[Ed. note: This article is edited from a series of tweets by @jendevor.]
When I ran for city commissioner in 2019, I made a commitment to myself and to voters to hold our electoral process and our officials accountable. So I feel it’s important to bring attention to an issue in the office. I’m upset.
On June 17th, the City Commissioners hosted their regularly scheduled virtual meeting, and without explanation went into a recess where they played Tom Jones’ “What’s New Pussycat” on repeat with one “It’s Not Unusual” slipped in—for two hours.
You can watch here.
This is a copycat prank from comedian John Mulaney. Here he retells the story of his original prank:
Several Philadelphia voters actually cared enough to take time out of their days to attend the virtual meeting. But the city commissioners held them on the line for two hours playing this prank, only to return with no explanation. This is wrong. This is disrespectful and this is an abuse of power.
News outlets have not covered this story officially (though shoutout to @Elaijuh for tweeting about it). Why doesn’t the news care that three elected officials, who make upwards of $130,000 each per year, have disrespected their constituents and face no consequences or sign of regret?
This is five months before an election, and though it’s a dumb prank I consider it an act of voter suppression. There were people with real questions about the election, about how to get involved, and what they can do to support the election. To be treated in this manner is a disgrace.
On Monday, Commissioner Lisa Deeley held a last-minute meeting. (The Zoom meeting format made it unclear if Commissioners Al Schmidt or Omar Sabir were in attendance.) Deputy Commissioner Nick Custodio said the musical interlude was to allow staff to complete the counting of the votes—in the middle of the meeting—and apologized to those who didn’t enjoy it.
Deeley took public comments, many of which were complaints about the prank, and questions about what the office would do to better respond to voter concerns. She did not reply to any of them. State Rep. Chris Raab joined and commented on how disappointed he was at the behavior of the office. He said he is concerned that November “will be a fucking shit show” (actual quote).
Hear him here starting at about 12:55:
I risk looking like a sore loser speaking out against the office I ran for. But, to me, the risk is worth it because this office and our elections need to be respected and held accountable.
We need people who love to govern in our government, not those who will interfere with it. I’m not sure what will come of this incident, though I think the person/people who conducted and allowed the prank should resign to leave an opportunity for someone who respects the job and constituents to step in before November.
I would encourage anyone who cares about the November election to attend a future meeting—except the meetings have now been canceled until the fall. (Yes, really.)
Meanwhile, you can still reach out to the City Commissioners here to ask them: What is the office doing to rebuild voters’ trust and ensure a strong and secure turnout?
Jen Devor ran for City Commissioner in 2019. This article originated as a series of Tweets.