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Photo Credit: David Rosenblum/Philadelphia International Airport
Photo Credit: David Rosenblum/Philadelphia International Airport

Philly will soon have a new Department of Aviation, as two ballot measures were approved

The establishment of the department will help manage the city’s airports, and another measure will provide a boost in government job opportunities.

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On Election Day 2022, an overwhelming majority of Philadelphia voters voted in favor of two ballot measures that will lead to establishing a new aviation department and expanding employment opportunities in the city.

On the ballot, two questions were posted:

  1. Should the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to create the Department of Aviation and to transfer certain functions related to the operations of City airports from the other City agencies to the Department of Aviation?
  2. Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to provide for a preference in civil service examinations for qualified graduates of Career Technical Education programs in the School District of Philadelphia?

With about 96% of divisions reporting, nearly 68% voted in favor of the former question, and nearly 71% voted in favor of the latter, according to numbers from the Office of the Philadelphia City Commissioners.  

The majority vote on both questions will likely play huge dividends moving forward. 

Philly houses two airports: the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) and Northeast Philadelphia Airport (PNE). Despite serving the nation’s 6th largest metropolitan area, having the third largest budget in the city, and serving more than 32 million passengers annually, there is no official Department of Aviation. 

Currently, the City only employs a Division of Aviation within the Philadelphia Department of Commerce. 

Voting “yes” to this question would mean the creation of a Department of Aviation, which would be in charge of overseeing both airports. 

“The Department of Aviation, when created, will be a standalone member of the mayor's cabinet that will allow the airport to report directly to the mayor. This will give Philadelphia International Airport more autonomy in its decision-making and streamlining of its processes,” interim Philadelphia International Airport CEO Keith Brune, told the Philadelphia Business Journal. 

Among the responsibilities of the Department of Aviation include:

  • Buying property on behalf of the airports, if approved by City Council
  • Capturing more accurate financial data
  • Centralizing Human Resources for PHL and PNE employees, reducing the probability of having pay or benefits interrupted
  • Hiring or letting go of workers
  • Creating new jobs

The latter responsibility ties into the second ballot question. 

Most government jobs not appointed by the mayor are filled through the Civil Service Commission, which is a test-based system designed to fill jobs based on merit designated for applicants’ scores on the test. 

Those who take the exam are ranked by score and only those with the highest scores are even interviewed for the position. 

With the city facing a workforce shortage, lawmakers have tried mustering up ways to broaden and diversify hiring practices. 

Veterans who take the civil service exam are given 10 extra points, and with the approval of the new measure, graduates of the School District’s Career and Technical Education programs would receive five extra points on their scores, which could help improve their chances of being interviewed for the role. 

This was a measure first introduced by Councilmember At-Large Katherine Gilmore Richardson, who has advocated it as a strategy to strengthen the pipeline between school and well-paying government jobs.

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