by Karen Bojar
In the 2018 committee person elections, newly elected committee people brought their commitment to transparency and democracy to ward across the city.
For the first time since 1998, five wards chose to have their committee people vote on endorsements rather than follow the dictates of the ward leader as most others do. It was a doubling of so-called open wards, of which the 9th Ward is one.
In some wards, where the new committee people were too few in number to elect a ward leader, they formed what they called an open ward caucus.
Such a caucus formed in Mt. Airy’s 22nd Ward. Caucus members had expected that Ward Leader Cindy Bass would hold democratically-conducted elections for endorsements as she had promised to committee people when she was running for ward leader.
When she did not hold elections, the group decided to conduct its own.
From the group’s press release: “The political association known as the 22nd Ward Open Caucus was created earlier this year to promote a more open, accessible and democratic ward system, to share knowledge among committee people and to increase voter participation.”
The caucus requested that all candidates in the May 21 primary respond to a brief questionnaire and attend a candidates’ forum held at New Covenant Church in Mt. Airy – 35 candidates responded. Caucus members voted on endorsements with a 60% threshold necessary for endorsement and pledged to canvass their divisions for those endorsed candidates.
Open Ward Caucus coordinators Michael Swayze and Maya Gutierrez reported that their slate carried in the divisions represented by Open Ward Caucus members. They said that their caucus took no money from candidates. If the Open Ward Caucus grows, it has the potential to significantly affect election results in the 22nd Ward.
Committee people from neighborhoods across the city committed to ward democracy and transparency have recently formed Open Wards Philly, intended to be a hub for sharing information and ideas about anything related to managing ward organizations effectively and democratically. Several 22nd Ward Open Caucus members belong to Open Wards Philly.