Broad Street Brief: Philadelphia Municipal Elections Enter Final Days; Penn Students, Workers in Various Stages of Unionization; Suburban Elections to Watch
May 12, 2023
May 12, 2023
With a little more than half a year left in his final term in office, Mayor Jim Kenney announced the formation of a transition committee to ensure a seamless transfer of power to the city’s yet-to-be-determined 100th mayor without holding up city services. The transition team will include representatives from the offices of the Chief Administrative Officer, Chief Integrity Officer, Human Resources, Innovation & Technology, and the Department of Records, and will work closely with designated coordinators from each city department.
On Monday, representatives from the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) pleaded their case for the necessity of an impending rate hike during a public hearing of City Council’s Committee on Transportation & Public Utilities. Water Commissioner Randy Hayman cited the skyrocketing cost of requisite water treatment chemicals, while critics of PWD’s decision spoke to the likely disproportionate impact on Philadelphia’s Black and brown residents. An independent board will issue a final decision on the proposed rate increase.
Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell, who has served in the position since her appointment by Mayor Kenney in 2016, announced last week that she will be moving on to become President and CEO of the Philadelphia Visitor Center Corporation this summer. A Northeast Philadelphia native, Ott Lovell is responsible for launching the department’s first ever strategic plan, implementing innovative programs like Parks on Tap and the Oval, and expanding the PlayStreets summer meal distribution program for children.
By this time next week, Philadelphia will likely know which of the many Democratic mayoral candidates will be the party’s official nominee — and likely the city’s 100th mayor. The race is the most expensive in Philadelphia history, with total fundraising figures topping $31.4 million. This is due in large part to the sheer number of viable candidates, the Super PAC spending they’ve been able to draw in, and the number of candidates with the ability to self-fund.
During a press conference about the transition committee his administration is assembling, Mayor Jim Kenney stated that he has already cast his ballot by mail and that he voted for former District 9 Councilmember Cherelle Parker for mayor. While he also mentioned that he would not be giving an official endorsement, Mayor Kenney highlighted former Councilmember Parker’s government credentials and her contributions to the city.
A long and arduous primary season will be drawing to a close next Tuesday, and while it seems that no policy position has gone un-analyzed, the mayoral candidates — six Democrats and one, unopposed Republican — spoke with WHYY to make the final case, in their own words, of why each of them believes they are the right person to meet the moment.
Late last week, Philadelphia’s Board of Ethics issued an alert that City Council at-large candidate Nina Ahmad met the $250,000 threshold for donations made from personal resources, thereby doubling the contribution limits for all candidates. Heading into the final days of a highly competitive primary election, the limits are now $6,200 for individuals and $25,200 for committees and organizations.
While attorney Jeffrey “Jay” Young is running unopposed to represent North Philadelphia’s District 5 — the seat currently held by outgoing City Council President Darrell Clarke — real estate agent, insurance agent, and public notary Robin Aluko is mounting a write-in campaign, despite confusion over what is and isn’t allowed by local election law.
In addition to selecting a number of candidates for various municipal positions, Philadelphia voters will be asked to decide the fate of four proposed amendments to the city’s Home Rule Charter: whether to increase the amount the city sets aside for its “rainy day fund” annually, whether to create a Division of Workforce Solutions within the Commerce Department, whether to exempt members of the Citizens Police Oversight Commission from civil service hiring requirements, and whether to create and define the responsibilities of a new Office of the Chief Public Safety Director.
While there is still time to mail in primary ballots to the Board of Elections by the Tuesday 8 p.m. deadline, many voters may prefer to drop them off in one of the city’s convenient and secure drop boxes. You can find a map of them here.
Unionization efforts have been sweeping higher education institutions across the nation, a trend that is currently playing out at the University of Pennsylvania. Most recently, residents and fellows at the University’s Health System voted to unionize — becoming the first in the state to do so — while Graduate Employees Together – University of Pennsylvania (GET-UP), a union of graduate student workers, have been fighting for recognition from the administration. Penn resident advisers may also be pursuing a union election.
On Monday, a 46-year-old canvasser was fatally shot by his 22-year-old colleague in Germantown. Both men were canvassing with OnePA, a progressive political group, ahead of the upcoming mayoral primary.
While Philadelphians have plenty of political news to focus on in its own primary elections, municipal elections in neighboring cities and counties could also have an impact on the city. Learn more about the candidates running for mayor of Chester — a city that recently filed for bankruptcy — and Montgomery County commissioner.
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