The Three City Charter Questions on Tuesday’s Ballot, in Plain English

Getting past the legalese.

There are three questions up for vote in Tuesday’s primary election, but they’ll be awfully difficult to understand if you’re seeing them for the first time when you’re in the voting booth. Here, with some help from our friends at the Committee of Seventy, is each question broken down into plain English.

The Question: “Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to confirm Council’s power to enact provisions Council considers necessary or appropriate to implement a Minimum Wage and Benefits Ordinance, including, but not limited to, provisions mandating that minimum wage and benefits requirements be passed along to subcontractors on City contracts and subrecipients of City financial assistance, and provisions authorizing the granting and revocation of waivers, with debarment as a potential penalty for violation of such provisions?”

In Plain English: “In November 2010, city voters approved a ballot question that gave City Council the power to require entities that do business with, and get financial assistance from, the city government to compensate their employees with certain minimum levels of pay and certain minimum levels of benefits. The May 2014 ballot question would give Council the authority to require the same entities to pass along these minimum wage and benefits requirements to their subcontractors or subrecipients of city financial assistance.”

Even Englishier: A private business hired by the city to do a job can’t turn around and hire a second company that pays substandard wages to help do that job.

The Question: “Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended so that effective January 1, 2016, an elected official of the City may become a candidate for nomination or election to a different public office without first resigning from his or her current office, the same as state and federal elected officials, but may not run for re- election to his or her current office in the same election?”

In Plain English: “ This one asks voters to approve the elimination of a 63-year-old rule that bans all city employees – elected and non-elected – from running for any other city, state or federal office (other than for reelection) without first giving up their job. (This rule is best known as “Resign to Run.”) “Resign to Run” would only be eliminated for elected officials.”

Even Englishier: Remember when Michael Nutter resigned from the City Council to run for mayor? That won’t happen again.

The Question: “Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to provide that Council approval is required for certain contracts for one year or less for the purpose of providing legal representation and related services for indigent persons, including but not limited to parents and children who are subjects of dependency proceedings; criminal defendants; persons in juvenile justice proceedings; persons involved in behavioral health proceedings; and indigent persons involved in other proceedings where legal representation is required?”

In Plain English: “This ballot question would require City Council to approve city contracts of one year or less that cost over $100,000 and involve the legal representation of indigent Philadelphians (i.e., Philadelphians who can’t afford their own lawyer) in certain proceedings – and also the renewal and extension of these contracts.”

Even Englishier: The Council doesn’t trust the Mayor to do certain short-term contracts correctly. So they’re going to step in.