A majority of the mayoral candidates say that Mayor Street did them no favor last week when he rewarded Carl Greene, the Philadelphia Housing Authority director, with a raise and a five-year contract that runs through the next mayor's first term in office.
The candidates were careful not to attack Greene's performance in the last nine years. Most had praise for Greene, but they rejected Street's pre-emptive strike to keep Greene in Philadelphia for what would be at least 14 years.
The critique ranged from businessman Tom Knox's tepid response: "It was not appropriate for Mayor Street to give him a contract through the next mayor's term . . . I would have given the next mayor more discretion."
At the other end was former Councilman Michael Nutter, who has made a sharp-edged critique of the Street administration a major component of his campaign.
Nutter said Street's decision (technically, it was the PHA board, of which Street is chairman) was "inappropriate and the height of arrogance and a demonstration of disdain.
"It's just bad public policy to handcuff the next mayor with a long-term contract," Nutter said. "I don't understand how PHA can be laying off hundreds of employees including police and in the next moment giving Mr. Greene a raise and a long-term contract."
Under the new contract, Greene's salary rises from $253,000 to $275,000, and he can get 15 percent merit-based raises. If the next mayor wants him out, it will cost the authority two years of Greene's salary.
Street said yesterday that Greene is one of the best public-housing executives "in the entire country. He has done a great job in Philadelphia. He's transformed the face of public housing here."
He also said Greene's salary is in line with that of other directors of large housing agencies across the country.
"Frankly speaking, I think the next mayor is going to have his hands full getting organized," Street said. "But if he wants to make a change in his first two years in office, God bless him, he can. There is a buyout provision of two years' salary, but I'll tell you the next mayor is going to have a hard time finding anyone better than Carl Greene."
State Rep. Dwight Evans, like Nutter, wanted to draw a distinction between Greene and the decision by Street.
"It appears to me that Carl has done a good job," Evans said, "But a new mayor should not be saddled with this type of situation . . . If I'm the new mayor, don't hand-tie me if I'm supposed to be responsible for moving things forward."
U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah praised Greene's performance and then added in a statement, "It would be presumptuous for me to talk about the person I would choose to lead PHA before the people choose me as their mayor."
Kate Philips, spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, said regardless of Greene's expensive buyout clause, "a Mayor Brady will make sure anyone working for him or the city will be held accountable."