No buttons, no lawn signs, no T-shirts for political candidates — that has been the interpretation of the city charter for 60 years.
For decades, Philadelphia city workers were forbidden from engaging in any political activity, even outside of the workplace. But a hearing Wednesday could mark the end of that practice.
Shane Creamer, executive director of the city’s board of ethics, says that before the board was created four years ago, no city agency was tasked with enforcing the rules.
“And so now that you have an agency responsible for enforcing the restrictions on political activities in the charter, it’s important to have a clear understanding so everyone knows what you can and can’t do,” said Creamer.
City workers will be able to express political opinions and preferences for candidates, as long it’s done off the clock. Working to elect a candidate, or serve as a ward leader, however, would still be forbidden — unless you work for City Council.
The political watchdog group the Committee of Seventy supports the board’s proposed changes — except for the exemptions made for council staffers.
“The mayor’s staff can’t work for the mayor’s campaign, but City Council staff can work for the councilperson’s campaign,” said Zack Stalberg of the Committee of Seventy. “That’s just wrong … it makes no sense and it leaves the taxpayer in the position of underwriting campaign activity.”
The new rules would place new restrictions on council staffers — for example, they would no longer be able to raise campaign money or serve as campaign treasurers.