Meetings & Conventions: Newsline
EXPANSION AND LABOR AGREEMENT REMAIN ON THE
SIDELINESPhilly Center Caught In Political Crossfire
Problems persist at Philadelphia’s main venue.
It’s the worst of times for the Pennsylvania Convention Center,
where accusations of nepotism and partisanship are flying and the
center’s expansion plan is being used as a bargaining chip.
Problems began last fall, when legislators in the state capital,
Harrisburg, crafted a bill to expand the center’s board of
directors from nine to 13, mandating that the four new members be
from the suburbs and thus tipping the balance for control of the
center away from the city. On Dec. 30, outgoing Gov. Mark Schweiker
signed the bill into law.
Since then, a strident chorus of critics has formed, many of
whom claim the law is a thinly veiled means of rewarding the
Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street, a Democrat, is threatening to
pull back on the city’s financial commitment to a planned center
expansion; the city and state had agreed to split the project,
which is estimated to cost $450 million. Street also filed a
lawsuit against the state to challenge the legislation.
“The city is being asked to shoulder some burden of the
expansion, but then we have to tell taxpayers we can’t control how
money is being spent,” said a spokesperson for the mayor’s
However, Tom Muldoon, president of the Philadelphia CVB, said
the move to add board members ultimately might expedite approval of
expansion funds, because Republicans will be the majority on both
the board and in Harrisburg.
To add to the conflict, labor difficulties surrounding the
project have worsened. Mayor Street had been leading negotiations
between the center and the carpenters union, the last of six labor
groups to agree to a new deal with the center.
Then, on Jan. 15, heads of the local teamsters and electricians
unions backed out of the agreement, citing fears of waning labor
support among the new Republican-dominated board.
Meanwhile, at press time, the center still had some top
positions to fill, including board chairman and a CEO to replace
Robert Butera, who left the facility last June.
“To suggest that a solution is imminent would be incorrect,”
said David La Torre, former press secretary for Schweiker (who now
heads the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce).
The Philadelphia venue expects to host 18 citywides this year,
down from 27 in 2002. Its rebookings rate of 17 percent remains a
hurdle for the bureau.
• CARLA BENINI
What Association Executives
The gender gap in earnings grows in relation to size
of organization, according to a 2001 compensation survey.
Individual membership association
Total staff size:
2 or fewer
3 to 5
6 to 10
11 to 20
21 to 50
51 to 100
More than 100
Total annual budget:
$300,000 or less
$300,001 to $500,000
$500,001 to $750,000
$750,001 to $1 million
$1,000,001 to $2.5 million
$2,500,001 to $5 million
$5,000,001 to $10 million
$10,000,001 to $15 million
More than $15 million
American Society of Association Executives
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