A familiar scene played out election night in Philadelphia as both ballot measures up for consideration passed easily.
Voters have now approved two changes to the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter. The city will create a new Department of Aviation to oversee its two airports, and graduates of the School District’s workforce training programs will get a small advantage on the civil service exam.
The measure to create a department to oversee operations of the Philadelphia International and Northeast Philadelphia airports proved more controversial, passing with around 67% of the vote as of 11 p.m. Tuesday. Ballot questions are almost always approved, usually by higher margins.
Previously, the airports were housed under the Department of Commerce with an operating budget of over $380 million. Former PHL Airport CEO Chellie Cameron said a standalone department would enable the airports to complete projects more efficiently and give them a more direct say during budget hearings and other important meetings.
The bill behind the charter change was co-sponsored by Council President Darrell Clarke and Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, whose districts encompass the PHL airport. During hearings about the legislation in May, no one spoke in opposition.
New PHL Airport CEO Atif Saeed will begin his tenure on Dec. 1. Under the new arrangement he and the director of the department will report to the mayor.
Question 2 passed with around just over 70% of the vote, as of 11 p.m. Tuesday, to provide graduates of the School District of Philadelphia’s Career and Technical Education programs a 5-point preference on all civil service entrance exams during the first three years after graduation.
Proposed by Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson in early 2020 as a way to stem stagnating recruitment for municipal jobs — about 1 in 7 city government positions remained open as of this summer — the new bonus is similar to (but smaller than) a leg up already given to veterans. They get a 10-point advantage on the exam, while children and grandchildren of Philly police officers and firefighters who died in the line of duty also already receive automatic points.
Councilmember Gilmore Richardson has argued the policy will “create a pipeline to public service,” jobs with sustaining wages and union representation. Veterans have spoken against the charter change in the past, including Councilmember David Oh, who claimed opening up preferences to CTE graduates would undercut the spirit of the benefit for veterans.