How would your boss react if you skipped off for summer vacation leaving an important task undone? That's what City Council is doing to Philadelphians.
Council is about to recess for the summer without scheduling hearings on a proposed $1.86 billion sale of Philadelphia Gas Works, which could produce much-needed support for the city's pension fund. Council's last meeting until September is set for Thursday, and there has been no word on that necessary step toward approving or rejecting the sale, as well as keeping the public informed.
Council members promised to review the sale with the due diligence voters expect, and that should include hearings. But now it looks as if they're simply stalling.
The Nutter administration's chosen bidder for PGW, UIL Holdings of New Haven, Conn., can pull out of the deal if the city and state Public Utility Commission don't approve it by July 15. UIL has signaled that it could stay around longer, but the deal shouldn't be put at risk without reason.
Council's excuse is that it's awaiting a consultant's report. It's paying $425,000 in taxpayer funds to Concentric Energy Advisors of Marlborough, Mass., for an analysis of the bids and alternatives. The firm was retained in April and could have completed the project more than three weeks ago, the Daily News reported, but Council relaxed the deadline.
Council President Darrell Clarke's office says only that the report will be completed "soon." If that's the case, nothing should stop Council from introducing legislation and holding hearings on the sale. Listening to the people who have been involved in and studied the deal would do no harm to Council's deliberative process.
In addition to the $1.86 billion purchase price, UIL, has promised to split its headquarters between New Haven and Philadelphia, freeze gas rates for three years, double PGW's pipe replacement efforts, accept liability for any environmental hazards on the utility's properties, and guarantee 1,350 of its 1,650 jobs for three years.
The union representing workers is concerned that jobs could be lost. Their questions about the sale, and the public's, deserve answers. Hearings are the way to get them.
It would be a shame if Council slow-walked this promising deal to death just because Clarke wants to wield power from his high chair on City Hall's fourth floor. Clarke doesn't seem concerned about the uncertainty he's creating, and that is troubling. It's also troubling that Council members seem more interested in rushing off to the boardwalks for funnel cakes and deep-fried Snickers than they are in serving the public responsibly.