Joe DeFelice Testimony Before Planning Commission Regarding Kenyatta Johnson RCO Code of Conduct Bill | Philadelphia Republican City Committee
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Joe DeFelice Testimony Before Planning Commission Regarding Kenyatta Johnson RCO Code of Conduct Bill

Testimony of Joseph J. DeFelice

​Meeting of the Philadelphia Planning Commission

Thursday April 7, 2016

12 Noon

My name is Joe DeFelice and I serve as Chairman of the Philadelphia Republican Party, of which 45 of our wards are RCO’s.  However, I testified before City Council two years and specifically advocated that Wards not be included because there shouldn't be a political carve out,  nevertheless, once the measure passed I worked hard to try to register every ward in the City so that they weren't shut out of the political process.  I also serve as the contact for two RCO’s in the City:  the 64th Republican Ward and Mayfair Civic Association where I am past president and currently serve as their legal counsel and zoning chair.  I am here today to discuss several issues in your proposed changes to the Planning Commission Regulations.
    First and foremost, civic meetings are the one of the few places where citizens of this city can truly have their voices heard.  Many times they are unfiltered and not always politically correct.    It is also one of the only places where citizens can meet and chat with their elected officials.  Nevertheless, since the inception of the idea to create RCO’s, politicians in City Hall have been tinkering with ways to reign us in perhaps because what we say or what we believe doesn’t always conform to their standards or the way they do things.  Specifically I read with great interest the recent story in Point Breeze regarding racial slurs hailed at developers and Councilman Kenyatta Johnson’s swift action to curb this type of behavior.  While that type of behavior is appalling and should not be tolerated, we as RCO’s should be able to police ourselves.  I know that we have done so in Mayfair.  The way that I read the Code of Conduct that if a member of the organization, ours has well over one hundred, says something that could be perceived as racist, sexist, ageist etc., that the RCO could be stripped of its status at the discretion of the executive director?  This language is extremely vague and could lead to more problems in the future.  Will there be hearings on the matter or will the Executive Director just act as judge, jury and executioner.  Our leadership is elected and if people do not agree with the way we run our meetings, it is their prerogative to vote to vote us out, not left in the hands of an unelected bureaucrat.  Sometimes people get out of line at our meetings or say things that are uncomfortable or ignorant, and we quickly shut them down.  If they step over the line, we remove them.  We don’t need the government to tell us this, this is commonsense, and we are grown adults, many of us professionals, with fulltime jobs who volunteer our time to better the community.
Frankly, it appears that this was more of kneejerk reaction from a councilman that didn’t know how to deal with backlash so he proposed a solution in search of a problem.  Many of these proposed guidelines are commonsense, and frankly codifying them into law is a waste of time and talent for a City that has much larger issues at hand such as the proliferation of drugs, dereliction in collecting taxes, code enforcement
 and citing many of the businesses that routinely fall out of line with the zoning code or with L&I.  Specifically excessive signage, illegal rentals or nonconforming uses.  Many of these RCO’s existed before this body was formed and will be here when the name RCO is a distant memory. 
 RCO’s are the organizations that do the Band-Aid work in the neighborhood when government fails. 
We are the town watches, the zoning code enforcers, and the clean-up team all rolled into one.   We would hope that the City put more effort into enforcing the regulations to the code breakers than trying to regulate the regulators.  


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