One of four questions on the May 16 primary ballot in Philadelphia would amend the city charter (essentially the city constitution) to create a new office of Chief Public Safety Director.
After studying governments in Trenton, Newark, Chicago and other cities, the City Council concluded that Philly needs a similar leadership position to coordinate safety programs across departments and help reduce crime and violence.
The director’s job would pay $265,000 a year and report directly to the mayor. Applicants must be approved by the Council and have “five years of senior management experience in a law enforcement agency, legal entity or other public safety position,” according to the bill placing the measure on the ballot.
What you will see on the ballot
Should the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to create the office of Chief Public Safety Director and to define its powers, duties and responsibilities?
What it means
Voting “yes” would mean you want to create a new high-level position to coordinate the use of personnel, equipment and other resources within various city departments, particularly police, fire and jails, but also recreation, emergency management and others .
The director would provide guidance and initial approvals of programs and policies, such as violence prevention programs. The person would also consult on security-related budgets, evaluate program effectiveness, oversee the security of city facilities, and maintain relationships with the schools, courts, and outside organizations. Unusually for a cabinet-level position, the mayoral candidate for director would require Council approval.
Who’s up for it?
The new position was proposed in February by Council President Darrell Clarke and several other council members. Clarke said the seriousness of the city’s crime and gun violence required oversight of security efforts from a senior position in government.
“We know we need better coordination and collaboration in how Philadelphia departments and agencies respond to gun violence,” Clarke said. “A Chief Public Safety Director — whose primary responsibility includes promoting better collaboration between all relevant agencies in our city — is a policy initiative worth trying.”
Others who have expressed support for the new office include mayoral candidates Cherelle Parker, Allan Domb and James DeLeon.
Who is against it?
Mayor Jim Kenney vetoed the council bill that put the measure on the ballot. The council overrode the veto, only the second time in his tenure. Kenney objected to the accelerated timeline on which the bill was passed, noting that the executive director is already responsible for overseeing public safety. The new position could complicate lines of authority in the administration and reduce accountability, he wrote in a letter to the Council.
Administration officials are also concerned that the measure could limit the ability of future mayors to shape their own cabinets because it sets out the director’s specific job responsibilities and qualifications, the Inquirer reported. Mayors can currently appoint deputy mayors to oversee public safety or other areas.
Mayoral candidates Helen Gym and Rebecca Rhynhart have also said they oppose the measure.