Sunday, November 6, 2005

Philadelphia Considers Ethics Ballot Initiative

On Tuesday, Philadelphia voters will consider the following ballot initiative:

Shall the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to require Council approval of certain City leases, contracts and concessions, to empower Council to address public confidence in the integrity of the City's contracting process by requiring certain disclosures and by providing whether persons who have made certain campaign contributions are ineligible for such contracts and for City financial assistance, and to empower Council to regulate the process by which non-competitively bid (no-bid) contracts are awarded?

The city has garnered more than its fair share of publicity recently regarding municipal corruption, including the conviction of its former treasurer (Corey Kemp) and charges against a city council member (Rick Mariano) whose indictment broke a fourteen-year drought in which no council member had been charged with a crime.  Critics of the city government point to the fact that there appears to be a culture of  "pay-to-play" in which those who want contracts are expected to contribute.  A local watchdog group called the Committee of Seventy, which was formed over 100 years ago to fight corruption, is pushing for adoption of the Charter amendment.  Of course, requiring the City Council to approve leases, contracts and concessions will not necessarily end the atmosphere of corruption if it only moves the link between contracts and contributions to a different forum. An AP story (here) discusses the proposed amendment. (ph)

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