Friday City Reads

Clarke's big City Hall re-org and the racial injustice of tough curfew laws.

City Council President Darrell Clarke

City Council President Darrell Clarke

Local Reads: “Darrell Clarke wants to restructure the government. Does anybody else?”

City Council President Darrell Clarke is hoping to push through legislation soon that would put a big question to voters on this May’s ballot: Should the city charter be changed to restructure Philadelphia’s government so that the planning and historical commissions, parts of the Licenses & Inspections department, and other agencies are put under one director of planning and development?

PlanPhilly talks to critics and supporters of the plan in Council, the Nutter administration, the development community and civic associations. (There seem to be more of the former than the latter.)

Joe Schiavo, who is the Crosstown Coalition’s Zoning and Land Use Committee chairman, said he’s personally still mystified about the proposal.

“Frankly, to date I cannot decipher any remedial utility of the bill,” Schiavo said. “I don’t know what it fixes or is intended to fix. In the absence of further detail or supporting data and research it’s very difficult to be supportive of the bill.”

Matt Ruben, who serves as president of the Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association, shares [city deputy mayor Alan Greenberger’s] ambivalence about the need for a charter change to improve coordination, though he does support the intent of the proposal. The hard work involved, Ruben said, entails improving the technology systems in each of the various agencies as well as the general culture of inter-agency communication. The proposal needs more public vetting, he said.

“The idea that the public is going to give its input on this issue by voting ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on the world’s longest sentence is ridiculous,” Ruben said.

Ruben has a point. Since 1991, there have been 46 questions on the ballot that asked voters if the city charter should be changed in some way. The ballot questions passed 44 times; voters only shot down two proposed charter changes. (They were two separate bids to repeal the city’s “resign-to-run” rule.) We’re doubtful that this is because all of Council’s proposed charter changes are just that amazing.

National Reads: “Investigating Baltimore’s Curfew Law”

Baltimore recently passed one of the toughest curfew laws in the country. How’s that working out for them?

Writing for the Baltimore City Paper, students at Morgan State’s School of Global Journalism and Communication found that — this will come as no surprise to anyone who’s paid a tiny bit of attention to the country’s criminal justice system — African-Americans are affected disproportionately.

Preliminary data from the city shows that African-Americans are stopped more than whites: During the first two months of the curfew, 126 black teens were stopped for curfew violations compared to 19 white teens. Of the total 147 people stopped, 76 percent were male.

“I have watched a cop sit in front of a bus stop and wait for something to happen for him to get out of the car,” says Ranye McLendon, a 17-year-old City senior, explaining  that she has typically seen police targeting young African-American males. The police were waiting for the young man to make an error, she says.

Philadelphia has had its own curfew law on the books since 1955.