Wednesday, July 05, 2006


The Mayor of Philadelphia has no magic wand. No matter who he or she is, the Mayor of Philadelphia has to form alliances with others in city government, state government, and the federal government to get things done.The city budget is all of $4 billion. Over 25% of the city's opulation lives in poverty. Crime is much too high; obviously zero crime should be the goal. The spirit of hopelessness that so many here share is due to problems that seem intractable, and not just the personality of the top leadership of city government.Land is limited. People live and work close together and cannot easily escape each other. Because of the limited nature of the land--Philadelphia is geographically the smallest of the counties in Pennsylvania although it has the most miles of streets--the land is intensely regulated and bitterly fought over. The multiyear battle over casino siting is an example of how difficult any change is in the city because the number of people potentially suffering adverse impact from any change is greater here than anywhere else in Pennsylvania.Michael Nutter comes into the Mayor's office with abilities to think clearly, communicate effectively, work hard, and inspire confidence in many people who have confidence in little else. He does not have the ability, however, to either passively accept the current levels of federal and state funding for the city, or to spend his time merely practicing a politics of denunciation and distancing from other sources of power and popular support.

November 3, 2007


Mistakes In Rizzo Administration
(1) Raising wage taxes from 3.31% to 4.31% despite repeatedly taking a public anti-tax increase stand;(2) Dramatically increasing number of city patronage jobs, with little or no screening of qualifications and motivations of employees;(3) Leaving to the subsequent Green Administration the challenge of improving police-community relations and reducing the incidence of police brutality and crime aimed at individual police;(4) Taking far too seriously threats of demonstrations by left-wing radicals on July 4, 1976, and making a nationally ridiculed major effort to deter anyone from visiting Philadelphia on the 200th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence;(5) Campaigning for Richard Nixon for President almost from the day he was sworn in as Mayor, while creating an adversarial relationship with the Democratic Party and thousands of independent Democrats; (6) Engaging in wiretapping and attempting sting operations against various Democratic leaders who were innocent of any crime that he had them investigated for;(7) Engaging in divisive public attacks on media, students, minorities, liberals, charities, universities, national Democrats and local political opponents; (8) Spending two years not talking to any media after getting negative coverage from media quotes of some of his colorful statements;(9) Fighting a recall petition in the courts instead of before the voters;(10) Seeking to amend the charter to allow a third consecutive term despite knowing that a majority of the city had wanted to recall him after his record-high wage tax increase;(11) Urging voters to "Vote White" in favor of the charter change allowing him a third consecutive term; (12) Maintaining an adversarial relationship with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and supporters of public education in general.That's a good dozen mistakes, and if you talk to a broader group of people than you have talked to so far and read about his actual performance in office, you will find many more mistakes.

June 7, 2007


"The brothers and sisters" statement made by John Street and quoted above was a one-time event that is not really representative as to how he has functioned during his 6 1/2 years as mayor or his 19 years in City Council. At the time he made the speech, he was under attack from various black groups and the Philadelphia Daily News for not giving black contractors enough city business, and this offensive and wrong-headed speech was his way of responding to the criticism he had been receiving.

None of the prospective candidates for mayor have made similar statements.I believe that all mayoral candidates should campaign city wide and address the issues that affect us all. I would hope that the general response to black candidates campaigning in whites communities, and white candidates in black communities, would be interest and respect and not just waving the bloody flag of racially polarized politics.Whoever wins has to govern. Whoever loses will likely not go away, but will likely be involved in political, governmental or civic life in one form or another. The goal of citizens should be to make this a stronger, more cohesive city by getting away from the divisive politics of the past and towards a brighter, more forward-looking future.There are plenty of legitimate issue differences to debate. The stage should not be stolen by exploitation of the gaffes of the past.

