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Street brought his skills to end Council deadlock

No one asked Mayor Street to help resolve last week the ongoing stalemate that threatened to scrap the planned $700 million expansion of the Convention Center.

No one asked Mayor Street to help resolve last week the ongoing stalemate that threatened to scrap the planned $700 million expansion of the Convention Center.

But the mayor decided to intervene anyway - and in doing so again showed his knack for settling crises, even on his way out the door.

"He was a master," Councilman Frank Rizzo said, referring to legal points raised by Street, a lawyer, during Thursday's late-night, closed-door Council meeting. "He stuck with us every minute of the way."

With three weeks left in office, the mayor also derailed whatever opportunity there may have been for a successor he doesn't much care for, Michael Nutter, to jump in and claim victory, and also thwarted Gov. Rendell's own ambition to broker a deal as well.

Rendell had planned to hold a meeting yesterday with city and state officials, Convention Center board members, and labor leaders to settle differences regarding union labor and minority participation.

But he changed course late Friday, advising Council President Anna C. Verna in a letter that "I see no reason for the meeting I had previously scheduled" in view of a unanimous vote Council took on related legislation Thursday.

That legislation - which Rendell said he hoped Council backed in final form tomorrow - resulted largely from Street's unexpected involvement. Even the Convention Center Authority was surprised by his sudden efforts.

Until Friday, there had been a deadlock. Eight council members said they would oppose legislation to allow nonunion contractors to work on the expansion, a public works project that is being funded by the state and is the largest in Pennsylvania history. Eight others were adamant that the expansion not be limited to union contractors, in order to ensure that more minority contractors and minority workers shared in the profits.

The idea at that time was to delay any final action and reach a resolution of some sort at Rendell's Monday meeting.

But there was also a reluctance to let Rendell resolve Council's problem. "The mayor, along with certain Council members, thought there was no need to wait. . . . So the mayor decided to engage in the negotiation of amendments," Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. said.

With Council recessed for hours, Goode and Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller worked on one plan while two floors beneath them, Street and the city solicitor worked on another.

They met in the early evening in Verna's office, and blended the plans into one amendment that requires labor unions to disclose the demographics of their membership, and to submit a long-term diversity plan that Council must approve, among other things.

About 10 p.m., Street watched from a seat in Council chambers normally reserved for Council staff as the resulting legislation passed unanimously. It must pass again tomorrow if it's to be enacted.

"He did not have to get involved, but he worked hard and stayed there all night and stayed in negotiations," Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell said.

Several Council members described Street as almost humble in his efforts, rather than pushy and pretentious as they often have complained he can be.

"He was not domineering, because he cannot be with that Council," Councilwoman Carol Ann Campbell said. Council members, whose eight-year relationship with Street has been more thorny than not, snubbed the mayor at least twice in recent weeks, refusing to approve certain financial expenditures he wanted, for instance.

Over the years, however, Street has demonstrated with some success an ability to resolve hard-to-settle disputes, usually those involving labor contracts. He was credited with negotiating a new deal for the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2005 and, earlier, with keeping public school teachers from striking.

"Listen," said Councilwoman Marian Tasco, "he's got a few days left, and I would suppose he might want to leave some legacy that he tried to help resolve the issue. That's the way I look at it."