Communist Party


Ben Weiss testified for the Communist Party on January 30, 1950. In 1953, Weiss was indicted under the Smith Act. His plight is discussed in the Labovitz book. The Communist proposals emphasized democracy. The City Council would be elected for two years from six districts. There would be a councilperson for each 25,000 registered voters. Councilpersons would be chosen by proportional representation. The mayor, city controller, city treasurer and director of public safety would also be elected for two year terms. The Communist proposal called for initiative and referendum and recall of public officials. The school board would be elected. The City and its employees and contractors would be forbidden to discriminate. The School Board would not be allowed to "zone" students by race. School Board employees could run for the the School Board. City workers would be allowed to unionize. Taxes on income and earnings would be prohibited. Taxes would be levied on property.



January 30, 1950

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CHAIRMAN McCRACKEN: We will now hear from the Communist Party of Philadelphia.

(Mr. Ben Weiss came forward and presented the statement from the Communist Party of Philadelphia.)

STATEMENT

TO THE PHILADELPHIA CHARTER COMMISSION

From: COMMUNIST PARTY OF PHILADELPHIA JANUARY 30, 1950

The framing and the adoption of a new City Charter is of such importance to the entire population of this city that we request the continuation of open hearings until June of 1950. We believe it mandatory that the Charter Commission hold open hearings in every major question under consideration and publicly invite all organizations to testify on behalf of their interests and membership. Such groupings of the population should included organized labor, Negro peoples’ organizations, minority groups, women’s groups, youth organizations, community groups, taxpayers and small businessmen’s associations. Representatives of all sections of the people must be invited to speak on their new charter..

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The Communist Party of Philadelphia states that the major question in the framing of the new city charter is more democracy. More democracy in city government. More democracy in the financial policies of the city government. How can the residents of this city have more control over the city officials? How can the people receive greater returns from their tax dollars?

Municipal corruption which has grown to gigantic proportions is no longer an occasional offense, but a continuing practice. The effect of it has been to literally change the form of our government from one that is supposed to represent the people to an oligarchy that represents special interests.

The solution is not to be found in the approach of the reform movement which deplores politics and lauds business. The historic studies of Lincoln Steffens, which probed deeply municipal corruption, demonstrate clearly that the sources of graft, bribery and corruption are to be found in big business itself, which steals for itself the wealth of the community through franchises and special privilege.

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The plundering of municipalities by greedy commercial interests has been, and still is, particularly vicious in our city, with the result that the city is saddled with an enormous debt service charges. The residents of the city are being deprived of needed municipal services and are taxed heavily and inequitably to maintain these heavy debt charges.

In 1948 Philadelphia had to devote 2.03% (Mayor’s Report, 1948) of its total expenditures to paying the Funded Debt and interest, the largest payments of any of the 14 major cities in the country. On the other hand, our city ranked among the lowest of these 14 cities with respect to expenditures for health, charities, recreation, and libraries.

Basic revisions of the city’s charter are necessary to help restore the control of the city to the people and to bring an end to the exploitation of the people for the benefit of the few bondholders that now control our city.

Towards this end we propose:

A. Political Democracy in City Government

1. The Mayor. The shall be elected every two years by the people of the city. (We are unalterably opposed to the council-manager plan as undemocratic. It centralizes great power and responsibility in a single non-elective administrative officer. This proposal serves to place still greater power in the hands of the bankers and bondholders.)

2. The City Council. The legislative power of the city shall be vested in a council of about 40 members who are nominated by petition and who are elected by proportional representation from the six areas approximating the present Congressional areas. Nominees shall run on party designations or independent tickets as now provided in the State Constitution. Representation from the six areas shall be on the basis of one councilman for every 25,000 registered voters. City Council shall be elected every two years.

3. The Executive Departments.

a. The present elected executive department heads shall be elected and hold office for two years. (This will insure a group of officials more responsive to the public will).

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b. The Director of Public Safety shall be elected and hold office for two years.

4. Initiative, Referendum and Recall.

a. The electors shall have power to propose any ordinance and to adopt or reject the same at the polls, such power being known as initiative. Any initiated ordinance may be submitted to the council by petitions signed by qualified voters equal to 2-/2 - 5% of the registered voters at the last regular municipal election.

b. Electors shall have power to approve or reject at the polls any ordinance passed by council, such power being known as referendum. Within 30 days after the enactment by council of any ordinance, a petition signed by qualified voters, equal to 2-1/2 - 5% of the registered voters at the last election, may be filed with the city clerk, requesting that nay such ordinance be either repealed or submitted to a vote of the electors. The ordinance shall be nonoperative as soon as the petition is filed with the city clerk.

c. Initiative and referendum voting shall take place at the next duly scheduled elections.

d. The electors shall have the power to remove from office the mayor, members of council, city treasurer, and city controller, such power being known as recall.

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5. City Employees

a. The employees of the city shall have the power to organize into unions of their own choice, and to bargain collectively for the improvement of their working conditions. The mayor shall be bound to bargain in good faith with the city’s employees and enter into signed agreements with the representatives of its employees incorporating the results of collective bargaining.

b. City employees shall not be penalized by being denied the right to strike by virtue of their being public employees.

6. Equal Rights

a. Full and equal rights and opportunities shall be guaranteed all residents of the city regardless of race, color, creed, religion, or nationality. It shall be a criminal offense to practice any form of discrimination, punishable by a prison term or fine.

