2023 Philadelphia Primary: Ballot Questions Decoded | The Triangle
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2023 Philadelphia Primary: Ballot Questions Decoded

Photo Courtesy of Raphael Bartell | The Triangle

Philadelphia residents will cast their ballots on May 16 to determine which of the eight Democratic challengers will face the Republican mayoral nominee David Oh in the November elections. However, the mayorship is far from the only seat at stake. Several other Philadelphia positions including City Councilmember, City Commissioner, City Controller, Sheriff and Register of Wills, will appear on the ticket in addition to four Pennsylvania-wide judicial appointments. Finally, the ballot will pose four questions that offer voters direct input on budgetary measures, economic development, police oversight and public safety. So, what do these jargon-heavy questions really mean? Here’s each question decoded:

Ballot Question 1: 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”?

Decoded: In 1951, the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter established the city’s government framework. It has since been amended to include the Budget Stabilization Reserve, or the “rainy day fund,” as is customary in most American cities. The rainy day fund is a portion of the city’s budget that, in the event of a surplus, is set aside to cover emergencies, such as the pandemic or a recession. If approved, the amendment would require the city to contribute a larger sum of money to the rainy day fund (0.75% of a 3-5% surplus) than it currently would. This amendment has been endorsed by Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney. 

It is worth noting that the only contributions to the fund since its creation in 2011 have been in 2021 and 2022 due to federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. In fact, Philadelphia ranked 16th out of 18 cities analyzed in a 2021 PICA study on reserve fund management. 

Voting “yes” supports the expansion of the Budget Stabilization Reserve.

Voting “no” opposes the expansion of the Budget Stabilization Reserve.

Ballot Question 2: 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?

Decoded: The primary responsibility of the Department of Commerce is to attract and support businesses throughout the city. Currently, the Department of Commerce operates several divisions which provide services for employers and support for women, minority and disabled-owned businesses. If approved, the amendment would add a Division of Workforce Solutions to the Department, defining its duties as promoting workforce development, providing information on job training and connecting citizens to employment opportunities. This amendment has been endorsed by Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney. 

Voting “yes” supports the creation of the Division of Workforce Solutions.

Voting “no” opposes the creation of the Division of Workforce Solutions.

Ballot Question 3: Should The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to make employees of the Citizens Police Oversight Commission exempt from civil service hiring requirements?

Decoded: The Citizens Police Oversight Commission (CPOC) analyzes and evaluates Philadelphia Police Department policies, procedure and practices to foster a healthy relationship between the police force and the community. The commission meets regularly with the mayor, the police commissioner and the public, to provide recommendations and discuss issues. Under the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter, most public employees are subject to the civil service system, which hires, promotes and fires employees based on merit. Certain positions such as the director of finance, the mayor’s clerks and secretaries and officers elected by the people are currently exempt from the civil service evaluation system. If approved, the amendment would include employees appointed by the CPOC as public servants exempt from standard hiring requirements. 

Voting “yes” supports the exemption of employees appointed by the Citizens Police Oversight Commission from the civil service hiring system. 

Voting “no” opposes the exemption of employees appointed by the Citizens Police Oversight Commission from the civil service hiring system. 

Ballot Question 4: 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?

Decoded: The final ballot question proposes a new cabinet-level position, charged with coordinating resources deployed by police and fire departments, prisons and emergency services in addition to guiding violence-prevention programs, budgetary policies and operational procedures for these institutions. In light of Philadelphia’s gun violence epidemic, City Council members seek to model other American cities with Public Safety Officers to curb mounting homicides. If approved, the Public Safety Officer would be appointed by the mayor but must gain approval from the City Council. Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney opposes this amendment, citing concerns about an inefficient overlap in duties between the impending Public Safety Officer and the existing Managing Director. 

Voting “yes” supports the addition of the Office of the Chief Public Safety Director to the mayor’s cabinet.

Voting “no” opposes the addition of the Office of the Chief Public Safety Director to the mayor’s cabinet.