Election 2018

May 2018 Philadelphia ballot questions: What they are and who will care

What you’ll be faced with at the polls and who stands to benefit.

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Danya Henninger / Billy Penn
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On the ballot in the May 15 primary election are the candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and national and state reps — but that’s not it. There are also a few Philly-specific questions for voters to decide at the polls.

Ballot questions propose amendments to the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter, which defines the structure and powers of city government. The Pennsylvania Constitution allows municipalities to create home rule charters as a form of self governance. Using these charters, towns and cities can make their own rules not previously defined by the state constitution or Pa. General Assembly.

There are three questions on Tuesday’s ballot:

  • One about Police Advisory Commission funding
  • One about the upcoming Board of Education
  • One about sexual harassment training for city employees

Each question, if approved, would amend existing policies that affect a handful of different groups and people.

Question 1

How it will look on the ballot

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?

What it means

The Police Advisory Commission is the official civilian oversight of Philly’s police department. It operates under the mayor to investigate police department policies and procedures and improve relationships with Philadelphia communities. As it stands, the Police Advisory Commission receives $400,000 in annual appropriations. If passed, this ballot question would raise that operating budget by $100,000.

The stakeholders

  • Police Advisory Commission: They’d be the ones to gain more resources if this measure were passed.
  • Philly Police: They’d be the ones to come under more sharp scrutiny.
  • Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police: As the labor union for Philly police, the FOP represents about 14,000 active and retired officers and sheriffs. They’d aim to protect Philadelphia police and improve their work environment in the face of this amendment.

Question 2

How the question will look on the ballot

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?

What it means

This amendment aims to shake things up a bit in Philly public schools administration. On July 1, Philly public schools will no longer operate under the state-controlled School Reform Commission — instead, they’ll switch over to the city-controlled Board of Education. This amendment basically ties up some loose ends regarding the switch:

  • It would require Mayor Kenney’s appointments to the Board be approved by City Council in a public hearing.
  • If the mayor wants to remove someone from the Board of Education, this amendment would require him to give written notice at least 10 days prior and specify why he’s removing them.
  • It would require all Board members to be Philly residents.
  • It would mandate the Educational Nominating Panel publicize who it nominates to the Board.
  • It would require the Board to set up a Parent and Community Advisory Council, with which it would meet at least twice per year.
  • It would provide the Board with full responsibility to manage the School District (confirming existing law).

The stakeholders

  • The mayor and city council: They’d both have new rules and responsibilities in nominating and approving Board members.
  • Public school employees: They’d be impacted by the board’s policies and decisions.
  • Parents and kids: They’d also be impacted by the board’s policies, and they might have the chance to serve on the Parent and Community Advisory Council.

Question 3

How the question will look on the ballot

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?

What it means

There is currently no law on the books in Philly that mandates sexual harassment training for city employees. This amendment, if passed, would require Philly’s Administrative Board (the mayor, managing director and director of finance) to start requiring it. At this point, it’s unclear what that training would look like or how effective it would be — Philly officials said they’re waiting on Philadelphians to cast their votes before they start drafting up plans.

The stakeholders

  • City employees: They’d undergo mandatory sexual harassment training sessions if this measure were passed.
  • The Mayor’s Office, Philly’s Office of Labor Relations and the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer: They’d collaborate to implement and develop the training.
  • City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart: She’s been examining Philly’s sexual harassment policies, and she would likely be called on for advice to develop the training.