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For years, it was only possible to choose between two candidates for any public office, with all that that implied for those who selected and for those who wanted to get a job. Getty Images
For years, it was only possible to choose between two candidates for any public office, with all that that implied for those who selected and for those who wanted to get a job. Getty Images

Finally, the "Rule of Two" Falls

Voters in Philadelphia got tired of living in the most restrictive city for accessing a public job.

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When Philadelphians were asked about city officials, 55% said they had a negative perception of their work.

This response is the result of several layers of bad institutional decisions. The most egregious, the “Rule of Two," was just buried in recent ballot questions, after 69 years of practice.

But its elimination does not solve the problem of quality, diversity and suitability in Civil Service in the city.

The hiring system was adopted in the 1919 city charter, and in 1952, the famous and hated "Rule of Two" was added trying to prevent political patronage, by which only two candidates could be chosen for a position based almost exclusively on the score of the selection exam. This is how it has remained until today.

The problem, as it usually happens sooner or later, blew up in the city's face. Seventy-five percent of municipal workers will reach retirement in the next 15 years, and young talents do not sign up for the ordeal of applying for Civil Service.

No small feat when you consider that the city is the second largest employer in the city - behind the federal government- with 30,000 positions, representing the face of the city in health, safety, security, maintenance, in short, embodying the quality of life for residents. 

In 2018, Pew Charitable Trusts released a study that verified what had long been intuited. Due to the “Rule of Two" managers had very little to say about candidates. 

While in cities like Dallas, Indianapolis, Houston, and Jacksonville, selection rests primarily on the interview, and in others on experience. In Philadelphia, applicants with solid practical experience cannot advance in the hiring process if they lack a certain degree.

For highly specialized jobs, the city's residency requirement becomes an obstacle, as it prevents bringing in "talent" from elsewhere.

In addition, according to Pew, the average time between a person applying and being selected is 360 days, and applicants can remain on a waiting list for up to two years. Who is available after that long?

Philadelphia residents themselves tackled the diciest part of the system thanks to the vote, but how long will it take to fix such a long-standing screw-up?

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