Progressive Party 2
After the draft of the City Charter was announced, Mr.
Beitscher returned for more testimony on October 30,
1950, page 38
MR. HENRY A. BEITSCHER: My name is Henry A. Beitscher and I
represent the Progressive Party.
CHAIRMAN GARMAN: Just be seated and proceed informally.
MR. BEITSCHER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I assume,
gentlemen, you have had an opportunity to see the statement
that I submitted and rather than just read it what I would
like to do is just take off from some of these items and
develop them a little bit.
The first point that I would like to make is that we find a
great deal to commend the Charter Commission for in the
draft of the charter. We are particularly pleased to see
the inclusion of a Human relations Commission and the
powers that were granted to that Commission.
We are very gratified to see that a provision has been
incorporated in the charter for the recall of elected
officials. This is one of the recommendations that I made
at the original hearings and is an essential point, in our
opinion, in the establishment of a fully democratic city
We are very gratified too to see that in the feature
covering the councilmanic investigating committees that
provision was inserted there to protect the rights of
witnesses who appear before such committees.
In the Federal government, in both bodies of Congress, the
House and Senate, as well as in the Federal Administration,
there has been one violation after another of the rights of
witnesses. There are men and women who today in jail
because they insisted on certain fundamental rights which
were denied to them by committees such as the House
Un-American Activities Committee which took statements from
various unnamed sources and used those statements to malign
and to persecute individuals.
We are very pleased to see the insertion of this provision
in the charter which gives witnesses who appear before any
councilmanic investigating committee the right to face
their accusers, the right to cross-examine their accusers
and the right of counsel to such hearings..
And finally, one other provision that we think is worthy of
notes is the one covering public hearings on all
legislative matters which are put before City Council and
making that provision mandatory instead of discretionary,
which it now is, which is an effective
method of preventing any railroading of legislation through
I might mention in that regard that there has been
considerable concern among many groups in the city with
respect to certain ordinances es which were introduced
around five weeks ago in City Council by Councilman
Jamieson which, in our opinion, and in the opinion of the
other groups, are ordinances which would establish thought
control in the City of Philadelphia, thought control first
over city employees, and secondly, indirectly seeking to
establish tough control over the employees of the public
We were very concerned that this legislation not get on the
Council floor before the public had an opportunity to
appear and express their opinion at public hearings. With
this new provision in the charter there will be no problem
on that score.
I am glad to say that under the present circumstances the
amount of public protest against these resolutions and
ordinances has already achieved agreement from the chairman
of the committee involved in City Council that if there is
any action planned on these resolutions or ordinances that
there will be a public hearing.
These are the particular points that we find particularly
commendable in the present draft of the charter. We have
one major criticism. We make that criticism directly in
relation to the points that we find commendable, and that
is the method that is proposed in the draft for election of
If you recall when I was here originally I made as the
central point of the testimony of the Progressive Party
that we considered the heart and crux of the entire charter
to be the points that revolve around how the people of the
City of Philadelphia can effectively exercise the
sovereignty that is imposed in them over the entire
governmental machine, and the place where the people of the
City exercise their sovereignty is in relation to the
I made the point then that there are two kinds of
efficiency. There is democratic efficiency and there is
what is ordinarily terms administrative efficiency. They
are not antithetical by any mans. But when administrative
efficiency exists without democratic, then it begins to
approach the concept that Hitler put forward. They had a
very efficient administration in German and
they had it in Italy under Mussolini, and they had it in
Japan, but that kind of efficiency was the kind of
efficiency that wound up in the gas chambers and
concentration camps and murders and killings, and certainly
none of us want to se that here.
The kind of efficiency that we proposed is the efficiency
that is based on democracy, where the people are able to
exercise their will in relation to all parts of government,
and are particularly able to do that because they control
at all times and at all points the officials who are
elected to public office.
