Tensions on City Council flared yesterday with the arrival of new ethics legislation introduced by Councilman Frank Rizzo.
In Council's first meeting since June, Rizzo introduced six ethics bills, four of which he had introduced last year but held to work on with Mayor Nutter, who was elected to office last year on a reform platform.
The bills would:
Require lobbyist registration.
Further limit gifts to elected officials.
Prevent certain outside employment for Council members.
Place more restrictions on political fund-raising. (Two bills on this.)
Certain Council members' resentment of Rizzo's legislation, and of what one called the councilman's "grandstanding," was manifest.
First, Council members Blondell Reynolds Brown, Frank DiCicco, James F. Kenney and Marian B. Tasco voted against Rizzo's call to investigate the city's police radio system. Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell also voted against the Rizzo measure, but a spokesman said the vote was in error.
Rizzo was fuming. He said the vote was not about the radios but about the ethics bills, calling the action "very, very unprofessional."
"Don't play games with the lives of police or firefighters," Rizzo said. "I don't play that game that was played there today."
Kenney said that he voted against the hearings because the Nutter administration was working on the radio problem that it inherited, and that Rizzo had no reason to call for hearings. The 911 system was out for 45 minutes during a system failure on July 22.
"He's less interested in getting information than in grandstanding, which is his penchant," Kenney said, adding that the ethics bills were more evidence of the same.
"This Council has passed the most far-reaching ethics reforms . . . and those provisions are working," said Kenney, who supported previous ethics bills. "What is he trying to fix?"
Nutter said yesterday he would convene a blue-ribbon panel to study changes to ethics and campaign-finance rules "soon."
Rizzo has agreed to work with Nutter and amend his bills as necessary.
In other business, Blackwell said she would hold off on a bill to eliminate the city's $35 job-application fee after Nutter promised to institute it in April. Blackwell has crusaded against the application fee as unfair to job-seekers who are poor. In the meantime, Blackwell said, the pool of people eligible for a waiver of the fee will expand to include those who qualify for low-income energy assistance.
Also, Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr.'s bill that would reduce the number of seats reserved for minority parties from two to one drew a strong public rebuke from at-large Councilman Jack Kelly, who called it "undemocratic" and an "affront" to thousands of Republicans in the city.
Goode shot back that Republicans should have to earn their seats with votes. Goode is one of 14 Democrats on Council, Kelly one of three Republicans.
The 1951 Home Rule Charter provides for 17 Council seats, with 10 members elected from districts and seven at-large. But the charter allows each party to nominate only five at-large candidates, guaranteeing at least two minority-party candidates are elected.
Goode had originally proposed reducing the number of at-large Council seats to five, eliminating the minority seats entirely. Yesterday, he submitted a bill that would keep the number of at-large Council members at seven, but would allow each party to nominate six candidates.