June 28, 2006


Michael Nutter's impending resignation from the Philadelphia City Council shows his strong determination to enter the Philadelphia mayoral race in the 2007 primary. Although Jon Saidel earlier gained the flexibility of not being bound to a public work schedule by not seeking re-election in 2005 as City Controller, Nutter becomes the earliest person in Philadelphia history to resign from an elected position to run for Mayor.The provision requiring a resignation from municipal office to run for another office has more often than not been followed by a losing political campaign. But Frank Rizzo in 1971 (police commissioner), Wilson Goode in 1982 (managing director), and John Street in 1998 (city council president) have successfully made the transition to the mayor's office.No councilman has been elected Mayor of Philadelphia without having served as city council president since the 1830's. But Nutter certainly has a lot going for him. His strong advocacy of business tax cuts makes him a favorite of the business community and assures a strong fundraising base. His record on ethics legislation gives him solid credentials for those most concerned about honest government. His leadership on the smoking ban positions him as an outstanding champion of public health.He is extremely well focused, issue-oriented, and driven man. His preparation for City Council hearings was extremely thorough. My late father, City Councilman David Cohen, liked to say that Nutter's effective cross-examination of City Council witnesses at public hearings made him "more like a lawyer than any of the lawyers on City Council."His early resignation shows the ever greater dependence on fundraising as the key to victory. Fundraising requires an enormous amount of time with potential donors on a one to one or small group basis. It is no longer an afterthought that was begun after a campaign team was assembled and organized support was obtained. Today fundraising is increasingly seen as the key to election victory far more than any other factor and even more than all other factors combined.How well Nutter does depends on his competition. Chaka Fattah is the best-known candidate in the field as the election campaign starts, and Dwight Evans and Jon Saidel are also quite well-known. Tom Knox certainly has the financial resources to become a household name, and John Dougherty has shown an impressive mixture of fundraising ability and organizational skill.Past mayoral primaries have been polarized largely along racial lines to a far greater degree than other city elections. There is no inherent reason why that has to forever be the case. As candidates become more and more to be seen as people rather than as racial stereotypes, mayoral candidates should be able to more and more people of different races than their own.Whatever happens in the mayoral race, Nutter can take pride in his contributions to a better city government through his record in city council. His leaving assures that there will be at least three new council people elected in 2007 but filling his shoes will not be an easy task for anyone.

June 27, 2006


Philadelphia is not very analagous to either Massachusetts (with its string of Republican governors going back to 1986) or New York (with its two Republican Mayors going back to 1993), other than being, with them, reliably Democratic in federal elections.The main difference is one of demography. Philadelphia has more black voters than white voters, and neither New York nor Massachusetts has anywhere near this ratio. Indeed, Massachusetts has never elected a black mayor of Boston or a black Congressman. New York's sole black mayor served but a single term.It is a rare election in which black voters do not give over 90% of their votes to the Democratic Party nominees. Republicans usually have no campaign workers at all in black precincts, pay little or no attention to black media, and give blacks only a token number of patronage jobs. The Republicans have never slated a black candidate for Mayor in the history of Philadelphia, and no black has yet been mentioned for the Republican nomination in 2007.I understand the political leverage that might be gained by threatening to support a Republican. Those who make that threat certainly gain the attention of the Democratic Party. But it should be understood that the actual chances of electing a Republican are slim indeed, even when Republicans help nominate a polarizing Democrat like Frank Rizzo (in 1971 and 1975), by switching tens of thousand of Republicans into the Democratic Party, or John Street (in 1999) by running millions of dollars of negative ads against primary opponents Marty Weinberg and John White.
Philadelphia tomorrow can be much more than it is today. We can get our variegated neighborhoods together with governmental and economic interests to create a future that will grow our city and enrich our lives.

August 18, 2004

The next mayor of Philadelphia should be someone who can lead, who can unite, and who can build upon the successes of the past.The next mayor of Philadelphia will inevitably be a Democrat, as only 17.1% of the city is now registered Republican and the Republicans have last elected a Mayor in 1947.The next mayor of Philadelphia should be someone who is pro-labor but against labor abuses, pro-business but also able to support neighborhood and environmental interests, and above all, a wise mixture of stability and innovation.Being mayor of a large city is an extremely tough job. We need a mayor who vision, character, and achievements on behalf of the city will win the confidence of city and suburban residents alike.

August 18, 2004


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