“Stop hiding behind honors and start legislating”


As of this writing, there have been more than 100 murders in Philadelphia this year. That’s ahead of last year’s pace, when a record broke 562 people were murdered. A quarter of Philadelphians live in poverty while 22 percent of adults in the city lack basic literacy skills.

Nearly 70 percent of third graders cannot read at grade level. Nearly three quarters of maternal deaths in Philadelphia are black women. According to GlitterApp’s Morgan Berman, an estimated 10,000 out of 16,000 city blocks are covered in trash. vaccination rates lagging, particularly among black residents, in contrast to rosy Department of Health figures.

Philadelphia is a disaster.

During this time of unprecedented crisis, City Council members have done what they do best: pat themselves and their friends on the back for a job well done.

Instead of debating and passing bold legislation designed to pull Philadelphia out of the depths of the dumpster fire that is burning its citizens (up to in some cases literal death) the city council spends the overwhelming majority of its time passing honor resolutions. These legislative trophies are designed to honor everyone and everything from celebrities to community organizers to television shows and board games. It’s a cacophony of honesty. And it took over the legislative process in Philadelphia.

That’s not normal. It’s annoying. Especially if you’re black, struggling financially, facing poor school choices, or the victim of a violent crime.

Between 2000 and 2019, one in six Legislative agenda items was an honorable decision. In recent weeks, that number has skyrocketed along with the homicide rate: In a recent week 77 percent of the bills and resolutions passed by the Council were honorable. According to an analysis by Lauren Vidas, since the beginning of 2022, an average of 55 percent of the bills and resolutions passed by the legislature have been honorable.broad and market‘ Council Watch Project. The pandemic continues while trash and bodies continue to pile up on the apartment blocks of predominantly black neighborhoods, and the council has spent more than half its time and effort handing out awards and high-fives.

A selection of Council resolutions

Here are some of the Council honors passed on March 17:

  • Honoring NBC10 Philadelphia’s Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz in his upcoming retirement and recognizing his 27 years with the First Alert Weather Team
  • Honoring the Independence Blue Cross Foundation on the occasion of its 10th anniversary
  • We celebrate and congratulate the Girl Scouts of the USA on their 110th anniversary

Girl Scout cookies and weather reports are great, though Serious?

That’s not normal. It’s annoying. Especially if you’re black, struggling financially, facing poor school choices, or the victim of a violent crime.

It’s low-income black and brown neighborhoods where the city allows for illegal dumping and dumping of garbage. It’s these treeless, littered neighborhoods that the city council (and the mayor) don’t have an investment strategy for, so they become beds of dirt for violence and murder.

It’s the same neighborhoods whose schools are ramshackle, neglected, understaffed, and understaffed. These are the same neighborhoods that lack job opportunities, grocery stores, and medical care. And it’s the same neighborhoods that have been denied the voting infrastructure and ballot boxes needed to do something about it. The frustration builds. And anger at the city guides begins to boil over.

Philadelphia residents, many of whom already live in the combat zone, don’t want to worry about being gunned down every day. They are fed up with watching their children’s futures being wiped out by the very schools designed to help them thrive. They want their trash picked up and they want a better principal. And while the City Council is more than capable of addressing these issues, it actively chooses not to.

The city council is predominantly black, and almost all members come from the same Democratic Party. They have no separatist and far-right colleagues to blame for delaying or blocking legislation. According to a report by Billy Penn and Plan Philly“The Philadelphia City Council has introduced over 15,000 bills and resolutions over the past two decades … all the laws that made it to the vote have passed — with just five exceptions.”

If City Council members want to pass a bill, they can pass a bill. If they want to pretend to work while doing what is necessary to keep their job, they can pass honorable resolutions. And, well, they do.

It’s time for the Council to stop hiding behind honors and start the real legislative work.

Valuing civic participation in a different way

Philadelphia can still pass honorable resolutions without making them the primary responsibility of the City Council. For example, the Council could form an honorary resolutions committee to meet at another time and conduct with due pomp and circumstance.

We understand: There’s nothing wrong with applauding or encouraging civic engagement and engagement. We are not against honorable resolutions – we are against the priority given to them at the expense of more pressing issues that matter most to Philadelphians. They are used to fill time and simulate effort.

A separate Honorific Resolutions Committee could serve as a training ground for youth and adults interested in learning more about how their government works.

We also have nothing against the many wonderful, dedicated and caring people who are the award winners. We want to thank people (and even things) that make life better in Philadelphia. However, the misuse of the process does injustice to the honored people, especially those who fought or worked for a better Philadelphia.

Honors serve a purpose. They can be a good place to educate the community about historical figures and current advocates. They can also be used to educate citizens about the steps that should be taken to pass legislation in Philadelphia.

A separate Honorific Resolutions Committee could serve as a training ground for youth and adults interested in learning more about how their government works. For example, middle and high school students in Philadelphia could be selected and trained as “Council Academy Fellows‘ who are charged with chairing the committee. Participating Fellows can receive credits, grants, scholarships or a direct basic income for their time. College scholarships for political science university programs at area universities might even go to young, aspiring students who stand out.

This would follow the council’s recent legislation to promote civic skills and education in Philadelphia’s ailing school system. This would restore the function of honors as an educational tool.

Perhaps toward the end of busy state meetings, the Council could reserve a spot before members’ comments (once serious and substantive legislation has been voted on) when young Fellows could offer a brief, formal presentation on the resolutions they passed over the past week .

The council members had already formally passed these resolutions in a separate voting procedure. This section shouldn’t take more than 10 or 15 minutes. This would be an opportunity to showcase the youth of Philadelphia at work while also educating them as future leaders. It would also show the public that the Council takes its primary responsibility seriously.

The people of Philadelphia really deserve Council to deal with the hard stuff. They deserve leaders who will fight relentlessly for them. You deserve legislators dedicated to passing laws that make the city cleaner, safer, smarter, healthier, and fairer. Honoring resolutions will not give them that. But a fully functioning city council can do that.

We can afford a separate committee. We can’t afford Council members dying, decaying, and disinterested week after week.

Charles D. Ellison is executive producer and host of Reality Check, a daily public affairs program on WURD, and @ellisonreport on Twitter. Mark Gleason is President and Founder of A Greater Philadelphia greatphila.org or @AGreaterPhilly on Twitter.


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Cover photo by Jared Piper / Philadelphia City Council


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