Council To Make Public Comment Less Public

For the past few weeks, City Council chambers have been packed every week with residents to testify for and against a controversial proposal to require Philadelphia employers to provide paid sick leave.

But it looks like Council has found away to silence those voices starting next week.

Since December, Council has been required to provide an opportunity for public testimony at their weekly sessions, after the state Supreme Court ruled that they must open up the meetings. While Council has complied, they have restricted the comments to pending legislation.

Now, Council seems to have decided that this limitation is not enough. Today they are set to give final passage to a rules change that would create a “suspension calendar” where they would place bills not ready for final action. 

The effect would be that there will be fewer bills for the public to respond to. Already, Council has moved the sick leave bill to the suspension calendar for next week.

Still, Council President Anna Verna insisted that this move had nothing to do with limiting public testimony, saying it was simply a way to streamline their process. Asked what the harm was in allowing the public to comment on stalled legislation, she bristled.

“There’s no harm, but there’s no good either,” Verna said. “Don’t put words in my mouth. This is the way it’s going to be.”