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Philadelphia City Commission Welcomes Green Party

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On February 3, representatives of the Green Party of Philadelphia (GPOP, City Committee were invited to meet with Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt. The meeting was very productive, and the Greens were impressed by the new openness they found in the City Commission.

Al Schmidt welcomed the Greens by saying, "I don't think of the Republican Party in Philadelphia as the minority party, but as a minority party. We want the door to be open to all minor political parties."

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Chris Robinson, at-large member of the Green City Committee, offered Schmidt a list of five issues of concern and asked for Schmidt's help in resolving those issues. Some of the issues were the result of past mismanagement of the City Commission by the previous administration. Some of these issues have already been resolved by Schmidt and the other Commissioners.

On the first point, ending corruption in the City Commission, Schmidt pointed out that there will no longer be nepotism in hiring. The two new commissioners -- including Schmidt -- have also already resigned their roles as Ward Leaders. In this way, the new City Commission will be better able to administer elections in a fair and neutral manner.

In addition, all the employees of the City Commission have recently received ethics training. This instruction is required of all Philadelphia employees, but the previous administration refused to enroll Commission employees in ethics classes.

The Greens' second point, a paper record of votes at every polling place, will not be as easy to achieve because of the cost. Robinson pointed out that "the Philadelphia Election Reform Taskforce in 1995 "recommended that the City move as expeditiously as feasible to procure a DRE system with full ballot-face display capability, PAPER AUDIT-TRAIL PRINTING, and a physically durable design.'" (emphasis added) Since the previous City Commission failed in their charged duty, our city's elections cannot now be audited. This is unfair to every candidate, and this makes the results of every election suspect.

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Schmidt agreed that a paper audit trail was important to maintaining voters' trust, and he disclosed that the manufacturer of Philadelphia's electronic voting machines has dropped out of the business and no longer services (or makes parts for) the machines now in use. He predicted that a new generation of voting machines may be purchased in the near future. Carol McLean, the Greens' Membership Secretary, asked that a paper record of every vote be included in the design of any new voting machines.

The Greens' third point, decent pay for polling place officials, is also a concern for Schmidt. He reported that the commissioners are currently advocating for a step-up formula to increase pay for polling place officers, but it might take a period of time for it to reach the appropriate level. This will take into account the financial shortage faced by the City. He said that the new commissioners have taken a pay reduction, and they have turned in their city-owned cars. They have also submitted a formal budget to the city, which had never before been done by the previous City Commission.

McLean also asked Schmidt about better training for polling place workers. Schmidt said that training is not required, but the new City Commission is considering an improved incentive to make instruction more appealing to the workers.

There were two additional points discussed by the Greens in a friendly manner with Commissioner Schmidt. They will each take some research, and the Greens are looking forward to working with City Commission staff to resolve them. For a complete list of "Green Party Goals for Philadelphia City Commissioners", please contact 215-243-7103.

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Chris Robinson is a graduate of Central High School (#219) in Philadelphia, PA. He lives in Germantown and has been an at-large member of the Green Party of Philadelphia ( City Committee since 2011. Chris Robinson is also a member (more...)

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