4 Ballot Questions – Voter Information

BALLOT QUESTIONS – The 8th Ward concentrated endorsement decisions on candidates and left the Ballot Questions “open.”

Linked here is the Philadelphia City Commissioners “Plain Language” explainer for the 4 Ballot Questions in this election.

Below we have provided an overview of each Ballot Question.

Question 1: Proposed Charter Change to the Zoning Board of Adjustments

Based on City Council Bill 210669

Shall the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to revise the composition of the Zoning Board of Adjustment by increasing the number of mayoral appointees from five to seven; by requiring Council confirmation of the mayor’s appointments; and by specifying qualifications that appointees must possess, including a demonstrated sensitivity to community concerns regarding development and the protection of the character of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods?

CONTEXT FOR DECIDING YOUR VOTE:

As Philly Voice describes:

“The Zoning Board of Adjustment is a mayor-appointed commission that oversees and makes decisions about development throughout the city. The City Commissioner’s Office notes (in its plain language explainer) that the commission hears cases about zoning adjustments, sometimes making case-by-case decisions regarding specific proposed zoning changes.

Currently, the zoning board consists of five mayor-appointed members. The proposed measure would increase the number of members to seven and require they receive approval from City Council. In addition, the measure would shift the ideological composition of the board, requiring the member to meet certain qualifications. 

In addition to expanding the zoning board, it potentially would mandate the qualifications and backgrounds that ZBA member possess. The question proposes that two zoning board members be community leaders, along with an urban planner, an architect, a zoning attorney, an expert in real estate finance and a person with experience in the construction industry. All board members would have to show demonstrated “sensitivity” to community concerns regarding development and preserving the character of Philly neighborhoods.”

ADVOCATES FOR “YES” say this change will serve as a needed check on development projects and will reform the ZBA by incorporating City Council oversight, adding community organizers to the ZBA, and mandating professional expertise for Board members.

ADVOCATES FOR “NO” say this change will diminish the Mayor’s ability to make appointments independently and will delay or obstruct development initiatives in the City due to delays in getting specific appointments approved by City Council, delays in scheduling full Board meetings to conduct business with a larger group, and recusals due to conflicts of interest that will arise for ZBA members who come from professional or community organizations that may be involved in various zoning matters that come before the ZBA.


Question 2: Proposed Charter Change to remove gender-based language, like “firemen” and “policemen.”

(Similar to Question 3)

Should the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to remove all gender-based references?

CONTEXT FOR DECIDING YOUR VOTE:

The City’s Home Rule is like the City’s Constitution, and it was drafted in 1952.

As Philly Voice recaps, “Currently, the charter uses the pronouns “he/him” to refer to high-ranking city officials, including all references of the mayor. The charter also uses terms like “firemen” and “policemen,” and uses other pronouns, like “she/her,” sparingly. The measure proposes removing all gender-based references entirely. Instead, the charter would refer to city officials by titles, rather than by gendered pronouns. For example, references to the mayor using “he” would be replaced with “the Mayor.” “Firemen” would become “fire fighters” and “policemen” would become “police officers.” Some gendered language has already been changed within the city charter. In 2019, residents voted to remove gender-based references to city council. Rather than using terms like “councilman” or “councilwoman,” the charter now refers to each of these elected leaders as “councilmember.” 

VOTING YES would mean the city will update the Home Rule Charter to remove all gender-based references and gendered pronouns. City leaders would be referred by their official title in the home rule charter.

VOTING NO would mean keeping the same gender-based references and pronouns from its original drafting in 1952.


Question 3: Should gendered language be removed from the educational supplement of the city charter, which governs the school district and board of education?

(Very similar to Question 2)

Should the Educational Supplement to the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to remove all gender-based references?

CONTEXT FOR DECIDING YOUR VOTE

The Home Rule Charter includes a companion document called the Educational Supplement, which sets rules for the School District of Philadelphia and the Board of Education.  Like the Home Rule Charter, the Educational Supplement uses outdated gender references (e.g., it refers to all individuals as men, including the superintendent, mayor, president of the board of education and school auditor.).

VOTING YES means the document would be updated to replace gender-based references in the document with an individual’s title. For example, all references made to the superintendent using “he” would be replaced with “the Superintendent.” 

VOTING NO means the document would remain the same as originally drafted.




Question 4: Should the Fair Housing Commission be made permanent?

(No other changes to FHC operations or governance would be made.)

Should the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to establish the Fair Housing Commission as an independent commission to administer and enforce statutes and ordinances concerning unfair rental practices and other matters concerning the landlord and tenant relationship and to adjudicate disputes related to such matters?

CONTEXT FOR DECIDING YOUR VOTE

From Billy Penn:

“The Fair Housing Commission, a mayor-appointed board that’s existed in Philadelphia for decades, is on the verge of cementing its place in the constellation of official bodies concerned with tenant-landlord relations and unfair rental practices. One of the questions on the primary election ballot gives voters the choice of whether to write the FHC into the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter as an independent body.

resolution to shift the FHC into the charter as a permanent body was introduced by Council Majority Leader Cherelle Parker in early February, and glided to Mayor Kenney’s desk unopposed after an unanimous Feb. 24 Council vote. It was signed the next day.

Nothing about how the board is appointed or what the FHC can enforce will change if the ballot measure succeeds. But the resolution that put the question on the ballot states the change “will be beneficial to assure the continuation of the Commission.” As things stand, if City Council didn’t think the FHC was useful, they could theoretically dissolve it. This charter change would prevent that from happening.

The FHC was formed in 1962, as part of Philly’s first fair housing ordinance. Its five board members are tasked with enforcing the city’s regulations — and specifically the Fair Housing Ordinance — with a focus on deferred maintenance and retaliatory eviction (tenants are always advised to raise concerns before their landlord takes them to court).