The proposed agreement appeared to be designed to win back the support of City Council President Joseph E. Coleman and other Council members and community activists, who had expressed dissatisfaction with parts of an earlier tentative accord that had called for two seven-member boards to govern the center.
"There's parity, there's diversity and there's a process that does not
allow for a deadlock," said a source familiar with the new plan.
The composition of the authority, which would build and operate the new center, has been a major stumbling block in the city's effort to get $185 million in state funding for the $431 million project. The center is planned for a site bound by Market, Race, 11th and 13th Streets.
Even as final details were being worked out, two Senate Democrats - Vincent Fumo of Philadelphia and J. William Lincoln of Fayette County - were raising questions about the new plan.
Fumo said he would not vote for any settlement that did not provide an adequate role for minority- and female-owned businesses. The city's hiring goals require that 15 percent of all city contracts be awarded to minority- owned businesses and 10 percent to female-owned enterprises.
A source familiar with the negotiations said that the new plan might include "affirmative action language" but that a provision stating that the authority could not be forced to adopt the city's hiring goals would also be included.
Lincoln, the Senate's minority whip, complained that Senate Democrats had not been brought into the negotiations. He said he was particularly upset that no Senate Democrats were invited to a meeting held Monday between Mayor Goode and the other key parties involved in the convention-center negotiations.
"I think the city administration is really taking a chance," said Lincoln, who said that he and other Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate were tired of being treated "like second-rate members of the legislature."
The comments set the stage for further controversy just as city officials have been trying hard to reach agreement on the makeup of the authority proposed to govern the center so that the legislature could vote on the matter when it reconvenes next week.
Both houses have approved $43.9 million of the state's contribution, and the House has voted to appropriate the remaining $141 million. But key lawmakers have blocked a Senate vote on the $141 million appropriation until the question of how the authority will be governed is resolved.
In addition, Thornburgh has withheld most of the $43.9 million until the issue is resolved.
After months of negotiations, it appeared last month that the impasse had been ended by a tentative agreement under which the authority would be made up of two boards - one to build the center and one to operate it.
Under that plan, the construction board would have had three members appointed by Thornburgh, three by Goode and one by those six appointees. The management board would have had two members appointed by the governor, two by the mayor, two by suburban counties and one by those six appointees.
The accord also had included a provision that the authority - because it is to be a state and not a city entity - could not have been forced to adopt the city's hiring goals for minorities and women.
Coleman had expressed dissatisfaction with that compromise, saying that the city's hiring goals should be followed and that the city should have a majority voice on the authority.
According to a source familiar with the convention-center negotiations, the city and state officials who hope to see the legislation approved intend to push the matter for a vote without having it go through the full legislative process.