Transcripts of full meetings of the council.

Jonny Rashid actually. I'm Jonny Rashid. I'm here to speak about Bill 130156, the land bank bill. I'm a pastor for Circle of Hope and I've lived in North Philadelphia for about ten years. I currently live in North Central Philadelphia, and along with 40 other organizations, I'm part of the Campaign to Take Back Vacant Land.

I came to this city to study education at Temple and I haven't left since then. I've been a public school teacher, and I've observed Philadelphia at its most -- among its most vulnerable. The social workers and teachers and counselors who make up much of Circle of Hope have exposed me further to the vulnerability of so many in Philadelphia.

I want to stress the importance of this strategic planning language that's already included in the bill and the amended language that will be offered today to require goal-setting for how land can be used to create affordable housing, economic development, open space, and food production. This will ensure that the land bank can live up to its mission to help assist in the creation of socially and economically diverse neighborhoods.

Circle of Hope is a diverse church, as diverse as the kingdom of God, and our people are so committed they end up moving into neighborhoods. We care so much about the poor around us that we're actively and fervently committed to affordable housing. When we learned about the Campaign to Take Back Vacant Land, we had to be a part of it. We have 650 active members who care about the issue. We want to do our part, and we've been doing work in vacant land for about seven years.

Simply put, Jesus taught us to care for the least of these and to love our neighbors. Vacant land, empty buildings, dangerous lots, hunger, the lack of affordable housing, and the lack of good development plagues my neighbors. Slumlords and opportunistic developers prey on real estate in North Philly, and my neighbors have substandard housing that isn't up to code, and all around my neighborhood is cheaply built real estate that's abandoned and falling apart.

In my mind, our land bank bill is a great and significant way to simply help the people in Philadelphia who are in need and it's an antidote to the aforementioned problems. It offers my neighbors opportunities for affordable housing, good businesses that provides amenities that my neighborhood needs, and safe places for children to play.

It's crucial for the land bank bill to provide an easy and streamlined way to purchase and develop land. Along with that priority, it's important for the process to be transparent and, above all, equitable. The land simply can't go to the highest bidder. We need to use our wisdom and discernment to get the land in the hands of the people who will benefit our city most. That's why I'm excited that the bill has the language representing and reflecting our priorities.

In Circle of Hope, we think we're each responsible for the other, and I want our city's legislation to reflect that burden, and I believe we need to pass this bill right now. It can't wait any longer. I'm excited to take action on the land bank bill today so that we can pass this bill next week and make history in 2013.

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