Explaining the four ballot questions being put to Philadelphia voters
November 1, 2012By Dave Heller
Perhaps lost amid the incessant attention focused on the candidates hoping to emerge victorious at the polls on Nov. 6, voters in Philadelphia will be also asked to weigh in on four ballot questions.
To get a better sense at what's at stake, we spoke to Ellen Kaplan, vice president and policy director of the Committe of Seventy, a non-partisan, nonprofit, Philadelphia-region political watchdog group.
The four questions and their plain-English translations, taken from Committee of Seventy, follow:
Ballot question No. 1
Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to allow for the establishment of an independent rate-making body for fixing and regulating water and sewer rates and charges and to prescribe open and transparent processes and procedures for fixing and regulating said rates and charges?
Translation: This amendment to the Home Rule Charter would permit City Council to create an independent rate-making body to set water and sewer rates, and to regulate how those rates are imposed. Currently, the Philadelphia Water Department has the final responsibility for setting and regulating rates and charges for water and sewer services.
Council would also be able to establish procedures to be followed by the new body in setting rates and charges. These procedures would have to be open and transparent.
Ballot question No. 2
Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to authorize the creation by ordinance of requirements for additional information to be s submitted with the annual operating budget, annual capital budget, and capital program, including, but not limited to, information about the cost of performing specific functions, the effectiveness of such functions, and the costs versus benefits of proposed expenditures, and to require the Finance Director to provide such information?
Translation: The Home Rule Charter currently requires the Mayor to submit to Council, each year, a proposed annual operating budget, a proposed annual capital budget and a proposed capital program. This amendment to the Home Rule Charter would authorize City Council to require the Director of Finance to submit to Council information relating to the Mayor's budget proposals. Such information could include information about the costs and benefits of specific functions and expenditures.
Ballot question No. 3
Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter – which allows for a preference in the civil service regulations for the children of Philadelphia firefighters or police officers who were killed or who died in the line of duty – be amended to further allow for a preference for the grandchildren of such firefighters or police officers?
Translation: This amendment to the Home Rule Charter would authorize City Council to provide a preference on civil service entrance examinations to the grandchildren of firefighters and police officers killed in the line of duty.
Ballot question No. 4
Should the City of Philadelphia borrow $123,670,000 to be spent for and toward capital purposes as follows: Transit; Streets and Sanitation; Municipal Buildings; Parks, Recreation and Museums; and Economic and Community Development?
Translation: This ballot question, if approved by the voters, would authorize the City to borrow $123,670,000 for capital purposes, thereby increasing the City's indebtedness by $123,670,000. Capital purposes means, generally, to make expenditures that will result in something of value with a useful life to the City of more than five years, for example, acquisitions of real estate, or construction of or improvements to buildings, property or streets.
The money to be borrowed would be used by the City for five identified purposes, namely, Transit; Streets and Sanitation; Municipal Buildings; Parks, Recreation and Museums; and Economic and Community Development, all in specific amounts identified in Bill No. 120562 (approved September 2012). City Council would have authority, by ordinance, to change the intended allocation of these proceeds.
For recommendations from the Committee of Seventy, check their website.