Philly leaders are anticipating the next move, as the deal to sell Philadelphia Gas Works is pronounced dead by City Council.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter says City Council abdicated its responsibilities by not even taking up the PGW sale bill.
“The facts that a company put forward a good faith offer, came on numerous occasions to make their case and to be summarily dismissed essentially thrown out the door raises questions about our true ability to do big things to get things done and to do business at a national and international scale,” said Nutter.
Former City Councilman Frank DiCicco says he was surprised when he heard the decision, but says it could be a negotiating maneuver.
“I know there were times where leadership under former council presidents may have decided to hold the bill for a certain amount of time until some of the negotiations were worked out outside the public forum if you will,” DiCicco said.
Councilman Bill Greenlee says he and his colleagues didn’t want to hold hearings on a doomed bill, even if UIL Holdings wants to pay the city $1.86 billion for PGW.
“To just go through hearings when we do not feel this approach is the right way to go,” Greenlee said. “[It] isn’t fair to anybody, including UIL, which is a reputable company.”
Rob Wonderling, CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, says council should deliberate and make its decision in public.
“Citizens and taxpayers in the business community feel that there should be a transparent process that has a culmination and I think what is baffling to the business community is that process was not driven to a normal and complete conclusion,” he said.
Mayor Nutter says he is hopeful the deal isn’t dead and that public outrage will help resuscitate it. He wants a bill to sell PGW introduced in council.
“Everyone can then come in and have their position known whatever the case might be,” said Nutter. “That’s the democratic process; that’s how we do things in this city. This is highly unusual, very questionable and raises the issue of when and how was this decision made by a body that is clearly required to operate under the Sunshine Act and actually take positions and make decisions in a very public way. That clearly did not happen.”
A spokesperson for Council President Darrell Clarke says he’s nursing a back injury and is unavailable for comment.
Criticism also came in from Harrisburg. House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) said the failure of council to hold hearings or even vote on approval of the proposed sale went against the people’s interest.
“By choosing parochialism over people or the good of the city and region, Philadelphia City Council sent a very clear message to Harrisburg, the business community and its residents that it’s unwilling to take control of itself. Instead, once again, council chose to come to Harrisburg and state taxpayers to solve its self-induced crises,” Turzai said.