Progressive Party 2


After the draft of the City Charter was announced, Mr. Beitscher returned for more testimony on October 30, 1950.


October 31, 1950, page 38

MR. HENRY A. BEITSCHER: My name is Henry A. Beitscher and I represent the Progressive Party.

CHAIRMAN GARMAN: Just be seated and proceed informally.

MR. BEITSCHER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I assume, gentlemen, you have had an opportunity to see the statement that I submitted and rather than just read it what I would like to do is just take off from some of these items and develop them a little bit.

The first point that I would like to make is that we find a great deal to commend the Charter Commission for in the draft of the charter. We are particularly pleased to see the inclusion of a Human relations Commission and the powers that were granted to that Commission.

We are very gratified to see that a provision has been incorporated in the charter for the recall of elected officials. This is one of the recommendations that I made at the original hearings and is an essential point, in our opinion, in the establishment of a fully democratic city government.

We are very gratified too to see that in the feature covering the councilmanic investigating committees that provision was inserted there to protect the rights of witnesses who appear before such committees.

In the Federal government, in both bodies of Congress, the House and Senate, as well as in the Federal Administration, there has been one violation after another of the rights of witnesses. There are men and women who today in jail because they insisted on certain fundamental rights which were denied to them by committees such as the House Un-American Activities Committee which took statements from various unnamed sources and used those statements to malign and to persecute individuals.

We are very pleased to see the insertion of this provision in the charter which gives witnesses who appear before any councilmanic investigating committee the right to face their accusers, the right to cross-examine their accusers and the right of counsel to such hearings..

And finally, one other provision that we think is worthy of notes is the one covering public hearings on all legislative matters which are put before City Council and making that provision mandatory instead of discretionary, which it now is, which is an effective
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method of preventing any railroading of legislation through City Council.

I might mention in that regard that there has been considerable concern among many groups in the city with respect to certain ordinances es which were introduced around five weeks ago in City Council by Councilman Jamieson which, in our opinion, and in the opinion of the other groups, are ordinances which would establish thought control in the City of Philadelphia, thought control first over city employees, and secondly, indirectly seeking to establish tough control over the employees of the public school system.

We were very concerned that this legislation not get on the Council floor before the public had an opportunity to appear and express their opinion at public hearings. With this new provision in the charter there will be no problem on that score.

I am glad to say that under the present circumstances the amount of public protest against these resolutions and ordinances has already achieved agreement from the chairman of the committee involved in City Council that if there is any action planned on these resolutions or ordinances that there will be a public hearing.

These are the particular points that we find particularly commendable in the present draft of the charter. We have one major criticism. We make that criticism directly in relation to the points that we find commendable, and that is the method that is proposed in the draft for election of City Council.

If you recall when I was here originally I made as the central point of the testimony of the Progressive Party that we considered the heart and crux of the entire charter to be the points that revolve around how the people of the City of Philadelphia can effectively exercise the sovereignty that is imposed in them over the entire governmental machine, and the place where the people of the City exercise their sovereignty is in relation to the elected officials.

I made the point then that there are two kinds of efficiency. There is democratic efficiency and there is what is ordinarily terms administrative efficiency. They are not antithetical by any mans. But when administrative efficiency exists without democratic, then it begins to approach the concept that Hitler put forward. They had a very efficient administration in German and

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they had it in Italy under Mussolini, and they had it in Japan, but that kind of efficiency was the kind of efficiency that wound up in the gas chambers and concentration camps and murders and killings, and certainly none of us want to se that here.

The kind of efficiency that we proposed is the efficiency that is based on democracy, where the people are able to exercise their will in relation to all parts of government, and are particularly able to do that because they control at all times and at all points the officials who are elected to public office.

Our criticism of the proposal made by the Charter Commission for ten members of City Council to be elected by district and seven to be elected at large derives from this point. In the first place we see no basis for reducing the number of Councilmen in the City of Philadelphia from the present number of 22 down to 17. There is nothing mystical about 17 that makes it better than 22. There is nothing mystical about 22 either. But we say the larger the number of councilmen the better and the more possibility for this of getting what the people of Philadelphia need and what we believe they want and that is representative government in City Council.

