PHILADELPHIA — A former licenses and inspections commissioner blasted the city during a public hearing Thursday for what he called a decades-long failure to protect the public that has resulted in a string of tragedies including a fatal building collapse earlier this summer.
“L&I can no longer be a political backwater where money talks and people die. It must be recognized for its primary public safety responsibilities and nothing else must replace or supersede that focus,” Bennett Levin, licenses and inspections commissioner from 1992 through 1995, told a city council panel conducting investigative hearings in the wake of the June 5 accident that killed six people and injured 13 others.
In his impassioned remarks that lasted more than an hour, Levin said the department “has equivalent public safety responsibilities as the police department and the fire department, but yet we tolerate and even accept sloth and unaccountability in the name of political expediency and economic development.”
He alleged the department has instead become focused on economic development and collecting licensing fees to generate revenue.
City council members said officials who currently work in the department have declined to testify at the hearing.
Thursday’s hearing was the fourth of five planned on the June 5 collapse.