Ballot Questions

Ballot Questions

There are FOUR (4) Ballot Questions that would change the Philadelphia City Home Rule Charter. The Charter is like our City version of a constitution, and changes to it must be approved by the voters in a popular “YES / NO” vote, in the form of a QUESTION. Each question is discussed below, with thanks to Committee of Seventy and Philadelphia Inquirer for adapted text.

Question #1: Making Certain Changes to the “Rainy Day Fund” (Resolution 220743)

Should The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to expand the requirements for annual minimum appropriations to the Budget Stabilization Reserve, more commonly known as the “rainy day fund”?

This amendment would require the City to put a larger percentage of an annual surplus into the fund than it currently does. The Director of Finance will be required to make projections of the rainy day fund in any five-year plan they prepare, to determine the potential contribution levels. In addition, a YES would increase how much money is placed in the Budget Stabilization Reserve from a maximum of 5% of the General Fund to 17% of the projected General Fund Revenue for the end of the current fiscal year. This Charter Change was proposed by Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson and supported by the Kenney administration.

The City would continue to make contributions to the “rainy day fund” on an ad hoc basis from one budget cycle to the next. Notably, since the fund was established in 2011, The Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, an independent oversight body, found in a 2021 study that Philadelphia ranked 16th of 18 major cities in its maintenance of a rainy-day account.

Question #2: Creating a Division of Workforce Solutions within the Commerce Dept (Resolution 220872)

Should The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to create the Division of Workforce Solutions within the Department of Commerce and to define its duties?

For context: The Department of Commerce provides services for small and big businesses in the city. Companies can connect with financing resources, including finding loans through the Philadelphia lending network, bidding on city contracts, registering a company as a minority, woman, or disabled-owned business, and reporting contract fraud, abuse, waste, and safety issues at job sites. It’s also in charge of maintaining, improving, operating, and building (when authorized by City Council) piers, docks, and harbor facilities.

This amendment would require the creation of a Division of Workforce Solutions to be the city’s career services clearinghouse for residents looking for jobs in both the public and private sectors. The new division, according to the amendment, would offer connections to job-training services and employment opportunities, and promote workforce-development initiatives. Currently, the city’s Commerce Department operates an Office of Business Development and Workforce Solutions, which offers services to employers (e.g., financing opportunities, assistance for startups) and works to attract new businesses to Philadelphia while retaining those already here. The measure, which would support job seekers, was proposed by Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson and President Darrell Clarke and is supported by the Kenney administration.

There would be no functional focus on job seekers because the function of the Office of Business Development and Workforce Solutions as laid out in the Home Rule Charter does not include these services within its given structure.

Question #3: Civil Service Carveout for Citizens Police Oversight Commission (Resolution 230016)

Should The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to make employees of the Citizens Police Oversight Commission exempt from civil service hiring requirements?

For context: The Citizens Police Oversight Commission’s role is to help hold the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) accountable, evaluate and help improve police officer conduct, make officers’ disciplinary processes clearer, explain procedures for submitting and considering citizens’ complaints of police misconduct, and improve the communication between the PPD and the community.

This amendment would exempt the staff of the Citizens Police Oversight Commission (CPOC) from the civil service system, which is intended to ensure hiring and promotion of city workers is merit-based. (The nine commissioners themselves are not city employees and receive nominal compensation for their duties.) Commission officials argue the carveout is needed to ensure their employees have separation from those in the Police Department, most of whom are civil service and may be impacted by the Commission’s work. The change would also release CPOC from cumbersome civil service rules and procedures, which have contributed to a staffing shortfall in many other agencies.

Staff who support the work of the 9 member Citizens Police Oversight Commission would remain within the City’s civil service hiring process and requirements, which seeks to evaluate people based on structural tools like tests, scores, and other factors, when it comes to appointing, promoting, demoting, or laying off someone.

Question #4: Creating a Public Safety Officer (Resolution 230115)

Should The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to create the Office of the Chief Public Safety Director and to define its powers, duties and responsibilities?

This amendment would create a Chief Public Safety Director, a new cabinet-level position intended to coordinate the operations of the police, fire, prisons, and emergency management departments, as well as other agencies that play a role in public safety. This official would be appointed by the mayor but subject to City Council approval. The new Director would be among the top four administrative positions in city government alongside the Mayor, Managing Director, and Finance Director.The measure, which passed Council unanimously, was spearheaded by Council President Darrell Clarke, who pointed both to the epidemic of gun violence in Philadelphia and similar positions on other cities including Chicago, Columbus, Trenton, and Newark.

The Mayor and Managing Director would retain ultimate responsibility for coordinating the city’s public safety resources and personnel. Those advocating to retain the current structure (by voting NO), including Mayor Kenney, argue that the new position would complicate the coordination and oversight duties that already belong to the Charter-mandated Managing Director. Others see the amendment as an inappropriate overreach by City Council into the operation of executive branch functions. Some point out that the position could impact the Mayor’s ability and accountability to implement their vision for how public safety efforts should be coordinated.