The second thing is we have very strong objections to any proposal for election of Councilmen at large, unless that proposal is accompanied by a system of proportional representation for at-large elections. We say that for these reasons. First, election at large in Philadelphia, and we are speaking particularly about this city and the situation ini Philadelphia, will perpetuate one party rule in he City of Philadelphia. To get elected at large requires a political machine. It requires extensive political organization. It requires a lot of money, and I am talking from the experience of a minority political party which is engaged in elections and which is running candidates on a state-wide as well as on a city-wide basis here in Philadelphia. We know that it takes to run that extensively.

The second thing is that out of that it reduces the opportunities of independent voters to put forward candidates of their own, to buck a powerful political machine. This at least is possibility possible in district elections; it becomes almost impossible in at-large elections.
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The third thing is this, and this has been con-

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firmed by the Chairman of the Democratic Party in his testimony last Spring, that under the existing circumstances in Philadelphia it has happened in the past that the majority party, the Republican Party, has influenced and determined who the Democratic candidates who were elected were. This was true in Magistrate elections and the Magistrate elections apparently are the pattern that has been adopted for the at-large provision for election of City Council. I refer you to Mr. Finnegan’s testimony last Spring where he made pretty much that statement.

The other point we put before you is that the caliber and quality of the candidates will not be improved by having at-large elections and having candidate running at large. With the circumstances that exist in Philadelphia, with the machines picking the candidates, the candidates will continue to be machine candidates, the candidates will continue to b e machine candidates, and more so on the at-large basis than on a district basis, if that is conceivable, because an independent having to run on a city-wide basis against one or two powerful political machines, is going to be exceedingly hesitant to make that kind of choice to run.

If we take the two alternatives, the problems that arise when you have Councilmen who come from districts, when certain pressure are brought ot bear on a Councilman to protect the interests of his district which may, under certain circumstances come into conflict with what is called the city-wide public interest, and compare the with the possibilities that could arise under at-large elections, you have this situation. You will have people who are elected at large who don’t represent the people at large but represent a vested interest or a particular interest which elected them on an at-large basis, and we will find as much, if not more, conflict with the public interest on that basis as we find under the present system of district elections.

We think that there is an answer to this problem, and the answer is the one that I put before you in he Spring. It was the answer that your predecessors, the Charter Commission that was established b y the Act of the State Legislature in 1937 came up with. That Charter Commission unanimously recommended a system of proportional representative [sic] for the City of Philadelphia, and they did so, we think, because of very powerful and very cogent reasons. Those reasons in summary, without repeating the argument that I made before, are these:
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MR. STEVENS: First of all, is it possible for the Charter Commission to do that even if it wanted it, realizing that the 1937 Commission was a legislative commission appointed by the Governor?

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MR. BEITSCHER: It is perfectly possible for the Charter Commission to propose a system of proportional representation for Councilmanic elections.

MR. STEVENS: Don’t you understand d that the election laws of the State must be uniform?

MR. BEITSCHER: As far as Home Rule is concerned. There is no difference as far as uniformity is concerned between the principle now proposed of ten Councilmen by district and seven at large for the City of Philadelphia and the one for Pittsburgh.

MR. STEVENS: But proportional representation goes to the method of election and the election and the election laws have to be uniform under the present State Legislature.

MR. BEITSCHER: Well, I may not know all of the laws, but this is the first time I have ever heard that question raised about any legal barrier to proportional representation. The problem was not faced with the original Charter Commission.

MR. STEVENS: It was a legislative Charter Commission.

MR. BEITSCHER: But there are variants right now. In Pittsburgh, for example, all members of City Council are elected at large, if I recall correctly, and in the City of Pittsburgh they have a Council of nine.

MR. STEVENS: Not by proportional representation.

MR. BEITSCHER: No, but here in Philadelphia they are elected by district and that is not uniform.

