What's not to like about legislation clearing a path for the $700 million expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center?
Beyond all the new jobs and hospitality business that the expansion will bring, the city for the first time will limit its fiscal responsibility at the center. And there are aggressive goals for hiring minority contractors and workers.
Gov. Rendell, Mayor Street and Mayor-elect Nutter all favor legislation before City Council today that would put the massive project in motion. Last week, Council approved the bill in a committee vote, 16-0.
Maybe things were looking too easy.
Before that vote, Councilman Frank DiCicco had convinced 16 colleagues to amend the bill to permit nonunion employers to bid for contracts on the project.
And with the final vote set for today, Council as of late yesterday appeared split - with the bill's supporters one vote shy of the needed nine for passage.
Bothered by the DiCicco amendment and regretting his support for it last week, Councilman Bill Greenley said he's now against the expansion bill.
"It's sort of like minorities now pitted against labor. I support more minorities' having jobs on construction projects, but this language, 'must permit non-union employers,' is very troublesome to me," he said.
Mayor Street said organized labor is "concerned because of some sort of symbolism in the language and I can understand that." But he said Council should pass the bill or amend the language out today and pass the bill next week in a special session.
Indeed, the Republicans on Council are considering an amendment to the bill that would remove DiCicco's language.
Though bill supporters count her as an opponent, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell said she's undecided on the bill. "People are upset and tempers are flaring," she said. "I don't know what I'm going to do." *