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May 13, 2021

Philadelphia ballot question: Should the city expand license and inspection review board?

A 'yes' vote would increase its size to nine members and potentially expedite the hearing process

2021 Election Ballot Questions
Philadelphia Primary election Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

In the May 18 primary election, Philadelphia voters will be asked whether to expand the size of the city's Board of License and Inspection Review, which hears appeals to decisions of the Department of Licenses and Inspection. The intention is to expedite the process of holding hearings for appeals and help clear the backlog of cases due to the pandemic

Philadelphia residents – of all party affiliations – voting in the primary election on May 18 have one ballot question to answer, specifically pertaining to the city, in addition to the four statewide questions: It asks about expansion of the city's Board of License and Inspection Review.

The license and inspection review board hears appeals to decisions made by the Department of Licenses and Inspection as well as other matters. The intention of expanding the review board is to expedite the process of holding hearings for these appeals and help clear the current backlog that has accumulated on the board's agenda during the pandemic.

Philadelphia City Councilmember Cherelle Parker introduced the bill to add members to the board, and for it to be enacted, it requires a change to the city's Home Rule Charter, which is why it is on the ballot for a vote. There haven't been any public opponents to this measure.

Here's the exact wording of Philadelphia's ballot question: 

Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to provide for an expanded Board of License Inspection Review that can hear and decide cases in three-member panels? 

The Board of Licenses and Inspections Review helps contractors, businesses and property owners, landlords and tenants comply with business safety standards, such as fire codes and construction inspections. It also hears appeals for the denial of licenses to carry firearms and firearm license revocations.

The review board is independent from the Department of Licenses and Inspections and falls under the jurisdiction of the Managing Director's Office. Appeals can be made at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

For a hearing to take place, there must be a quorum of the board members present, which means a majority of the board's six members are required. Currently there are two open positions on the board, which has made achieving quorum a challenge and caused delays, according to the Committee of Seventy.

The pandemic has pushed these hearings online, which has created even more delays.

Voting "yes" on the ballot question is in favor of expanding the board to nine members and would allow them to decide cases in groups of three, rather than a full majority of its members.

Voting "no" is in favor of keeping the Board of License and Inspection Review at it current size.

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