Ballot Questions . . . Be Ready to Vote BEFORE You Enter the Booth

Along with the headline races for President, Senate, Attorney General, Auditor General, and Treasurer, there will be questions on this year’s ballot in Philadelphia. I recommend that you vote as follows:

Question 1) Yes
Question 2) No
Question 3) Yes
Question 4) Yes

Let me say that none of these are a slam dunk. One can make a decent case for a thumbs up or down on each of them. But I urge this: please make up your mind BEFORE you enter the polling place, especially if you vote during the busy hours in the morning or evening. WE NEED EVERYONE TO VOTE IF OBAMA AND OTHER DEMOCRATS ARE TO WIN. If there are huge lines caused by people reading and analyzing the text of these ballot questions in the booth, the main effect may be to defeat Democrats by causing voters on line to get tired and go home. That would be a tragically unintended consequence of having these issues on this year’s ballot. Council should have delayed all of them.

On to my views. You can get the Committee of Seventy’s here.

Question 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?

Yes. Right now water rates are proposed by the Water Commissioner, put through an arduous hearing process before a referee appointed by the Commissioner, and then approved or disapproved by the Commissioner. That’s a mockery of accepted due process standards that require the decision maker to be different than the proposer. This amendment would allow Council to establish a process ensuring that final water rate decisions be made by a neutral arbiter, much like electric rates are decided by the PUC.

Question 2:

Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to authorize the creation by ordinance of requirements for additional information to be 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?

No. The argument in favor of this amendment is that Mayors need to test the operational success of programs and departments, and submit the results to Council every year before it approves the budget. That’s a reasonable sounding argument, but program benefits are not necessarily measurable scientifically. Those seeking to cut programs may use the inability to assure effectiveness – by what may be an arbitrary or ideological standard - as a talking point to cut things that work for people. We have enough ideological, budget-cutting talking points floating around out there right now.

In addition, the question only requires testing of appropriations, not tax expenditures, i.e., tax breaks. That by itself indicates the presence of an ideological mind set that should not be encouraged.

Question 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?

Yes. The sacrifices of public employees need to be recognized. This is one, mostly symbolic, way to do it.

Question 4:

Should the City of Philadelphia borrow ONE HUNDRED TWENTY THREE MILLION SIX HUNDRED SEVENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS ($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?

Yes. This permits the City to issue bonds to pay for capital projects previously approved by ordinance. At a time of economic stress and infrastructure decay, this spending is needed.

Vote NO on the First Proposition

The city is in the middle of the most expensive overhaul of water infrastructure in its history right now, and it's also going to be the single most important urban revitalization project in the city's history. No one is going to really get that for another 10 to 20 years, though. The reason this is being proposed is to hamstring PWD, which is doing the right thing.

Screw due process. There's no way this city would have ever decided to do something this fantastic under a convoluted boards and hearings system. We would have just kept decaying because it is cheaper.

Vote NO on the first proposition. We do not want to lose Green Cities, Clean Waters.

Eat The Babies! A Tuesday and Friday Webcomic.

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