By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The City Council President’s ambitious plan to reorganize huge portions of Philadelphia government has moved off of the fast-track, in the wake of concerns by some in the city’s development community.
Council President Darrell Clarke wants to ask voters to change the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter in order to reorganize L&I and all departments involved in planning and development.
“The bill realigns a number of departments that relate to planning and development. It creates a much more efficient and streamlined process. It creates a cabinet level individual who will be responsible for all of those activities.”
And Clarke wanted the question to go to voters in the May primary. But at a committee hearing on the idea this past week, critics like Craig Schelter, of the Design Workshop, said stakeholders need more time to study the latest revisions to the proposed charter change.
“This stage of reform, via a major change in the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter, requires more than a simple response to amendments. We do not believe that a decision today by this committee should be driven solely by the placement deadline for the ballot on May 19, 2015. Especially since the (next) mayor, who will be forced to implement these changes, is not known to any of us today.”
Clarke agreed to delay the process, delaying a committee vote. Now the earliest this plan would be put to voters would be the November general election.
“Something this important, we felt it was appropriate given how close and how many people are supportive, is that we get as many people as possible on board. But it was a very, very good level of conversation.”
But Clarke remains resolute that the Charter’s rules on how a mayoral administration is organized sorely needs this sort of overhaul.
“Prior to this point in time, it was a fractured structure throughout the government, no clear lines of responsibility and jurisdiction. This (proposal) now clears that up. And it also elevates it to the level that we believe it should be, given the level of activity in the city of Philadelphia. We are looking forward to a vote by the citizens, and I think this will be a good thing for the city of Philadelphia.”
Clarke says he hopes to have the entire overhaul approved by the full Council before lawmakers adjourn in June.