I have to confess, it’s the Black Lives Matter and the Defund the Police movements that have really gotten me to pay attention to my local government. I’ve voted in local elections and had a general idea about who I wanted to support, but I didn’t pay much attention aside from primary and general election times.
And then I learned how much of the city’s budget goes to the police force vs other services. The proposed budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year would have increased the police department’s budget by $14 million, but cut funding for healthcare, social services, libraries, and education.
Philly Police Funding
Last week, 14 out of the 17 city council members signed a letter saying they couldn’t accept the proposed increase to the police budget. I’m pleased about that, but I wanted to know more about the 3 who didn’t oppose the police budget increase and when they could be voted out.
The members who didn’t sign the letter opposing the police budget are David Oh, Brian O’Neill and Bobby Henon.
- David Oh is a Republican member at large. He was the first Asian American elected to the city council.
- Brian O’Neill is a Republican and represents the 10th district. He’s been on the city council since 1980, which means he’s been on the city council longer than I’ve been alive.
- Bobby Henon is a Democrat and represents the 6th district. He was indicted in January 2019 for embezzlement and theft by federal officials.
Basics about the Philadelphia City Council
The Philadelphia City Council has 1 member for each of its 10 districts plus 7 members at large. They have 4 year terms, and there are no term limits. Elections for city council members happen in odd years, (when there’s no major national elections). The next one will be 2023 (assuming the world doesn’t end before then).
The party breakdown of the members is:
- 14 Democrats: 9 districts plus 5 members at large
- 2 Republicans: 1 district plus 1 member at large
- 1 Working Families Party: 1 member at large
A map showing all 10 districts is available on the city council website. The Committee of 70 has more detailed maps for each of the 10 districts. Interestingly, districts 6 and 10 are right next to each other. The numbering doesn’t appear to make much sense, but I suspect there are historical reasons behind it.
For the Future
I’ve still got a lot to learn about what my local government does and doesn’t do, but it’s clearly long past time I started.
What about you? How closely do you follow your local politics?
It really is remarkable that US cities spend so much money on the police force, but the really important stuff is being defunded every day. When I was in Iceland for 10 days I saw two police — a police officer in a car on a highway and a meter maid. In 10 days! In a major city!!!
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Very timely topic! I added “learn how tf Philly’s local government works” to my to-do list just a few days ago, also in response to the #DefundThePolice movement.
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