A group of clergy and activists from different ends of the political spectrum met yesterday at the Chestnut Hill Church in East Germantown to push an ambitions effort – re-writing the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter.
“We call this the ‘gathering before the storm,’ it’s time that we change,” said Bishop Leonard Goins, founder and president of the Pentecostal Clergy Political Action Committee. “We need the city constitution looked at and changed. We have too many people making politics a life long career.”
The “we” here is short for the We the People of Philadelphia Committee, a group made up of clergy and activists, including Tea Party groups from Northwest and Northeast Philadelphia, which is working to collect just over 21,000 signatures on a petition by August 9 to put a question on the November Ballot that would allow the formation of a Government Study Commission to revise the city charter.
The group claims to be past one-third of the way there on its door-to-door campaign. Germantown resident and 59th Ward Committee member Peter Wirs, who came up with the strategy, calls the effort akin to forming “a municipal version of the Constitutional Convention.”
Should the question make it to ballots in November and pass, Wirs expected the study commission would be able to review the city articles and city offices in a way similar to the reforms of 1951, which were meant to unseat the Republican machine then entrenched in city politics.
Goins, a Democrat, says the same problem exists today.
“We had 50 years of Republican and now 50 years of Democrat, what we need now is 50 years of good people,” he said.
The number one priority of the group, according to Wirs, is to abolish the Ward Leader system, which he sees as the root of political patronage favoring incumbents and limited political interests.
Additional complaints voiced by Goins and others were high crime, high taxes, low employment prospects, poor schools, poor fiscal responsibility and DROP.
Goins also complained of rampant gerrymandering in City Council districts and said he wanted to establish a two term limit for all City Council members.