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Last week’s monthly meeting of the Philadelphia Bar Association Board of Governors began with opening remarks by Mayor John F. Street. Street said he “couldn’t be prouder to be part of the fraternity of lawyers,” noting that a number of local attorneys are members of the five committees of his 21st Century Review Forum, reports from which are expected to be made public shortly. The forum is charged with finding ways to improve the city government. Street said he was proud of the progress the city has made combating social ills such as urban blight and drug dealing. He said jokingly that during a recent trip to New York City, stepping out from Penn Station onto dirty streets “just made me want to be back in Philadelphia.” Street did touch on potential difficulties for the city in the coming year, specifically the rising costs of pension payments and health insurance for city employees. He also expressed his wish for tax reform to be accompanied by tax reduction. As for potential areas for improvement, Street stressed the need for revitalizing the city government’s technology infrastructure without incurring exorbitant costs or inundating employees with so much new equipment that training programs would cause further backlogs in the system. He also said that the city has roughly two miles of undeveloped waterfront that could be a major source of revenue. And touching upon a topic close to the bar association’s heart, Street acknowledged the need for tax reform but said he was “a long way” from concluding that the Tax Reform Commission’s recommendations should be acted on as presented. However, he promised that when it comes to the debate on that issue, the bar would have “a nickel of that quarter.” The day before Street spoke to the Board of Governors, bar Chancellor Gabriel Bevilacqua told the City Council Committee of the Whole that the association supports the Tax Reform Commission’s recommendations. He further requested that the city eliminate the portion of the Philadelphia business privilege tax that effectively taxes partnerships more heavily than owners of incorporated businesses. In an interview after Street made his remarks, Bevilacqua said he understood the mayor’s comment that the idea of establishing Keystone Opportunity Zones that benefit only a few select businesses and entities “doesn’t make sense” for city finances. “I think he struck a balanced chord there, and I agreed with it,” Bevilacqua said.

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