Two changes to the city's Home Rule Charter approved this year by City Council and Mayor Nutter will be put before Philadelphia voters next Tuesday. One would make the mayor's office of LGBT affairs a permanent fixture; the other would create a cabinet-level Department of Planning and Development to oversee functions now handled by a host of bodies.
Voters will also be asked whether the city should borrow $155.9 million to cover upcoming capital expenses.
LGBT Affairs. The Mayor's Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs, created by a Nutter executive order in 2008, would become a permanent city office if this ballot question passes. Helen "Nellie" L. Fitzpatrick, who has led the office since January, said doing so would "ensure that... as time marches on, the LGBT community's involvement in city government will remain unchangeable."
"So many people who aren't aware of the community needs think that just because there is now marriage equality, well, the LGBT community is fine. Equality is here," she said. "And that is absolutely not the case."
The bill that put the measure on the ballot, introduced by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, had the backing of Nutter. Fitzpatrick, whose salary is $90,000, is the office's one employee, and making the office permanent is not expected to incur any extra cost to the city.
A new department. After nine months of wrangling, Council in May approved the bill to create a new Department of Planning and Development. The department would be led by a director, who would appointed by the mayor and would receive a salary of $150,000.
First proposed by Council President Darrell L. Clarke, the new department would act as an umbrella for the Planning Commission, Historical Commission, Housing Authority, Art Commission, and Zoning Board of Adjustment.
The new department would have three divisions: zoning and planning; housing and community development; and development services. The proposed Division of Development Services would help real estate developers navigate the approvals needed for their projects.
While an earlier version of the bill would have also put the duties of the Department of Licenses and Inspections under the new department, that provision was removed amid opposition from Nutter's administration and the development and construction communities.
Borrowing money. The city is seeking a $155.9 million bond to cover capital expenses in five main areas: transit; streets and sanitation; municipal buildings; parks, recreation and museums; and economic and community development.
When the bill went before Council, city Finance Director Rob Dubow testified that the funds would go to pay for expenses in the fiscal year 2016 capital budget.