There are several referendum questions that are on all Philadelphia ballots in the 2020 General Election. You’ll see that we recommend a “Yes,” vote on items 1, 3 and 4, and are neutral on 2. We list the questions below, along with our recommendations and reasoning.
Ballot Question No. 1
Shall the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to call on the Police Department to eliminate the practice of unconstitutional stop and frisk . . . ?
This would be an official request from the people of the City to the Police Department to stop unconstitutional “stop and frisk” activity. We recommend a yes vote, because this practice has been used not so much to stop crime, but to target and victimize black and brown youth. If we want to end systemic racism in policing, we have to eliminate this practice. Our only hesitation about this proposal is that it is only advisory to the Police Department, rather than mandatory. Hopefully, if the Police Department refuses to comply, a follow-up Charter Change proposal will make this advice into a requirement.
Ballot Question No. 2
Shall the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to create the Office of the Victim Advocate to advocate for crime victims and to work with victim-services providers to coordinate, plan, train, educate, and investigate issues relating to crime victims?
There are both good and bad elements of this proposal and so we make no recommendation, for or against. We think each individual voter should weigh the pros and cons for themselves. The good part of this proposal is that victim traumatization is real and as a compassionate society we should do everything in our power to help victims and their families heal. The bad part is that offices like this, including one run by the State, have become organizing sites for people seeking to impair the rights of criminal defendants, casting their proposals as needed to protect victims.
Ballot Question No. 3
Shall the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to provide for the creation of a Citizens Police Oversight Commission, and to authorize City Council to determine the composition, powers and duties of the Commission?
We recommend a yes vote, because victims of police abuse need a way to report what happened to them to an entity not controlled by the very Department whose employee committed the offense. Such an office currently exists, but it was created by Executive Order, and so everything about it is decided by the Mayor. It has been criticized as weak and ineffectual. This proposal would make the Office permanent, and allow City Council to give it real teeth.
Ballot Question No. 4
Should the City of Philadelphia borrow ONE HUNDRED THIRTY-FOUR MILLION DOLLARS ($134,000,000.00) 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?
We recommend a yes vote because the proposal it provides funding for needed capital improvements and repairs at public facilities all around the City.