Next Tuesday, Philadelphians, including Penn students, will be faced with a number of choices on the ballot. While much attention has been paid to the presidential race, far less heralded are local issues, including four ballot questions. The Daily Pennsylvanian Editorial Board recommends handling the questions as follows:
Question 1: Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to call on the Police Department to eliminate the practice of unconstitutional stop and frisk, consistent with judicial precedent, meaning an officer must have reasonable suspicion that a person is engaged in criminal activity in order to stop that person, and, therefore, an officer cannot stop someone unlawfully because of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religious affiliation or expression, or other protected characteristic?
Stop and frisk is a police practice where an officer may, with reasonable suspicion, stop someone on the street and question them, and may search their person for weapons, drugs, or other items of interest. The practice has consistently come under fire for being a form of racial profiling, considering that the citizens who are stopped and frisked by the police tend to be Black and Latino men, even though their white male counterparts are far more likely to be carrying a firearm. Many courts have found the practice to be unconstitutional, especially since citizens could be stopped for something as minor as ‘furtive movements’. Despite all this, the Philadelphia police have continued to use the practice. By voting ‘yes’ on this question, voters can make sure that there is no mistaking what the public’s view on this practice is, and allows Philadelphians to condemn police violence enacted against Black men and other people of color.
Vote YES on question 1.
Question 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?
The second ballot question concerns the establishment of an Office of the Victim Advocate. If this measure is passed, the mayor will appoint a “Victim Advocate” to head the office, with responsibilities including advocating for crime victims, supporting agencies that serve or interact with crime victims, and ensuring that victims know their rights. While victims services are already offered through a statewide office and local organizations, the new office would make them available in a centralized manner.
The progressive group Reclaim Philadelphia has criticized this ballot measure out of concern that it will lead to increased targeting and incarceration of poor, Black, and Brown communities. In a blog post, Reclaim Philadelphia’s Mass Liberation Task Force wrote that the existing statewide Office of the Victim Advocate has opposed bills that grant parole eligibility to those with life sentences and promoted harsher sentencing laws. “[We] have good reason to fear that any policy recommendations coming from the OVA will only perpetuate the criminalization of poor, Black, and Brown communities and mass incarceration as a response to violence and harm,” Reclaim Philadelphia wrote.
Vote NO on question 2.
Question 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?
This past summer has seen protests against police brutality and racism throughout the country, with protests in Philadelphia occasionally being met with excessive responses by law enforcement. In light of this, Question 3 seeks to establish a new Citizens Police Oversight Commission, replacing the existing mechanism for police oversight, the Police Advisory Commission. The Police Advisory Commission has faced criticism in the past for lacking power and being hamstrung by low budgets. If Question 3 is passed and the Citizens Police Oversight Commission is formed, the City Council would be responsible for determining the scope and the powers of it.
The measure has the support of the Mayor, the vast majority of City Council, and the District Attorney.
Vote YES on question 3.
Question 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?
Philadelphia has come under hard times lately, with the city being forced to cut almost $650 million from its fiscal year 2021 budget. That being said, the money that the city would be borrowing is a small portion of the city's overall budget, and would be going to critical local services. As the Philadelphia Inquirer notes, Question 4 is required for the city of Philadelphia to borrow money.
Vote YES on question 4.
Editorials represent the majority view of members of The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. Editorial Board, which meets regularly to discuss issues relevant to Penn's campus. Participants in these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on related topics.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.