Philadelphia City Council agreed Thursday to put three proposed changes to the Home Rule Charter before voters in May.
Two would create commissions, one to promote the advancement of women and the other to explore offering universal prekindergarten. The third would require city offices to plan for providing access to non-English speakers.
Before going to voters, the measures must be signed by Mayor Nutter, whose spokesman declined Thursday to comment on the mayor's plans.
If they make it onto the May 19 ballot, history shows the changes have a good chance of passing. Of nearly two dozen ballot questions sent to voters since 2010, only one has been turned down: a proposed repeal of the city's resign-to-run rule.
Universal pre-K. Nearly 34,000 3- and 4-year-olds in Philadelphia are eligible for a free prekindergarten education, but because of a lack of funding, only one in three is enrolled, according to city officials.
Voters would decide whether the city should create a commission to recommend a plan for achieving universal pre-K.
At a hearing on the bill this month, Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco expressed skepticism about creating a commission rather than a committee under the Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity. Supporters, including the Nutter administration, have said formalizing the commission in the charter would ensure that pre-K remains a priority when the next administration takes over.
"We don't have all the money for it, but at least if we force the issue, we'll be closer to getting it done," said Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell, who sponsored the bill.
Commission for Women. Voters would also be asked whether the city should create a Commission for Women that would seek to facilitate partnerships among women, city government, and the business community.
"As long as women are only making 77 cents on the dollar [compared with men], that suggests to me we have work to do," said Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, who sponsored the bill.
She said such commissions were common in other cities, including New York, Boston, and Los Angeles.
Reynolds Brown said the annual cost for the commission's executive director and an assistant was expected to be no more than $150,000.
In 1980, Mayor William J. Green III created the Mayor's Commission for Women. A decade later, the group's executive director moved to a new job and the office and staff were phased out.
Language access plans
In 2008, Nutter signed an executive order requiring city offices to have a formal plan for providing access to non-English-speaking residents. A handful of offices - including City Council, the Board of City Commissioners, the District Attorney's Office, and the Sheriff's Office - are not bound to comply.
While some of those bodies have adopted their own language-access plans, the proposed charter change seeks to ensure uniform standards across all city agencies, boards, and commissions.
"This allows us to ingrain in our charter the value of Philadelphia becoming this global city that we talk about," said Maria Quiñones Sánchez, who sponsored the bill.
Quiñones Sánchez's office said the charter change would also require compliance monitoring, including making annual reports for each agency available to the public.