By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The uproar over Philadelphia City Council’s decision to derail the Nutter administration’s plan to sell PGW without even holding a hearing dominated today’s regular weekly meeting of the lawmakers.
“Hang in there, because we’re going to come up with a better plan,” councilwoman Marian Tasco (top photo) told her colleagues today during a speech praising the decision to stop the PGW deal.
She was cheered by unionized PGW workers in the audience.
Tasco accused supporters of the plan of using “scare tactics,” and said the Nutter administration included a provision that would have prevented Council from making substantive changes to the plan.
“This provision is just one example of how the administration prevented Council from having meaningful input into its process,” she said today.
City Council president Darrell Clarke, as promised, said he would schedule more general hearings into the best uses of PGW.
“What we would like to do is sit down and talk about how we create a real energy hub, utilizing all of the assets, resources, and knowledge that people who understand this industry have,” he said today. That hearing would be informational only, with no actual legislation requiring a vote.
Clarke said that since his announcement on Monday that he was killing the PGW deal, he’s heard nothing but praise for the decision from his constituents.
“They pretty much are — I hate to use the term ‘happy’ — but they seem pleased that this particular deal as presented was not moved forward,” Clarke told reporters outside City Council chambers.
Despite intense lobbying of certain councilmembers from the Nutter administration, no lawmaker was willing go against Clarke to introduce the sale legislation. Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez was one of only a few councilmembers willing to publicly question Clarke’s decision to nix any public hearing.
“My concern is that any global company doing business with the city would view this as us not being thoughtful, and (not) providing them with a forum for public discussion,” she said.
Nevertheless, Quinones Sanchez acknowledges she was unwilling to introduce the sale legislation:
“I did not give a thought about introducing, because that is a question for (Council) leadership to do and put forward.”
Those thoughts were mirrored by Councilman Bobby Henon.
“I do respect Council President Clarke’s decision not to move forward, because there’s not an appetite on City Council to move forward with the (UIL) asset purchase agreement,” he said.
No date has yet been set for the more general hearing on the “highest, best use” of PGW.
In other action, City Council today approved a measure adding penalties to the city code for hate crimes, a measure spurred by last month’s beating of a gay couple in center city.
And the lawmakers approved a sweeping overhaul of how the city keeps track of, and maintains, large vacant properties, a measure prompted by the deaths of two firefighters in 2012.