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GENERAL MEETING MINUTES
Wednesday, April 24, 2019, 7-8:30pm

 

Nikil opened the meeting at 7:04pm.

Committee people were asked to review and comment upon Minutes from the previous meeting (3/17/19), and a motion was made and seconded to approve them. Minutes were approved.

JUDICIAL ENDORSEMENTS

Mark Kasten gave a report on the work of the Judicial Endorsements Committee, which culminated in a recommended slate of six judges for the Court of Common Pleas, one judge for Municipal Court, and one judge for Superior Court. He explained that the committee had undertaken a rigorous review process including interviews, review of writing samples, review of candidate responses to a questionnaire, and review of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Bar Association’s candidate assessments in order to arrive at these recommendations. He noted that the committee had spoken directly with members of the Philadelphia Bar Association regarding their review process and did not recommend any judges for the Municipal Court and Court of Common Pleas who were “Not Recommended” by the Philadelphia Bar. They were less familiar with the review process undertaken by the Pennsylvania Bar Association in rating the Superior Court candidates and had chosen to recommend Amanda Green-Hawkins for endorsement even though she was “Not Recommended” by the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He noted that the committee had come to consensus fairly easily on these recommendations.

Amy Donnella then presented the full slate of judges, noting that they had included candidates with different legal backgrounds (ie – prosecutors and defense attorneys) but that all recommended candidates had expressed consciousness about the trauma associated with appearing in court and had thought about ways to mitigate or lessen that trauma. The recommended candidates were as follows:

  • Superior Court: Amanda Green-Hawkins
  • Court of Common Pleas: James Berardinelli, Tiffany Palmer, Jenn Schultz, Anthony Kyriakakis, Chris Hall, Kay Yu
  • Municipal Court: David Conroy

An inquiry was made regarding the overlap between the recommended slate and the endorsements of the City Committee. The City Committee had endorsed several of the same judges (Amanda Green-Hawkins, Anthony Kyriakakis, and David Conroy), but Mark clarified that their recommendations were not considered either a benefit or a hindrance to the recommendation of the 2nd Ward Judicial Endorsements committee.

A motion was made to vote on the acceptance of the slate as a whole rather than on individual candidates. It was seconded and passed nearly unanimously by the committee people in attendance. A motion was then made to accept the proposed slate, and it too was seconded and passed nearly unanimously.

Several committee people expressed appreciation for the thorough, transparent review process undertaken by the committee, and gratitude for the confidence with which they could pass on their recommendations.

REGISTER OF WILLS

Colleen Puckett gave an account of interviews that had been conducted with two of the three candidates for Register of Wills. Several committee people had met earlier in the week with Tracey Gordon and Colleen had spoken with Ronald Donatucci by phone shortly before the meeting. Jacque Whaumbush did not respond to attempts to contact him for a similar interview. She reported the following impressions of each candidate:

Tracey Gordon had previously served as a Deputy City Commissioner (she was fired from this position, but that event is generally understood to have been very political in nature) She noted the lack of diversity among the nearly 50 employees and the need to reform the process for sorting out tangled titles on hundreds of properties throughout the city. She had a sound critique of the current office but did not present a clear plan for what she would do differently and seemed to be missing some research into the function of the office. She also has not managed a significant team of people in any past position.

Ronald Donatucci is a 40-year-incumbent of this office. Committee people gave differing accounts of their experiences with the Register of Wills office; some have found it well-run and user-friendly while others vehemently disagreed with this assessment, noting that minority communities were not fairly treated and not represented within the ranks of its employees. Donatucci is currently facing a lawsuit brought by his deceased son’s fiancee regarding the administration of his son’s will.

A motion was made to endorse Tracey Gordon. The motion was seconded and all in favor of endorsement were asked to raise their hands. There were 17 votes in favor of endorsement, which fell short of the required threshold of 21, so no endorsement was made at this time.

BALLOT QUESTIONS

Nikil led a discussion on the four proposed changes to the city charter that will be up for referendum on the primary ballot.

Question 1: Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to change certain gender specific references (such as “councilman,” “councilmen,” and “Councilmanic”) to gender neutral references (such as “councilmember,” “councilmembers,” and “Council”)?

A motion was made to recommend a “Yes” vote on this question after minimal discussion. It was seconded and passed with overwhelming support.

Question 2: Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to establish and define the functions of the Office of Immigrant Affairs, headed by a Director of Immigrant Affairs?

Concern was raised over whether a ballot referendum was the proper way to establish a municipal office and it was noted that this office had already been established under the Kenney administration and that the charter change would ensure that it continue to exist after Kenney leaves office. A motion was made to recommend a “Yes” vote on this question. It was seconded and passed with overwhelming support.

Question 3: Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to call on the General Assembly to either increase the Pennsylvania minimum wage now, so that it reaches $15 an hour, in stages, by 2025; or allow the City of Philadelphia to itself provide for a decent, family sustaining, living wage for working Philadelphians?

Several committee people noted that this resolution does not carry any real force and is simply a way to admonish state lawmakers for making it illegal for Philadelphia to pass its own minimum wage legislation. Nonetheless, a motion was made to recommend a “Yes” vote on this question, and it was seconded and passed with overwhelming support.

Question 4: Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to require the establishment of “Public Safety Enforcement Officers” to assist the Police Department in regulating the flow of traffic; to enforce and assist the appropriate City officers in the enforcement of ordinances relating to the quality of life in the City’s neighborhoods; and to perform such other related duties as the Managing Director or Council may require?

Concerns were raised over the vague language in this question and whether the establishment of a new class of enforcement officer would further exacerbate problems of over-policing of the city’s minority population. A number of other committee people spoke in support of it, citing ongoing quality-of-life issues raised by their neighbors and the failure of the Police Department to respond to or take seriously these type of concerns. A motion was made to recommend a “Yes” vote on this question. It was seconded, and all in favor of doing so were asked to raise their hand. The motion passed narrowly with 22 votes in favor (21 were required).

The meeting was adjourned at approximately 8:30pm.

** Notes on voting results: All tallied voting results in these Minutes include advance votes submitted online. There were 32 committee people present at the vote  and 9 votes submitted in advance for a total of 41 votes. The threshold required for a majority was 21 votes.