It is probably safe to assume that most Philadelphians knowledgeable about politics would not be able to tell you what the Committee of Seventy is if asked. But in the media’s focus on the mayoral race, the committee is their best-kept secret.
To make a long story short, the Committee of Seventy is the designated overseer of the Philadelphia’s city charter. Called the Home Rule Charter, it is the legal document that describes how Philadelphia’s government is set up, just as the U.S. Constitution describes how the U.S. government is set up.
Apart from the city charter, the Committee has functioned as a non-profit, non-partisan political watchdog dedicated to good government for the city of Philadelphia and the metropolitan region since 1904. The Committee’s members and staff of 70 engage in non-partisan research, education, litigation and analysis of a variety of local and regional governance topics for the good of the city.
Obviously, the Committee of Seventy is taking great interest in the current City Hall scandal. When council executive director Fred Voight was contacted for his organization’s view on the FBI investigation into the Street administration, he gave a non-partisan answer for a non-partisan organization: “It is unfortunate and is overshadowing substantive issues.”
The Committee offers a valuable resource in their Web site
(www.seventy.org), which offers an election calendar, directory of polling places, voting requirements and even the qualifications needed to run for public office if you are so inclined. But before you decide to run, you might want to click on the link “Salaries of Philadelphia Municipal Elected Officials.”
Young adults are unfairly tagged as tending to be focused on themselves, their friends, families, school and jobs. Most do not turn out to vote, so politicians do not count on them. According to the Ad Council, much of this apathy is because they believe their vote will not make a difference. But many young voters do care, especially about specific issues like the environment.
On Nov. 4, Philadelphia residents have the chance to select a new mayor, state Supreme Court Justice, City Council members, City Commissioners, Clerk of Sessions, Register of Wills, Sheriff and trial judges. This is important.
So get out there and exercise your right to vote. Afterall, we the people should be our own best watchdogs.
Geraldine Treacy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.