Rendell: Nutter's tone may be an issue, but he deserves no blame for strike

Mayor Nutter yesterday said he had "no idea" what he did to provoke SEPTA union transit chief Willie Brown, who has called the mayor a "little Caesar" and blamed him for the union's decision to strike.

Today, Gov. Rendell said the same thing.

"He told them the same things I did," Rendell said in a phone interview this morning. "He did not say or do anything that would have precipitated ill will." The governor made his comments after briefly discussing what happened in the final minutes Monday night after he and the mayor relayed to Brown SEPTA's contract offer, and why they both thought it was a good deal. Brown, of course, summarily rejected it and called for the 3 a.m. walkout.

"It's not like he (Nutter) was there working to somehow minimize the offer," Rendell said. "I think the mayor acted apropriately. ... He believes what he believes and he is pretty strong about expressing it."

That said, the governor attributed Brown's adversarial reaction to the mayor to two potential factors.

First, he said there was a natural "mistrust" of the mayor on Brown's part since the mayor had cited concerns that the outcome of contract negotations with SEPTA could impact City Hall's ongoing contract talks with the city's four municipal unions. (The contracts for all four - police, fire, District Council 33 and District Council 47 - expired June 30.) As Rendell himself is on his final leg in office, there is no similiar mistrust of his own motives, he said.

Second, the governor said Nutter's tone that evening may not have been the best. "It may have been just that his tone was a little bit more vehement than mine," Rendell, Philadelphia's former mayor and district attorney, said. "The years have taught me to be a little more conciliatory, to say things in a different way. ... I'm not saying I'm a pussycat, but I may not be the tiger I was at 40."

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