Four Philly ballot measures approved

Posted: November 07, 2012

By comfortable margins, Philadelphia voters approved four ballot measures Tuesday, including one that gives an independent body the power to set water and sewer rates.

With more than 95 percent of precincts counted, all four proposals were headed for passage.

City Council President Darrell L. Clarke pushed for a new water authority after the Water Department in February proposed raising rates 28.5 percent over three years, though that figure has not been finalized.

Under the current system, there is a hearing process with input from a hearing officer and a public advocate appointed by Clarke, Mayor Nutter, and City Controller Alan Butkovitz. But Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug has final say over the rate increases that his department is seeking.

Clarke said he believed the process left too much power in the hands of one person, but needed voters to approve an amendment to the Home Rule Charter to create the independent body. Voters gave him that approval Tuesday.

The Nutter administration initially raised concerns that the shift would give politicians too much control over rates, but later supported the idea. Clarke has promised that the independent board would consist of industry experts, with no influence from Council.

Despite passage, the change does not affect the current rate increase. After hearings over the summer, the hearing officer recommended a settlement for a smaller hike - 17.4 percent over 30 months.

Neukrug must still approve the settlement, which likely would go into effect in January.

Voters also passed a ballot measure that would require the mayor's staff to submit a cost-benefit analysis of how money is spent with annual budgets.

Councilman Bill Green backed that idea, which also required altering the charter.

The third measure that passed changes the charter to give preference on civil-service exams to grandchildren of police and firefighters who died in the line of duty.

In 2006, voters approved a similar charter change that gave an edge to the children of police and firefighters who died in the line of duty.

Councilman Brian O'Neill, lead sponsor of the current measure, said he was inspired by Fire Lt. Robert Neary, who died in April at 59 at a blaze in a vacant Kensington warehouse.

Voters also said yes to a ballot question that asked whether the city could borrow $123 million for capital improvements to be spent on transit, streets and sanitation, municipal buildings, parks and recreation, museums, and economic and community development.

Contact Miriam Hill at 215-854-5520, or @miriamhill on Twitter.

Inquirer staff writer Troy Graham contributed to this article.

comments powered by Disqus