By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — One day after City Council pulled the plug on the controversial plan to sell the Philadelphia Gas Works to a private company, Mayor Nutter says he’s hopeful that public pressure can revive it.
Nutter, still fuming over City Council president Darrell Clarke’s decision to scuttle the PGW sale without a public hearing, is hoping that public pressure will force City Council to reverse course.
“I’m hopeful that the public will continue to demand that there at least be a hearing, and that councilmembers take an actual vote, one way or another,” the mayor said today. “People still want to know: what was this all about, why did everything get shut down so unceremoniously, without any kind of public hearing or debate or discussion?”
Nutter also hints that the process by which City Council came to reject the deal without hearings may not have been above-board.
“This is highly unusual, very questionable, and raises the issue of when and how was this decision made by a body that is required to operate under the Sunshine Act and make decisions in a very public way,” Nutter said. “That clearly did not happen.”
But councilman Bill Greenlee, the Democratic majority whip, says the deal would have been rejected even after a hearing, and this course simply spares the potential buyer from that process.
“I don’t know if it’s fair to anybody, including UIL, which is a reputable company. I’m not knocking them. It’s just that I and other councilmembers do not feel this (having a public hearing) is the proper way to go at this time. It is facing reality. The reality is that there is not the support in Council for this particular proposal,” Greenlee said.
Clarke’s decision to avoid a public hearing on the proposed sale has been criticized in other quarters as wll. The political watchdog group Committee of 70 called it “cowardly,” and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce said the city is unlikely ever again to receive an offer of magnitude of the UIL bid. The Connecticut-based firm offered $1.86 billion for the city-owned utility.
But praising City Council’s decision to kill the deal was the Utility Workers Union of America, representing some PGW workers, which said the proposal was “never in the best interests of citizens,” especially the poor and those on fixed incomes.