City firefighters turned the opening of a new firehouse in Northeast Philadelphia Tuesday into the beginning of a campaign to recall the mayor, but there appears to be a legal problem with their crusade.
About 200 firefighters filled the street outside the $6.7 million home to Engine 38 on Magee Avenue. Spokesman Frank Keel says the union representing the workers is so upset over delays in a contract arbitration award they are starting a recall campaign to remove Mayor Michael Nutter from office.
“We need 45,000 signatures,” he said. “We believe we have enough in the family and friends of firefighters in this city to reach that goal. That’s how serious this is, that’s how disgusted these firefighters are with this mayor and his continuing insults and indignities that are heaped upon these guys who save lives.”
The problem is the recall provision of the City Charter was struck down decades ago.
“In a number of cases, beginning with the (Mayor Frank) Rizzo recall back in 1976, the Supreme Court says it is unconstitutional, it is not to be found to in the Constitution of the State of Pennsylvania,” explained deputy City Commissioner Fred Voigt. “Even though it was written into the charter in 1951, the Supreme Court said it doesn’t exist.”
Nutter wasn’t fazed by the protest or for the call for his recall.
“This is America and the people of America have the right to express themselves in a variety of fashions,” he said. “I’m staying focused on doing my job each and every day and people will do what they do.”
The mayor says the union’s time would be better spent working out a compromise contract with the city that is affordable.
The city’s appeal of an arbitration panel’s contract award for the firefighters is now before Commonwealth Court.
Even though the recall provision has been ruled unconstitutional, the union says they are still moving forward and plan a court fight against the ruling.