ALL voters in Philadelphia can vote "Yes" or "No" on three ballot questions to appear on the May 15 election. Each question, if approved by a majority of voters, would amend the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter, the body of the law describing the construction of City government (e.g. separate branches, departments, boards and commissions, etc.).

Ballot Question 1 - APPROVED

Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to require an appropriation in each annual operating budget of $500,000, or such greater amount as Council decides, to the Police Advisory Commission or any successor body or bodies?

Statement provided by City of Philadelphia: The Home Rule Charter requires City Council to provide funds each year for the operation of each City department, board and commission. These funds are known as “appropriations.”

This proposed amendment to the Charter would require that Council include in its appropriations at least $500,000 each year for the operation of the Police Advisory Commission. The Police Advisory Commission is an agency created by Executive Order of the Mayor to provide civilian oversight of the Police Department, including policy reviews, promotion of community relations, and investigations of police policies, practices and customs. If the Commission ever is replaced, the amendment would require that Council provide the appropriations to any City agency that performs the same functions.

The short story: This measure, introduced by Council President Darrell Clarke and Councilman Curtis Jones, sets a minimum budget of $500,000 for Philadelphia’s Police Advisory Commission if passed. The commission’s current budget allocation is $400,000, but it's received $200,000 to $300,000 in recent years. An independent 13-member panel (backed by a six-person staff) charged with “improv[ing] the relationship between the Police Department and the community,” the commission was instituted in 1994 to investigate charges of police misconduct (and to commend cops as well), and while it has subpoena powers it doesn’t have the power to enforce its rulings. Mayor Kenney gave the commission a new mandate and added advisory authority in February 2017, but it has been beset with management turnover in recent years and has become “nearly invisible,” an Inquirer editorial noted last August. Stable funding, the newspaper adds, could help make the commission “relevant.”

Ballot Question 2 - APPROVED

Shall the Educational Supplement to the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to restore local control by confirming the Board of Education’s independent responsibility to administer the School District of Philadelphia, providing for public participation in the Educational Nominating Panel process, revising eligibility requirements, requiring City Council confirmation of School Board appointments, requiring a stated reason for removing a School Board Member and establishing a Parent and Community Advisory Council?

Statement provided by City of Philadelphia: The School District of Philadelphia is currently governed by the School Reform Commission, a State-created and State-controlled entity. On July 1, 2018, the School Reform Commission will cease to exist, and governance of the District will return to the Board of Education, a City-created and City-controlled entity. The Home Rule Charter currently provides that the Mayor appoints the members of the Board of Education.

This proposed amendment would provide that the Mayor’s appointments to the Board will be effective only if approved by City Council after a public hearing. The amendment will apply to any appointments made after the amendment is approved by the voters.

The Charter currently provides that Board members serve at the pleasure of the Mayor. This means that the Mayor does not have to prove any wrongdoing in order to remove a member from the Board, though the Charter does require that the Mayor give the member written notice at least ten days advance prior to removal. The amendment would require that the written notice include the Mayor’s specific reasons why the member is no longer fit to serve on the Board.

The amendment would replace the current requirement that Board members must be registered voters of the City with a requirement that they be residents of the City.

The Charter currently requires that the Mayor choose his appointments from lists of names provided to him by the Educational Nominating Panel; and requires the Panel to invite the public to submit to the Panel names of candidates for consideration. The amendment would impose specific advertising requirements on the Panel in order to publicize the invitation and selection process.

The amendment would require the Board of Education to establish a Parent and Community Advisory Council, and to meet with the Council at least twice every year to consult on issues relating to educational policy and community engagement in schools.

Finally, the amendment provides that the Board of Education has complete responsibility to administer, manage and operate the School District; and that the School District is not an agency of the City. This confirms existing law.

The Committee of Seventy supports this proposed amendment.

Ballot Question 3 - APPROVED

Shall the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to provide for mandatory training for all City officers and employees regarding sexual harassment in the workplace?

Statement provided by City of Philadelphia: Currently, no law in Philadelphia requires mandatory training for all officers and employees of the City regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. This proposed amendment to the Home Rule Charter would require that the City’s Administrative Board (the Mayor, Managing Director and Director of Finance) make rules requiring that all City officers and employees receive such training not less than once every three years.

The short story: Introduced by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown and cosponsored by her five female colleagues on City Council, this ballot question would mandate that all City employees (elected and appointed officials, managers and general employees) take sexual-harassment training at least once every three years. Currently, department supervisors have the prerogative of ordering their employees to take  sexual-harassment training. A number of states already mandate such training for private employers as well as public employees to varying degrees, and a bill currently before the New York City Council would mandate training for all businesses with more than 15 employees.

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