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During an interview with WHYY earlier this month, City Council President Darrell Clarke was asked if there was bad blood between him and Mayor Michael Nutter. His answer: “There is absolutely not bad blood. I consider the mayor a friend. From time to time we disagree. It’s not personal. We disagree from time to time on issues.”
The relationship between the Council (primarily its president) and the mayor was so fractured that even a national political magazine took note.
But fair enough, then, Mr. Council President. So let’s just go with “frenemies,” a term Charlotte, Samantha, Miranda and Carrie used to throw around. Though both men wanted the cigarette tax to aid Philly schools, and they both hated the state bill allowing for groups like the NRA to sue individual cities over their gun laws, common ground wasn’t exactly their thing this year. From the PGW non-sale to some crazy passive-aggressive posturing before Nutter’s annual budget address, here are five Nutter-Clarke frenemy fights from 2014.
Clarke: Fine, LOVE Park doesn’t need restaurants
LOVE Park’s redevelopment has been an open discussion for politicians and the public the last several months. But when talks about changing LOVE Park first started last December, Clarke hit on the idea of building restaurants in the park. He even thought their leases would generate enough revenue back to the city that no tax dollars would need to be used for the renovation. This plan contrasted greatly from Nutter’s no-restaurant plan, which would entail the building of a parking garage underneath the park to generate funds. Of course, Clarke said his plan wasn’t really different than Nutter’s. He was just trying to enhance it.
In February, Clarke acceded to Nutter’s restaurant-free idea. They settled on a plan that would draw revenue from a parking garage, private donations, concessions and city capital project funds.
Security, sure, but passive-aggressiveness, too
In 2013, Nutter got berated and booed so badly at his annual budget speech that he had to stop talking and move to a different location. So in 2014 security for his budget address was a pretty big deal. Clarke said beforehand Council would “do what we need to do to have a secure environment to ensure that the mayor is allowed to deliver his budget message.”
But he couldn’t let Nutter off without taking at least a small jab: “I anticipate some people may not feel comfortable about the budget message, be it PGW or be it the lack of all the municipal unions contracts… but we will have it secure.”
The speech did go off without a hitch.
Forget Nutter’s two-years-in-the-making $1.86 billion PGW sale
Nutter worked two years to try and sell Philadelphia Gas Works to private investors, basically so it wouldn’t be the city’s problem anymore and so it could use some of the money to pay for city workers’ pensions. With UIL Holdings ready to fork over $1.86 billion, City Council killed the deal in October without having any public hearings or really saying much at all. The Inquirer’s Chris Hepp wrote that killing a major mayoral initiative this abruptly and without any hearings was unprecedented.
Clarke said, “The simple reality is that there is no appetite to sell PGW as proposed by that specific, very specific proposal.” Nutter responded by calling Clarke’s and city council’s move “quite possibly the biggest copout” in recent Philly history. He wasn’t the only one to criticize Clarke and Council. The Committee of Seventy said City Council had no credible explanation for its decision and “should drop any pretense that they are acting in the public’s interest by continuing to do their ‘due diligence.’” Philly Mag’s Patrick Kerkstra wrote, “It just looks awful.”
An interesting exchange followed in which Nutter sent a memo describing the “myths” on which City Council used to make its decision. And then City Council rebutted all of those “myths.”
Just another Clarke enhancement of a Nutter plan
In September, Nutter revealed a plan to overhaul Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses & Inspections. The very same day Clarke released his plan that included not only a makeover for L&I, but also for other departments and commissions within city government.
Clarke said he didn’t do it on purpose, but still….Awkwaaaaard. It felt like two high schoolers wearing the same outfit to the homecoming dance, except one was bought at GAP and the other at Neiman Marcus.
PGW: Part Deux
After any possibility of the PGW sale had been exhausted, Clarke spoke for about 45 minutes on WHYY earlier this month in that same interview in which he said they were BFFs who argued all the time. As Joey Sweeney pointed out at Philebrity, it took just a few minutes before Clarke accused host Marty Moss-Coane of spouting Nutter’s talking points re: the PGW sale.
Nutter’s crew didn’t take kindly to Clarke talking and talking and talking. The Daily News’ Chris Brennan reported that in a two-hour period that day, Nutter’s famously pugnacious press secretary, Mark McDonald, tweeted 18 responses to the interview, including this nugget:
If Clarke had not chickened out on hearings, all of his erroneous talking points would have been easily rebutted. #NOTprofilesincourage
— Mark S. McDonald (@PhillyPressSec) December 17, 2014
You guys need to chill out in 2015.