Hecklers derail attempted hearing on Philly beverage tax

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Turns out it’s tough to conduct a public hearing when no one can hear you.

Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner learned that the loud way Friday as he attempted to hold a meeting in Philadelphia’s City Council chambers about the city’s sweetened beverage tax.

His attempt was thwarted by a legion of horn-tooting, whistle-blowing, hand-clapping activists and union organizers who shouted him down from the gallery. Channeling the endurance of a South African soccer crowd, they kept a constant blare for 45 minutes. Eventually, Wagner and his colleagues on the Pennsylvania Senate’s local government committee left the room and held a private press conference to discuss the aural ambush.

Wagner said the meeting would be rescheduled and held in Harrisburg.

Friday’s ruckus added more intrigue to a hearing laden with political undertones.

Wagner, a conservative state senator from York, is campaigning to win his party’s nomination and then unseat Gov. Wolf, a Democrat.

His Senate colleague Democrat Anthony Williams invited him to hold the hearing in Philadelphia – in the very same room where local lawmakers passed the new levy. Williams is a vocal opponent of the beverage tax and ran against its chief proponent, Jim Kenney, in the 2015 mayoral race.

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