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b. The city shall use all its powers to enforce and implement this charter principle.

c. Where organizations, such as hospitals, institutions of learning, playgrounds, museums, libraries, public charities, veterans’ posts, cemeteries, the Philadelphia Housing Authority, utilities and railroads, all of which hold tax-exempt properties, practice discrimination in any form, the city shall withdraw all tax exemptions within 30 days after warning to eliminate these practices has been given.

d. In the case of institutions receiving financial aid from the city and practicing discrimination in any form, the city shall cease payment of such funds until these institutions eliminate discrimination.

e. All contracts let by the city shall carry a clause requiring strict adherence by the contractor to employment and upgrading without bias. In the case of violation of this clause, the city shall order the contract canceled and all monies withheld.

f. The city shall withhold its licenses and permits to carry on business or other forms of activity within the city limits, formal establishments, public and private, which practice discrimination in any form.

g. The city shall use all its powers to help enforce the right to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right of the people to peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of its grievances, which rights are embodied in the Bill of Rights.

h. No city official, appointed or elected, shall take any action contrary to these principles.




We have a series of recommendations which we believe the Philadelphia Charter Commission should make to the State legislature at the end of its findings. These recommendations deal with the Board of Education.

7. Recommendations. We propose the Charter Commission recommend to the State Legislature the following:

a. The members of the Board of Education shall consist of 15 members who are nominated by petition and who are elected by proportional representation form the city-at-large by the use of non-partisan ballots.

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At the first election pursuant to the adoption of the above recommendations, 5 members shall be elected for a term of 6 years, 5 for 4 years, and 5 for 2 years. Thereafter, one-third of the members shall be elected every two years for a term of 6 years.

b. School employees shall be eligible for election to the Board of Education.

c. The State shall direct the Board of Education to prohibit discrimination in hiring and placement of employees, the zoning of pupils on the basis of color.

d. The State shall direct the Board of Education to dismiss any employee practicing discrimination.

Finance

1. The city shall not obtain revenue from the sales tax, wage tax, gross receipts tax, head tax, or any form of direct tax on the consumer.

2. The city shall obtain revenues from the real estate tax, personal property tax, amusement tax, licenses and permits, charges for services, and grants from the State and Federal governments.

3. The city shall regain and retain full control of all public utilities rights, such as its gas and water works.

4. All streets and parks belong to the city and shall not b e leased to private interests.

5. The city shall be directed to terminate all major franchises, such as underliers’ franchises, within two years after the adoption of the new charter.

6. The city shall refinance all bonds now outstanding, at lower terms of interest.

All bonds issued under this charter shall be sold at public sale upon sealed proposals after at least 10 days’ notice published at least once in a publication carrying municipal bond notices and devoted primarily to financial news, and also in a qualified newspaper published in the county and having a general circulation in the city.

7. The power and obligation of the city to expend monies for health and welfare services shall be unlimited and the city shall levy taxes upon

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all the taxable property within the city for the payment of such services without limitation of rate and amount.

Analysis of per capita expenditures for health and welfare services of the 14 largest cities in the U.S. (population of 500,000 and over) indicate that a minimum per capital of $3.00 for health and hospitals, and a per capita expenditure of $7.00 for public welfare, should be provided by the new city charter.

A maximum per capita expenditure of $5.00 for police services should be written into the city charter.

Finally, the Communist Party of Philadelphia proposes that the City Charter proposals be presented for referendum in major groupings as a series of measures, and not as a complete document to be voted in its entirety.

This is the extent of the statement and page 123 is a table from finances of cities.

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Health per capita expenditure Rank

New York $1.23............2
Chicago $.91............10
Philadelphia $.98............12
Detroit $1.39............9
Los Angeles $1.43............7
Cleveland $1.61............5
Baltimore $1.70............3
St. Louis $1.36............8
Boston $1.62............4
Pittsburgh $1.05..........11
Washington, DC $3.69............1
San Francisco $2.33............2
Milwaukee $1.61............6
Buffalo $.64............14

Hospitals per capita expenditure Rank

New York $18.98..........2
Chicago $1.63..........10
Philadelphia $3.21............9
Detroit $5.01............6
Los Angeles $.69............13
Cleveland $4.00............8
Baltimore $4.08............7
St. Louis $9.26............4
Boston $11.58..........3
Pittsburgh $1.41..........11
Washington, DC $19.86..........1
San Francisco $9.17............5
Milwaukee $.60............14
Buffalo $1.16..........12

Public Welfare per capita expenditure Rank

New York $20.12..........2
Chicago $4.50............7
Philadelphia $2.22............9
Detroit $7.29............5
Los Angeles $.03............13
Cleveland $2,80............8
Baltimore $10.26..........4
St. Louis $1.04..........10
Boston $28.89..........1
Pittsburgh $.05............11
Washington, DC $7.07............6
San Francisco $17.00..........3
Milwaukee $.01............14
Buffalo $.05............12


Police per capita expenditure Rank

New York $9.41............7
Chicago $4.50............8
Philadelphia $9.60............6
Detroit $9.97............5
Los Angeles $10.40..........3
Cleveland $8.13..........11
Baltimore $8.33..........10
St. Louis $8.13..........12
Boston $11.58..........3
Pittsburgh $11.28........14
Washington, DC $11.14..........2
San Francisco $9.92............4
Milwaukee $8.50............9
Buffalo $7.46..........13

CHAIRMAN McCRACKEN: Are there any questions? If not, thank you very much Mr. Weiss. That concludes today’s agenda.

MR. CALLAGHAN: I move we adjourn.

CHAIRMAN McCRACKEN: The Commission will adjourn to Friday, February 3, 1950, at 10:00.

(Whereupon, meeting adjourned at 4:45 p.m. to reconvene at 10:00 o’clock a.m., Friday, February 3, 1950.)