CITY COUNCIL members reconvene tomorrow morning after a sweltering summer hiatus, and they've got lots to do, right out of the gate.
Public-school funding and the sale of Philadelphia Gas Works top the agenda. The asset-purchase agreement of PGW and its proposed $1.86 billion sale to UIL Holdings Corp. is being pushed by Mayor Nutter as one of his administration's final initiatives to help fill a $5 billion gap in unfunded pension liabilities.
Council members have danced around an answer on whether the sale should go through, saying they await results of an analytical report from Concentric Energy Advisors on the viability of the sale. That report should surface in the next week or so.
Good news for Nutter, however, is that UIL Holdings has not abandoned its proposal, which it had the option to do in June.
"With the return of City Council back to session, we are looking forward to getting more clarity on the specifics of the process," said Michael West, a spokesman for UIL in Connecticut.
"None of the parameters of our bid have changed, and we are confident that our bid and its merits will prove valuable to the citizens and communities of Philadelphia and the employees of PGW."
But Council members remain wary of the proposed sale.
"I'm not overly impressed with the amount of money we would get in terms of pensions," Councilman Wilson Goode Jr. said.
"A one-time fix is not what we need, and this actually doesn't fix anything - it just contributes money in a one-time fashion," he said.
Council members also have been working on pet projects, including:
* Mandatory inspections of day-care centers and controls on short dumping. Contemplated by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, these measures would require owners and operators of child-care centers to submit to annual inspections by Licenses and Inspections and show a certificate of compliance; and would explore solutions to the city's growing epidemic of illegal dumping - in alleys, in vacant lots, at lightposts.
* Civil penalties for marijuana possession. On Monday, Nutter and Councilman Jim Kenney reached a compromise that would decriminalize pot possession for those carrying an ounce or less. Although Kenney's original bill had the majority of his colleagues' support, Nutter wasn't sold until the bill added a civil penalty for smoking marijuana in public. Kenney is expected to introduce an amended version of the bill that will include that provision.
* Sharper penalties for illegal sale of BB guns. The issue of youth gun violence hits close to home for Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, who has attended funerals for children killed by guns over the summer. He plans to introduce legislation to toughen penalties for businesses that sell BB guns, which are banned in Philadelphia. Earlier this month, he backed a group of constituents in Point Breeze who protested a corner store selling play guns to kids. The new law would seek to revoke business licenses and increase fines for violations.
* Councilman Bobby Henon wants to investigate the space utilization of public property and focus on selling off vacant school buildings.
* Councilman David Oh wants to develop the city's global capabilities for jobs and introduce new ways to resolve the city's debt by collecting delinquent taxes.
* Councilman Denny O'Brien plans to continue his attack on immigration-services fraud and to introduce legislation on the city's abandoned buildings.