Editorial | Vote No on Ballot Question 2
Keep the quit-to-run rule
Philadelphia voters, City Council members have a small favor to ask this May 15: They're hoping you will agree to hand them a bigger club with which they can menace the city's next mayor.
Well, don't do it.
Council members propose scrapping the City Charter provision that requires them to quit Council to run for mayor or another office.
Sounds innocuous enough. In fact, it's a change that even strikes some people of good faith as a reform - so much so, it has backing from the government watchdog group Committee of Seventy.
But this simple charter change listed as Question 2 on the ballot would upset the balance of power in City Hall. It has nothing to do with good government, and everything to do with politics-as-usual.
If the change goes through, the man elected mayor this year - and every other first-term mayor to follow - will be more susceptible to challenges to his reelection by Council members who could run on a whim without risking their seats.
Think the infighting in City Hall is a distraction now from doing what's best for citizens? Just wait for the mischief and grandstanding and political deal-making when every Council member is a potential pretender to the mayoral throne.
Critics of the resign-to-run provision cry that it deprives citizens of the best and brightest candidates for mayor. But anyone worth his salt as a mayoral candidate should be willing to quit Council to run.
Michael Nutter is living proof of that. He showed his determination by leaving his Council post, and in recent polls has surged ahead of three other mayoral candidates who did not have to leave their safe seats in Congress and the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
For more than a half-century, the resign-to-run rule has worked to citizens' advantage. It keeps Council members focused on their jobs - crafting legislation and providing oversight - and preserves the strong-mayor government that makes the city's chief executive accountable solely to voters.
Remove the ban on running for office for Council members and citizens won't see a crop of serious mayoral contenders in 2011. Rather, they'll see more pitched political battles between Council and mayor.
Question 2 deserves a resounding NO vote from Philadelphians.
If the state Supreme Court does the right thing, there should be another important question on the ballot: one regarding casino sites. The court has yet to decide, but it should allow the voters to have their say.
For now, several other Charter questions deserve voters support:
Question 4 earns a YES vote because it would improve the City Planning Commission by requiring the appointment of an architect, urban planner, traffic engineer, attorney with land-use experience, and two community group members.
Also vote YES on Question 5, which gives planners added time to evaluate complicated land-use matters.
Question 6 is another important YES vote, because it will launch a much-needed review of the city zoning code with the goal of "encouraging development and protecting the character" of city neighborhoods.
Question 8 is a pro forma YES vote, granting authority to borrow funds for important city projects.
Question 3 suggests having children as young as 12 sit on a commission (with administrative expenses of $250,000) and advise the mayor. It's silly and merits a NO vote.
The same holds for two advisory Charter changes on Iraq troop withdrawals and property taxes. They have NO business being on the ballot.