We have called for both the Sheriff’s Office and the Office of City Commissioners to be abolished as elected row offices, and their responsibilities absorbed into other city departments. But that is not going to happen in the next few months, and voters will have to choose a sheriff and commissioners.
Sheriff Jewell Williams needs to go. He has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women — one allegation has been substantiated in an internal investigation and settled by the city for $127,000, the second settled by the state. (Williams said he opposed the settlements, preferring to battle in court.) Another case is currently making its way through the courts.
The sheriff’s office has been troubled for years. In April, former Sheriff John Green pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy charges after presiding over years of mismanagement and shoddy financial oversight. While Williams seems to have righted some corners of the ship, under his tenure, the office’s budget doubled for unclear reasons, and it still somehow exceeded its allotted funding for overtime — by 134 percent in fiscal year 2018.
The best option for sheriff is Malika Rahman — a former deputy sheriff who understand how the office works and can lead efforts to clean up its work. In her time at the sheriff’s office, Rahman, 32, worked as a Community Relations Officer, giving her unique insight into the needs of the community into what Philadelphians actually need from the sheriff.
Rochelle Bilal, a former Philadelphia police officer and the president of the Guardian Civic League, is running as a progressive who can bring fresh eyes to look at the problems in the office. Rahman has the needed background and expertise to move the office forward.
The office of City Commissioners governs Philadelphia’s elections, and that in itself poses concerns of conflict of interest. Two Democrats and one Republican run the office; Republican Al Schmidt is running unopposed. Of the two Democrats, only Lisa Deeley is seeking reelection against 12 opponents. The office is entering this election in the midst of a controversy over the process used to purchase new voting machines. Earlier this month, The Inquirer reported that Deeley, who seems committed to public service, lost her notary license for improperly notarizing a document for a friend; she initially lied about those circumstances to The Inquirer.
Of the 13 Democrats in the race, Kahlil Williams, an attorney, has a passion for election law. Prior to law school, Williams worked both in the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Brennan Center for Justice, where he focused on voter disenfranchisement. Williams has the combination of knowledge, passion, and experience to improve voting in Philadelphia.
Jen Devor, has been working on increasing voter turnout in the city for the last few years. She believes that the commissioner’s office could be used to conduct research, share data, and lobby the state for reform, specifically to focus on a constitutional amendment that would allow no-excuse absentee ballots and changing the deadlines for absentee ballots in the election code.