Philadelphia gets a new mayor in three weeks and a new set of rules restricting political activity by members of boards and commissions that help to run the city.
The city's Board of Ethics yesterday issued a ruling that sets new, tougher restrictions on 21 of the city's 81 boards and commissions.
That follows a ruling issued by the board in October, which set the same rules for four boards that operate within the Department of Licenses & Inspections.
That ruling is now in effect. The ruling approved yesterday goes into effect on Jan. 7, the same day that Mayor-elect Michael Nutter is sworn into office.
According to the rulings, members of the boards and commissions will be prohibited from being officers, ward leaders or committee members for political parties. Also, they can't circulate petitions to nominate candidates, distribute campaign literature, wear campaign buttons or display campaign posters or lawn signs, solicit money to support a political party or candidate, sell tickets for political events, work on voter-turn-out or poll-watching teams on Election Day or participate in other political activity. Those rules apply to the members not just in Philadelphia, but anywhere in the United States.
The 21 agencies listed in yesterday's ruling are: the Board of Ethics, the Civil Service Commission, the Board of Revision of Taxes, the Board of Viewers, the Commission on Human Relations, the Tax Review Board, the Fair Housing Commission, the City Planning Commission, the Fairmount Park Commission, the Philadelphia Gas Commission and the Sinking Fund Commission.
Also: the Historical Commission, the Board of Trustees of the Philadelphia Prisons, the Board of Trustees of the Philadelphia Free Library, the Board of Pensions & Retirement, the Board of Health, the Zoning Code Commission, the Minority Business Enterprise Council, the Board of Labor Standards, the Board of Surveyors and the Art Commission.
The Board of Ethics noted that the agencies listed in yesterday's ruling did not have input on the decision, so it will consider requests from members to reconsider the ban on political activity.
Ethics Board chairman Richard Glazer called yesterday's ruling a "big deal" because it interprets standards that dates from 1919. Glazer said that a lack of enforcement and a lack of communication by the city on those rules, as laid out in the city charter, probably means there are "a significant number of people" now holding posts on boards and commissions while engaging in political activity.
The ruling, Glazer added, will allow Nutter's administration to choose people for boards and commissions with a full understanding of what political activity is prohibited. *