ninth district, who chaired the meeting.
“I’ve always credited him [Krasner] about the plan as it related to diversity and inclusion and him making the district attorney’s office look like, um, the people in the city of Philadelphia, and so we talked about that,” Parker began.
“But I do want to be 1000 and one percent clear that the focus of this hearing — public safety and its impact on the economic viability of neighborhood commercial corridors — was clearly communicated to each and every entity we invited to speak with.”
‘The focus of this hearing – public safety and its impact on the economic viability of neighborhood commercial corridors – was clearly communicated to each and every entity we invited to speak with.’
Jabari Jones, president of the West Philadelphia Corridor Collaborative, was an attendee and organizer for the hearing.
“It was extremely disrespectful and unempathetic,” Jones said of the pitch from Listenbee. “We had businesses from West Philadelphia testifying on personal moments that they felt unsafe in Philadelphia and the District Attorney’s Office hijacked the hearing to ask for a salary raise.”
The call for across-the-board raises comes as the DAO is under pressure for the continuing homicide crisis in the city.
Sorry to interrupt your reading – but take a look at this cartoon!
On Sept. 26, the city recorded its 400th homicide for the year. In the intervening two weeks, there have been 22 more.
The city is on pace to easily pass the grim mark of 500 homicides this year, a level not seen since 1990.
An increase in the DAO’s budget to provide raises for the current fiscal year would be a long shot currently. Allocations to each city department are already set, so the City Council would need to introduce legislation that would transfer funding from other departments. Such a move would be difficult because other city departments would likely put up a fight to not lose previously allocated funds.
The most likely scenario would be for the council to allocate the money needed for the raises in the 2023 budget, which would be enacted on July 1, 2022.
Hearings for the 2023 budget would start in February or March and would give the DAO the time to lay the political groundwork needed to make the raises a possibility.
Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at tshepherd at broadandliberty.com, or use his encrypted email at shepherdreports at protonmail.com.