CITY COUNCIL President Darrell Clarke yesterday signaled that high on Council's priority list for the new year is implementing a series of initiatives designed to help the city's working-class and poor citizens.

Clarke, who reiterated that he has no plans to run for mayor, said he would lead Council to pass paid-sick-leave and wage-tax-relief bills, while working more closely with Harrisburg lawmakers to help them push through an increase in the state's minimum wage.

The paid-sick-leave bill, which would require businesses with 10 or more employees to provide up to five paid sick days, could be approved by Council as early as Feb. 5, said Councilman Bill Greenlee, the bill's sponsor.

"I have at least 12 votes, which is enough to override any veto," an enthusiastic Greenlee told reporters.

Paid-sick-leave laws are already on the books in a growing number of cities and would benefit roughly 200,000 workers in Philadelphia, Greenlee said.

Said Clarke: "Probably in most cases, the people who are in that position are at the lowest end of the spectrum when it comes to wages. So we think that person should have an opportunity to earn sick leave."

Mayor Nutter has twice vetoed paid-sick-leave bills. He supports a December task-force recommendation that called for employers with 15 or more workers to provide sick leave, said his spokesman, Mark McDonald.

The mayor remains committed to signing a bill but wants the issue to work its way through the legislative process, which includes a hearing on Tuesday, McDonald said.

"For those who talk about having a veto override, that assumes the mayor is going to veto something," McDonald said. "Let's get through the process and show some respect for the process."

On the education front, a new initiative to formalize relationships between the cash-strapped city school district and local universities will soon be launched, Clarke said, to be called SUPER - School-University Partnerships and Educational Resources.

Meanwhile, in the rubble of Nutter's failed plan to sell Philadelphia Gas Works, a new committee soon will begin working on the future of the utility company, Clarke said.

That committee will address, identify and work with "a significant number of interested parties" regarding PGW, Clarke said.

Committee members' names will be released next week.

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