Philadelphians voted to amend the city's charter and create a new public safety force as voters approved all four ballot questions posed to them during Tuesday's primary election.
The amendment to the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter would establish new, unarmed Public Safety Enforcement officers who would be tasked with helping police during special events like parades and concerts. Voters also approved measures to include an immigrant affairs office in the city charter, ask for a raise in the minimum wage and eliminate gender-specific references in the city's charter.
The amendment establishing PSE officers was championed by City Council President Darrell Clarke and embraced by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross.
"Our hope that Public Safety Enforcement Officers will empower police to reduce serious crime while enhancing the quality of life in neighborhoods is shared by a broad coalition of supporters that includes the PPD, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the Center City District, and the Pennsylvania AARP," Clarke said in a statement.
The hope is for Philadelphia Police officers to be able to focus on more serious crimes while public safety officers take care of things like reducing traffic congestion. The new officers would also be on the lookout for such issues as people not cleaning up after their pets, illegal dumping, cars running red lights and rideshare drivers stalling their cars in the middle of the street.
Specifics about the new class of officers, like when they'll actually hit the streets, will be established by Mayor Jim Kenney's administration.
Two other measures to amend the city's Home Rule Charter also passed on election night.
Voters gave the green light for the city to permanently establish an Office of Immigrant Affairs headed by a Director of Immigrant Affairs. This office is in charge of helping immigrant communities.
The city already has an Office of Immigrant Affairs, but it was established by a mayoral executive order, meaning another mayor could conceivably disband the office.
With the OIA forming part of the Philadelphia charter, it now becomes a more permanent fixture.
Also approved was a measure to eliminate gender-specific references in the Home Rule Charter, meaning terms like "councilman" and councilwoman" would be changed to "councilmembers."
Voters also gave the green light to a ballot measure that would do one of two things when it comes to the minimum wage: ask the state to either raise the minimum wage from the federal standard of $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour across all of Pennsylvania or allow Philadelphia itself to raise the minimum wage in the city.
This is more of a symbolic measure that would not have any immediate impact on the minimum wage in Philadelphia, since in Pennsylvania, only the state Legislature is allowed to raise the minimum wage. The Legislature has repeatedly rejected past efforts to raise the minimum wage and is unlikely to carve out an exception for Philadelphia.