Our criticism of the proposal made by the Charter
Commission for ten members of City Council to be elected by
district and seven to be elected at large derives from this
point. In the first place we see no basis for reducing the
number of Councilmen in the City of Philadelphia from the
present number of 22 down to 17. There is nothing mystical
about 17 that makes it better than 22. There is nothing
mystical about 22 either. But we say the larger the number
of councilmen the better and the more possibility for this
of getting what the people of Philadelphia need and what we
believe they want and that is representative government in
The second thing is we have very strong objections to any
proposal for election of Councilmen at large, unless that
proposal is accompanied by a system of proportional
representation for at-large elections. We say that for
these reasons. First, election at large in Philadelphia,
and we are speaking particularly about this city and the
situation ini Philadelphia, will perpetuate one party rule
in he City of Philadelphia. To get elected at large
requires a political machine. It requires extensive
political organization. It requires a lot of money, and I
am talking from the experience of a minority political
party which is engaged in elections and which is running
candidates on a state-wide as well as on a city-wide basis
here in Philadelphia. We know that it takes to run that
The second thing is that out of that it reduces the
opportunities of independent voters to put forward
candidates of their own, to buck a powerful political
machine. This at least is possibility possible in district
elections; it becomes almost impossible in at-large
The third thing
is this, and this has been con-
firmed by the Chairman of the Democratic Party in his
testimony last Spring, that under the existing
circumstances in Philadelphia it has happened in the past
that the majority party, the Republican Party, has
influenced and determined who the Democratic candidates who
were elected were. This was true in Magistrate elections
and the Magistrate elections apparently are the pattern
that has been adopted for the at-large provision for
election of City Council. I refer you to Mr. Finnegan’s
testimony last Spring where he made pretty much that
The other point we put before you is that the caliber and
quality of the candidates will not be improved by having
at-large elections and having candidate running at large.
With the circumstances that exist in Philadelphia, with the
machines picking the candidates, the candidates will
continue to be machine candidates, the candidates will
continue to b e machine candidates, and more so on the
at-large basis than on a district basis, if that is
conceivable, because an independent having to run on a
city-wide basis against one or two powerful political
machines, is going to be exceedingly hesitant to make that
kind of choice to run.
If we take the two alternatives, the problems that arise
when you have Councilmen who come from districts, when
certain pressure are brought ot bear on a Councilman to
protect the interests of his district which may, under
certain circumstances come into conflict with what is
called the city-wide public interest, and compare the with
the possibilities that could arise under at-large
elections, you have this situation. You will have people
who are elected at large who don’t represent the people at
large but represent a vested interest or a particular
interest which elected them on an at-large basis, and we
will find as much, if not more, conflict with the public
interest on that basis as we find under the present system
of district elections.
We think that there is an answer to this problem, and the
answer is the one that I put before you in he Spring. It
was the answer that your predecessors, the Charter
Commission that was established b y the Act of the State
Legislature in 1937 came up with. That Charter Commission
unanimously recommended a system of proportional
representative [sic] for the City of Philadelphia, and they
did so, we think, because of very powerful and very cogent
reasons. Those reasons in summary, without repeating the
argument that I made before, are these:
MR. STEVENS: First of all, is it possible for the Charter
Commission to do that even if it wanted it, realizing that
the 1937 Commission was a legislative commission appointed
by the Governor?
MR. BEITSCHER: It is perfectly possible for the Charter
Commission to propose a system of proportional
representation for Councilmanic elections.
MR. STEVENS: Don’t you understand d that the election laws
of the State must be uniform?
MR. BEITSCHER: As far as Home Rule is concerned. There is
no difference as far as uniformity is concerned between the
principle now proposed of ten Councilmen by district and
seven at large for the City of Philadelphia and the one for
MR. STEVENS: But proportional representation goes to the
method of election and the election and the election laws
have to be uniform under the present State Legislature.
MR. BEITSCHER: Well, I may not know all of the laws, but
this is the first time I have ever heard that question
raised about any legal barrier to proportional
representation. The problem was not faced with the original
MR. STEVENS: It was a legislative Charter Commission.
MR. BEITSCHER: But there are variants right now. In
Pittsburgh, for example, all members of City Council are
elected at large, if I recall correctly, and in the City of
Pittsburgh they have a Council of nine.
MR. STEVENS: Not by proportional representation.
