Three ballot questions for Philadelphia
Philadelphia voters will consider three ballot questions Tuesday that would make permanent the Mayor's Office of Sustainability, shift oversight of city prisons and allow the city to borrow $137.3 million for various capital projects.
Philadelphia voters will consider three ballot questions Tuesday that would make permanent the Mayor's Office of Sustainability, shift oversight of city prisons, and allow the city to borrow $137.3 million for various capital projects.
Two of the questions - those dealing with the Office of Sustainability and prison oversight - call for amending the Home Rule Charter, the city's governing document.
The first asks if the charter should be amended "to establish and define the functions of the Office of Sustainability headed by a director of sustainability."
The Nutter administration is hoping to secure the future of one of the mayor's signature efforts. Mayor Nutter, who leaves office in January 2016, created the Office of Sustainability in 2008 to make Philadelphia greener and more energy-efficient. Absent a charter change, its future is at the whim of the next mayor.
The office primarily has worked to bring to life the initiatives in Nutter's environmental master plan, Greenworks Philadelphia. The plan covers a range of issues, from energy use in city buildings and managing storm water to planting trees and increasing recycling. The Office of Sustainability has a staff of five and a $750,000 annual budget.
More than 200 cities have created such offices in recent years, according to Katherine Gajewski, director of the office. Several, including New York, Boston, and Seattle, have moved to make them permanent.
The second question asks if the charter should be amended "to transfer responsibility for managing and operating" city jails from the Department of Public Welfare and the board of trustees of prisons to a new Department of Prisons and Board of Trustees. This, too, is a proposal of the Nutter administration.
The prison system now sits within the welfare department, also known as the Department of Human Services. Despite that, the prisons have been operating independently for the last 26 years.
The move would elevate the prisons commissioner to the same level as the police and fire commissioners, and make permanent Nutter's reentry program for ex-offenders, known as RISE - the Office of Reintegration Services.
Michael Resnick, director of public safety, said the change would come at no cost to taxpayers and would formalize a structure already in place.
When the 1951 charter placed the prisons under welfare, Resnick said, the system was much smaller and simpler. Today, he said, the city runs six major prison facilities with 8,500 inmates and 2,000 employees.
The final question is a request to let the city borrow $137,295,000 for improvements to streets, recreation centers, police and fire stations, health centers, and other municipal facilities.