City Council officially washed its hands of pension negotiations with city unions yesterday by withdrawing a bill that would have required a cheaper pension plan in new municipal contracts.
The Nutter administration in June asked Council to pass a bill that would require new hires to enter a new, cheaper pension plan.
Mayor Nutter wants to save $25 million annually in wage and benefits. All four municipal unions - police, fire, blue-collar, and white-collar workers - have been working without contracts since July 1.
In June, Majority Whip Darrell L. Clarke, standing in for absent Majority Leader Marion B. Tasco, introduced the bill on behalf of the administration, but quickly regretted doing so. The bill went to a committee for a public hearing, but had languished since then.
Language similar to the city bill turned up in legislation that Republicans in the state Senate were trying to attach to the city's requested sales-tax-hike authorization. That left a strong "distaste" among Council members, Clarke said.
At his request, in Council's last session before the holiday break, Council took the rare step of "discharging" the bill from committee, then withdrawing it from Council, all unanimously.
"I don't see any support for the bill this time," Clarke said.
He said Council members had traditionally been asked by mayors, including Nutter, not to inject themselves into negotiations. Thus, he said, he was not willing to legislate the administration's side without talking to the unions, which oppose the bill.
"I'm not going to accept the administration's spin on what the issues are without having a conversation with the municipal unions," Clarke said.
That leaves Nutter on his own - politically - in any attempts to wrest concessions from the unions.
"We're disappointed, because we've demonstrated - and the public understands - that pension reform is sorely needed," said Nutter spokeswoman Maura Kennedy. "That said, we look forward to continuing to work with Council in the future to address their concerns and achieve the needed reforms."
In other business, Council unanimously:
Approved Councilwoman Joan Krajewski's amnesty program for people who are delinquent in their city and school property taxes, business privilege taxes, and almost all other levies except the sales tax. The program, which will forgive any penalty and half the accrued interest, is expected to begin in May and last 45 days. The Nutter administration estimates it can make at least $25 million; Controller Alan Butkovitz predicts $100 million.
Approved Clarke's bill to require police to contact owners of stolen vehicles - before calling a towing company - when those vehicles are found. The new law will give owners 24 hours to retrieve their vehicles, reduce the permitted towing fee in such cases from $150 to $105, and put a $175 limit on storage fees.
Adopted Clarke's bill to close to traffic a half-block of Cherry Street west of Broad Street to allow the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts to build a public park and arts plaza.