New leadership, same old politics at the Philadelphia Parking Authority
Leaders of the GOP-controlled Philadelphia Parking Authority have delaying taking action on a move to block new hires from holding down political posts.
The Philadelphia Parking Authority, that last bastion of Republican power in the city, punted Tuesday on a chance to scale back politics in the patronage-laden agency.
City Commissioner Al Schmidt, a Republican, presented his five fellow board members with a proposal to prohibit future employees from holding political office like ward leader or ward committee posts, running campaigns or hosting fund-raisers.
The other board members stalled after removing Schmidt as chair of the agency’s human resources committee.
Beth Grossman, a Republican who joined the board in August and was elected chair last month, called for the delay because the PPA is negotiating union contracts for some employees.
Schmidt countered that it “doesn’t make any sense to wait” since his proposal would launch after the contracts were completed. Schmidt initially considered a ban on political office for all employees but amended that to only apply to new employees.
About 100 of the agency’s 1,000 employees hold political office. Of that smaller group, a little more than half are Republicans and the rest Democrats. Committee posts are up for election in 2022. An employee in office now and reelected next year could continue working for the PPA under Schmidt’s proposal.
Schmidt said he was trying to “insulate” the PPA so it can evaluate employees “strictly based on how much of an asset they are to the authority as opposed to ever considering how much of an asset they are to the party.”
The board is expected to revisit the issue next month.
“I certainly intend to bring it up at the next public meeting and the one after that and the one after that until we confront this issue,” Schmidt said. “Because it is an issue that hurts the operation of the authority and it hurts the reputation of the authority.”
A 2020 City Controller’s Audit faulted the PPA for patronage, suggesting jobs are handed out based on “who you know” rather than what is best for the agency and the city.