Reading City Hall

READING., Pa. — Reading City Council voted Monday night to adopt an ordinance to amend the city code by adding a process for the city to consider short-term public art projects.

The purpose of the ordinance is to enliven neighborhoods and create outcomes such as safety, livability, walkability, health and economic development in city neighborhoods.

The issue was first brought up in June by Councilwoman Donna Reed because she identified the need when Reading Pride wanted to paint rainbows on some crosswalks in the Centre Park Historic District for the annual Pride celebration.

The city did not have an ordinance to address public art.

A fine arts board to address public art formerly operated as a branch of the redevelopment authority, but it was disbanded in 2008.

Reed said this ordinance does not re-establish the fine arts board, as it does not address long-term art projects, but rather, short-term art, which will be granted permits for a two-year period.

The art could include murals, banners, or painted crosswalks.

The ordinance establishes a process for organizations to submit proposed projects and addresses standards and the maintenance of the artwork.

A public art review committee is being created to make determinations on applications submitted through the art program.

Prior to the vote on the ordinance, Councilwoman Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz requested that an amendment be added to require a representative from Berks Arts act as an ex officio member of the committee.

"This will strengthen the projects, because some of these short-term projects have the potential to become long-term," Goodmam-Hinnershitz said. "I really see this is a seed-bed for getting our local artists to show their talent in the city."

The council approved the amendment.

In other business, the council approved ordinances to:

• Amend the city code dealing with the downtown revitalization public-private partnership to replace the former Downtown Improvement District chairperson with the city-designated downtown coordinator. The council allowed the DID to expire at the end of 2020.

• Place a referendum question on the 2021 general election ballot that would amend the city's home rule charter by eliminating the current requirement for the city's public works director to be an engineer.

Managing Director Abraham Amoros explained that other municipalities in the state no longer require the designation because there are engineers on staff to sign off on all plans.

"This allows us to cast a wide net and provide more opportunity to hire from a larger pool of people," Amoros said.

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