Election 2021

Should Philadelphia expand the board that hears appeals on property violations and firearm permits? (ballot question)

If passed, the body could get three new members and theoretically be able to make faster decisions.

A 2019 property violation notice in Fishtown

A 2019 property violation notice in Fishtown

Michaela Winberg / Billy Penn

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The Philadelphia Board of License Inspection Review is playing catch up.

This adjudicative body, which was created by the original city charter, exists to hear appeals on property violation decisions, revocations or denials of licenses to carry firearms, and decisions from some other Philly agencies.

It falls under the jurisdiction of the Managing Director’s Office, and it’s totally independent of the Department of Licenses and Inspections. If you don’t like the answer you get from the Board, you can appeal again up to Philly’s Court of Common Pleas.

With vacancies that pre-existed the pandemic and COVID-related delays, the board has apparently accumulated a huge backlog. This ballot question seeks to address the problem by adding more members.

What you’ll see on the ballot

Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to provide for an expanded Board of License Inspection Review that can hear and decide cases in three-member panels?

What it means

As things stand currently, the Board of License Inspection Review can have up to six members, all appointed by the mayor, and a majority of them must meet to decide any case.

But the board is currently functioning at half capacity, with three vacancies that pre-date the pandemic. Combined with technical difficulties associated with virtual meetings, has contributed to a huge delay in the board’s ability to hear cases.

Read about the other May 18 ballot questions:

🗳️ Visit the Billy Penn procrastinator’s guide to all the candidates

“Currently the L&I Review Board is experiencing a major backlog of cases,” said Councilmember Cherelle Parker at a hearing about this ballot question. “The public hasn’t been shy about communicating their frustration.”

The board has say over a wide range of subjects. In addition to firearm permits and building violations, it hears appeals about some decisions issued by Philly’s:

  • Art Commission
  • City Planning Commission
  • Department of Public Health
  • Fair Housing Commission
  • Fairmount Park Commission
  • Historic Commission
  • Streets Department
  • Water Department

If passed, this ballot question would amend the city charter to increase the board’s capacity to nine members, and allow it to decide them in groups of three at a time. That way, when members are absent, it wouldn’t derail the board’s progress.

Vote yes if you think the board should have more members, and require fewer to hear an appeal. Vote no if you’d rather the process stay the same.

Who’s for it (and against it)


  • City Councilmember Cherelle Parker
  • The Department of Licenses and Inspections


  • Billy Penn couldn’t identify any opponents

Want some more? Explore other Election 2021 stories.

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