The Philadelphia Republican Party's voting system has some black ward leaders thinking about the original U.S. Constitution's "three-fifths compromise."
Daphne Goggins, an African American ward leader, represents a minority-majority area that is home to relatively few Republican voters. Because of her ward's paltry registration numbers, Goggins' ballot was only worth about one-quarter of a vote when the party picked a chair last year.
"When I realized my vote was less than one, I felt violated as a black person," she said. "We were once thought of as three-fifths of a person."
Here's how the GOP's rules work: Under a "proportional" voting structure, ward leaders' votes are weighed according to how many registered Republicans live in their ward. This applies only to the election of the chair, arguably the most important decision made by the party.
Predominantly white wards in Northeast Philly have some of the biggest numbers of Republican voters in the city, while largely black wards have some of the smallest. Another African American ward leader, who asked to remain anonymous, said the setup has "implications of racial inequities."
Ward leader Mike Cibik, who is white and represents a ward with nearly four weighted votes as of last year, agrees. He said the system is "racially biased," and gives only 12 of the city's 66 wards the power to choose a chair. "You have 54 wards that are worthless out there" because their votes are worth so little, he said.
Philly GOP Chairman Michael Meehan, who is white, sees things differently. "We have wards in the city of Philadelphia that have 300 Republicans," he said, adding the proportional structure began in 2010. "And we have wards that have 11,000 Republicans. Somehow I don't think it's right that they have the same vote."
Disagreement among ward leaders over the voting system is deepening divisions in a party that survived a full-blown civil war just a few years ago.
Meehan said a party meeting "disintegrated into chaos" this month after black ward leader LeNard Shotwell proposed changing the rules to give each ward leader a full vote. (Shotwell's vote, according to figures provided to us by Cibik, was worth about one-quarter of a vote in 2017.) Meehan said Shotwell's motion to schedule a vote on the matter was out of order. A shouting match later ensued.
Meehan said that he wants to put the issue up for a vote, but only after he and the ward leaders face election later this year. He said Shotwell is one of 35 ward leaders who were not elected, but appointed by a prior party chairman. Shotwell declined to comment.
"I don't think this was an intentional act of racism," Goggins said of the voting structure. "I believe it was an unintended consequence. But it does need to be corrected."
A battle is raging in the United States over free speech rights.
Liberals are usually depicted as the intolerant censors, insisting on political correctness — and conservatives as the brave defenders of the First Amendment.
One might argue that Rep. Ryan Costello, a Chester County Republican, is defying that stereotype.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania tells Clout that it is investigating reports Costello has blocked constituents from his official congressional Facebook page after they posted critical comments. Witold "Vic" Walczak, legal director of the organization, said this is a violation of the First Amendment.
"It has become harder and harder for constituents to be able to communicate directly with public officials. Social media is an important mode of communication," he said. "Elected officials can't selectively block critics for access to their official page."
Clout spoke with three constituents who said they had been blocked from commenting on Costello's official congressional page after posting critical but nonthreatening comments. Alice Hall, a 66-year-old West Chester resident, said she was blocked "when I had unmitigated gall to point out that he received several thousands of dollars from Comcast."
We also were given a list of dozens of other people who were reportedly blocked from Costello's campaign page, including many who had made disapproving remarks about a bizarre incident we told you about last week, in which Costello claimed (with little evidence) that his Democratic opponent's "associates" trespassed onto his property. Walczak, however, said elected officials "have more latitude to control" their campaign Facebook pages, unlike their official congressional pages.
This isn't the first time the ACLU has brawled with Costello. The group warned him in April that his supposed plan to bar video recordings at a public town hall could violate free speech rights.
A spokeswoman for Costello said he "values Facebook as a tool to communicate with constituents about policy issues and updates on his work in Congress," adding that "his Facebook page has included a clearly stated policy of engagement."
Charles Brennan, a veteran cop tapped by Mayor Kenney to run the city's information and technology department, was fired this month. The mayor's office didn't explain why he was dumped, saying only that the administration "determined that a change in leadership is appropriate at this time."
But two Clout sources, who were briefed on the details of Brennan's ouster, gave us this play by play: At a Smart Cities conference last year, Brennan allegedly gave a speech in which he told people to enjoy the nice food that "we probably can't afford." An employee complained to Brennan's boss, Chief Administrative Officer Christine Derenick-Lopez, saying that the comment was offensive.
Later, at a staff meeting, someone asked about the difference between men and women in tech. Brennan, according to the two sources, answered with what he thought was a joke: The women have more shoes. A female employee then allegedly complained that Brennan's comment was sexist.
In response, Derenick-Lopez apparently asked Brennan to go to sensitivity training. According to one insider, Brennan responded he would only go to the session if she went, too. Both sources said this act of defiance, combined with disagreements between Brennan and Derenick-Lopez over how the department should be run, is why he was shown the door.
Neither Brennan nor Derenick-Lopez returned our calls.