Inquirer Editorial: Yes to ballot measures

Posted: October 28, 2010

Four ballot questions are being put before Philadelphia voters Tuesday - most notably, a City Charter change that will expand the reach of a five-year-old ordinance that assures better pay and benefits at agencies and firms that do business with City Hall. Each question merits a "yes" vote.

Two questions would deal with the nuts and bolts of city government:

A nearly $107 million bond issue would provide for street paving, transit projects, building maintenance, and the like. These are necessary investments in the city's infrastructure.

The City Charter would be updated by a second question to provide for electronic bidding and contracting by the city, and for cooperative purchasing. Voting "yes" should help cut red tape and reduce costs.

A third question would expand an existing City Charter ban on discrimination. In addition to being barred from showing preference by race, color, religion, or national origin, companies awarded competitively bid contracts costing more than $30,000 would not be able to discriminate on the basis of "ancestry, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, or disability." A "yes" vote will mean the city expands opportunities while assuring that it gets to draw on the talents of more Philadelphians when contracting for services.

Finally, a fourth question would extend the city's so-called living-wage requirements to professional services contracts such as consulting, bond work, and outside legal counsel.

The rules put into law five years ago require that for-profit firms doing more than $10,000 of annual business pay a minimum of 50 percent more than the federal minimum wage - around $435 a week now - and extend benefits to all employees equally. Smaller firms are exempt, with waivers available for larger firms on a case-by-case basis.

The living-wage requirement tracks provisions of the state economic jobs program, and should have minimal impact on city spending, according to its prime sponsor, Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr.

Mayor Nutter has signed on to this charter change, so voters should approve it as another means of using City Hall leverage to expand wages and benefits at firms supported by city tax dollars.

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