MR. BEITSCHER: No, but here in Philadelphia they are
elected by district and that is not uniform.
MR. STEVENS: That isn’t what is meant. It means that the
election laws, the method of electing, shall be uniform
throughout the State.
MR. BEITSCHER: Well, I don’t know if I can give you the
answer, but I would certainly be interested.
MR. STEVENS: It is our understanding that is the situation,
or at least it is mine. This Charter Commission wouldn’t
have the power to provide for proportional representation,
even if it wished to, whereas the State commission in 1937
did have the power because what it did would have become an
Act of the General Assembly, if it was passed.
MR. BEITSCHER: You mean that act would then be
applicable to all municipal elections in the State of
MR. STEVENS: No, it would only be with respect to
Philadelphia, but would have been in effect as a
legislative act. It wouldn’t be a Home Rule Act, because
under the Home Rule Act here were limited by the powers
specifically granted to us.
MR. McCRACKEN: The witness understand that we have given
that serious consideration and we have determined that we
have no power, no right to do this.
MR. BEITSCHER: I would like to be clear on the point, and
that is whether the basis for rejecting proportional
representation on the part of the Commission was that the
Commission did not have the power.
MR. McCRACKEN: We didn’t go beyond that. There may be
members of this Commission who believe in proportional
representation; I know there are some who do not. We never
went beyond that. We concluded we had no power.
MR. BEITSCHER: Let me ask another question. Is that
conclusion based on a careful examination of the State
laws, because without knowing all of the laws I am very
surprised to hear that is the reason that has been given.
What I will certainly do is begin our own investigation of
these legal questions and bring back to this Commission any
finding that we find that are contrary to this.
But just to conclude on this general point, we think that
the merits of proportional representation are very many.
The particular merits are these. In the cities where
proportional representation has been used, the first effect
of it has been to guarantee minority representation and I
don’t mean just minority party representation, but I mean
minority representation all across the line.
I mean the breaking of all white city councils and the
beginnings of representation from the Negro communities of
labor representation fin city council as well as minority
party representation, and we think the system that would be
best for the City of Philadelphia in order to meet the
major problems that we face here. That is the problem of
one-party rule that has existed in Philadelphia for the
past 70 years, that has led to a number of situations that
have discouraged people from going to the polls altogether,
led to a complete disgust with politics, led to the kind of
felling that politics is just for the professional
politician and decent people shouldn’t have anything to do
The way to break that one-party control, regardless of
which party it happens to be -- it happens to be the
Republican party in the City of Philadelphia and the same
conditions prevail with the Democratic Party in the City of
Pittsburgh -- that the way to break it is through a system
of proportional representation.
There is one additional recommendation that I made in this
brief that seems to tie in with one of the points that Mrs.
Alexander was making, and that was in relation to the Human
We proposed that the Charter very specifically give the
Human Relations Commission direct authority to enforce fair
employment practices in municipal government. As it now
stands there is no direct provision for the Human Relations
Commission covering this point.
I gather from some of the discussion around Mrs.
Alexander’s testimony that you are thinking to include such
a provision at least for the hiring side. In our opinion it
is necessary to have a specialized apparatus such as the
Human Relations Commission that has direct authority even
after that stage of the game, and that is given the
authority to enforce not only on hiring practices, but also
in firing, in demotions and in promotions.
MR. McCRACKEN: Would you have it that you would take some
of the power from the Civil Service Commission and give
them to these people?
MR. BEITSCHER: On that specific point. The practice in the
Federal Government has not been very conclusive on this,
with the Fair Employment Practices Committee that the
President set up several years ago. One of the difficulties
there has been this question of overlapping and in between
authority, with no clear-cut line between the Federal FEPC
Committee that was set up for just Government hiring and
the Civil Service Commission itself. We think it should be
clearly established as the authority of the Human Relations
assumed the Chair.)
CHAIRMAN FREEDMAN: Are there any questions? If not, thank
yo, Mr. BEITSCHER.
Our agenda now calls for a recess and the next agency
scheduled to appear is the Interassociation Conference at
We will recess not until 4:15.
The Far Left and
the Philadelphia City Charter