Registered voters can expect to see four ballot questions in the Nov. 3 election.

The ballot questions ask voters to weigh in on police reforms, establishing a city victims advocate, and whether the city should borrow $134 million to pay for city capital projects.

Voters have been casting mail-in ballots for weeks, including at the city’s new satellite election offices.

Should the city create an office of victim advocate?

The proposed office of the victim advocate would support and lobby for crime victims.

If passed, the office’s responsibilities would include:

Advocating for victims of crimes, as individuals and as a group.

Ensuring that crime victims know their rights.

Promoting cooperation among agencies that serve crime victims.

Providing training and support to agencies that interact with crime victims.

The mayor would appoint the victim advocate, who would lead the office.

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, the main sponsor of the legislation for the ballot question, said the office would collaborate with other victim advocate offices — including the state office and one located in District Attorney Larry Krasner’s Office — and local organizations.

During a news conference outside City Hall on Monday, Johnson said the city victim advocate office would not offer direct services, but rather focus on referrals.

“We’ll be the hub, that central city agency, that will work in partnership with other organizations,” Johnson said while flanked by women and men whose sons and daughters were killed in gun violence.

Dorothy Johnson-Speight, founder and executive director of Mothers in Charge who lost a son to gun violence, backed the ballot question.

“This office of the victims advocate of Philadelphia will help me and so many others who continue to live with the trauma and the pain and the grief of having to bury your loved one,” Johnson-Speight said.

Among those against the ballot question is Reclaim Philadelphia, a progressive political group.

Reclaim Philadelphia has called for voting down the ballot question because of what the group described as failures of the state-level Office of the Victim Advocate to help Black and brown communities suffering from gun violence, incarceration and poverty, according to the group’s website.

Reclaim Philadelphia said it lacked confidence in the creation of a city advocate because the state office has instead been an impediment to reform and pushed for harsher sentencing laws.

“Providing care, support, and long-term healing services to those who have experienced harm is fundamental for our communities, and we have grave reservations about a government-run service being given that role without extremely careful planning and oversight by the communities most impacted,” Reclaim Philadelphia said on its website.

The following is the question voters will see on their ballot:

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?

Should a police oversight commission be established?

Philadelphia voters will decide whether to form a new citizen police oversight commission.

The new commission would replace the Police Advisory Commission, which was formed in 1993 but lacks the authority to issue subpoenas or compel the Philadelphia Police Department to provide documents and data.

The new commission would:

Evaluate and work to improve police officer conduct, including by improving investigations of alleged misconduct.

Make clearer the officer disciplinary process and the process for submitting and considering citizen complaints of police misconduct.

Help hold the Police Department accountable for officers’ actions.

Improve communication between the Police Department and the community.

Much remains unknown about the proposed commission, including its budget, structure and authority.

Councilman Curtis Jones, the main sponsor of the legislation for the ballot question, said the new commission would provide a needed “check and balance on police.”

Jones said a more transparent officer-complaint process could help restore police-community relations and increase officer accountability.

If the ballot question passes, the city is expected to form a committee and hold hearings to help determine the structure of the proposed commission. Officials have advocated for the new commission to have subpoena power, which would compel officers to participate in investigations.

The police union is opposed to the ballot question.

“We believe there are enough levels of oversight built into the current system,” Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 President John McNesby said in an email about the oversight committee and another referendum question that would call for the Police Department to end the police tactic of stop and frisk.

McNesby said city officers were already “highly trained and supervised,” and the Constitution and new Police Department directives and regulations offer “appropriate protections for all Philadelphians.”

The police union was not directing members on how to vote on the ballot questions.

The following is the question voters will see on their ballot:

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?

Should police stop using the tactic of stop-and-frisk?

Voters have an opportunity to tell the police department whether it should eliminate the unconstitutional use of stop-and-frisk. 

The referendum would elaborate on the constitutional limitations on police stops that are already in place. It calls for an officer to have reasonable suspicion that a person is engaged in criminal activity for an officer to constitutionally use the stop-and-frisk tactic.

In addition, the ballot question would call for officers not to stop someone because of that person’s race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religious affiliation or expression, or other protected characteristic.

If approved, the ballot question would not ban the use of constitutional stop-and-frisk. The referendum is largely symbolic and reiterates the proper use of the tactic. Philadelphia police continue to use unconstitutional stop-and-frisk despite despite of a federal consent decree and ongoing monitoring.

Councilwoman Cherelle Parker, the main sponsor of the ballot question, said in an email that the referendum will give residents a chance to weigh in on the issue and could send a message to the Police Department.

“It is my hope that our Police Department can use this collective voice of our residents as a mandate to continue to root out all instances of unconstitutional stop-and-frisk,” Parker said.

Parker acknowledged the city cannot ban the use of constitutional stop-and-frisk because the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the tactic.

The police union is against the ballot question.

The following is the question voters will see on their ballot:

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?

Should the city borrow $134 million?

A final ballot question will ask voters whether the city should borrow $134 million.

The ballot question would fund the city’s 2021 capital budget, paying for projects related to transit, streets, sanitation, municipal buildings, parks and recreation centers.

“Voters should approve this question because it allows for critical improvements to the City’s aging infrastructure,” said a Kenney administration spokesman in an email.

Nearly 40% of the funding would go toward city street projects this year, including $32.6 million for street reconstruction and resurfacing.

The Kenney administration would allocate 17% of the borrowed funds for upgrades to parks, recreation centers, health centers, business corridors, homeless services and emergency efficient improvements.

Around 23% of the funding would be dedicated to deferred maintenance and general upkeep for city facilities.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.