MR. STEVENS: That isn’t what is meant. It means that the election laws, the method of electing, shall be uniform throughout the State.

MR. BEITSCHER: Well, I don’t know if I can give you the answer, but I would certainly be interested.

MR. STEVENS: It is our understanding that is the situation, or at least it is mine. This Charter Commission wouldn’t have the power to provide for proportional representation, even if it wished to, whereas the State commission in 1937 did have the power because what it did would have become an Act of the General Assembly, if it was passed.

MR. BEITSCHER: You mean that act would then be

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applicable to all municipal elections in the State of Pennsylvania?

MR. STEVENS: No, it would only be with respect to Philadelphia, but would have been in effect as a legislative act. It wouldn’t be a Home Rule Act, because under the Home Rule Act here were limited by the powers specifically granted to us.

MR. McCRACKEN: The witness understand that we have given that serious consideration and we have determined that we have no power, no right to do this.

MR. BEITSCHER: I would like to be clear on the point, and that is whether the basis for rejecting proportional representation on the part of the Commission was that the Commission did not have the power.

MR. McCRACKEN: We didn’t go beyond that. There may be members of this Commission who believe in proportional representation; I know there are some who do not. We never went beyond that. We concluded we had no power.

MR. BEITSCHER: Let me ask another question. Is that conclusion based on a careful examination of the State laws, because without knowing all of the laws I am very surprised to hear that is the reason that has been given. What I will certainly do is begin our own investigation of these legal questions and bring back to this Commission any finding that we find that are contrary to this.

But just to conclude on this general point, we think that the merits of proportional representation are very many. The particular merits are these. In the cities where proportional representation has been used, the first effect of it has been to guarantee minority representation and I don’t mean just minority party representation, but I mean minority representation all across the line.

I mean the breaking of all white city councils and the beginnings of representation from the Negro communities of labor representation fin city council as well as minority party representation, and we think the system that would be best for the City of Philadelphia in order to meet the major problems that we face here. That is the problem of one-party rule that has existed in Philadelphia for the past 70 years, that has led to a number of situations that have discouraged people from going to the polls altogether, led to a complete disgust with politics, led to the kind of felling that politics is just for the professional politician and decent people shouldn’t have anything to do with politics.

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The way to break that one-party control, regardless of which party it happens to be -- it happens to be the Republican party in the City of Philadelphia and the same conditions prevail with the Democratic Party in the City of Pittsburgh -- that the way to break it is through a system of proportional representation.

There is one additional recommendation that I made in this brief that seems to tie in with one of the points that Mrs. Alexander was making, and that was in relation to the Human Rights Commission.

We proposed that the Charter very specifically give the Human Relations Commission direct authority to enforce fair employment practices in municipal government. As it now stands there is no direct provision for the Human Relations Commission covering this point.

I gather from some of the discussion around Mrs. Alexander’s testimony that you are thinking to include such a provision at least for the hiring side. In our opinion it is necessary to have a specialized apparatus such as the Human Relations Commission that has direct authority even after that stage of the game, and that is given the authority to enforce not only on hiring practices, but also in firing, in demotions and in promotions.

MR. McCRACKEN: Would you have it that you would take some of the power from the Civil Service Commission and give them to these people?

MR. BEITSCHER: On that specific point. The practice in the Federal Government has not been very conclusive on this, with the Fair Employment Practices Committee that the President set up several years ago. One of the difficulties there has been this question of overlapping and in between authority, with no clear-cut line between the Federal FEPC Committee that was set up for just Government hiring and the Civil Service Commission itself. We think it should be clearly established as the authority of the Human Relations Commission.
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(Mr. Freedman assumed the Chair.)

CHAIRMAN FREEDMAN: Are there any questions? If not, thank yo, Mr. BEITSCHER.

Our agenda now calls for a recess and the next agency scheduled to appear is the Interassociation Conference at 4:15.

We will recess not until 4:15.

The Far Left and the Philadelphia City Charter
Progressive Party 1
Progressive Party 2
Communist Party