Philadelphia Metropolis


Pink Like Me

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For two years, we couldn't get John Street to say a word.  Now we can't get him to shut up. The former Mayor has been making the rounds recently, trash talking his successor, Michael Nutter.  Among other things, he has called him a micro-manager, a man without a vision, a scaredy cat in dealing with the unions and a failure when it comes to managing the city through this recession. But, hold on, he is just warming up:

According to Street the mayor is not black enough. Nutter 2.jpgAs Street told the Daily News last week: "He's always held himself out as being a kind of post-racial, I'm-for-everybody kind of person," Street said. "And I'm telling you in many, many quarters of the African-American community, they don't see him as a black mayor."


Street said he had been stopped by one African-American everyman and asked: Do you think we'll ever have a black mayor again?

 (For the record, Street spoke last week to the Daily News, the Inquirer editorial board and did a Q & A with Philadelphia Weekly. He also generated this story about his, um, relationship with Nutter in the Sunday Inquirer.)

Being pink, I try to stay out of arguments over who is black enough. It's outside my ara of expertise.

To rephrase it, Street is right about Nutter not being popular among black voters.  In a Pew poll released in February, blacks gave him a 43 percent approval rating while his approval rating among whites was 65 percent. That is a sharp racial divide. (And similar numbers to ones Ed Rendell had black vs. white voters when he was mayor.)

In addition to publicly criticizing the mayor, Street has been making mischief and urging some potential candidates to run against Nutter in the 2011 Democratic primary.  Two names that surfaced include Sam Katz and Tom Knox.

Here, I can speak with some expertise and state categorically that Knox and Katz are not black. They are pink like me.

A slip in Street's logic is showing here.  Nutter is not black enough, so Street is encouraging a white Jewish guy and a white Irish guy to run against him.  Hmmm.

And who's to say that the black voters who think Nutter is not black enough today will think he is just fine, blackness-wise, when his opponent is a white guy.

You may recall that Barack Obama, at one point in his campaign, was considered not black enough - until he became a serious candidate, with clear cross-over appeal, then he turned several shades blacker. By Election Day in Philadelphia in 2008, he was so black he won 98 percent of the black vote.  (The other two percent apparently thought John McCain was blacker.)

Why is Street rattling Nutter's cage? First, because it is fun and everyone loves a good time. Street and Nutter despise each other and enjoy giving each other jabs. It's politics as contact sport.

Second, the blow back may be preemptive. Street has a mess on his hands over the Carl Greene brouhaha over at the Philadelphia Housing Authority, where he is chairman of the board.  The question arises - while Greene was engaged in (costly) serial tits-and-ass grabbing where was the board? Where was Chairman Street? Why didn't they know what apparently every PHA employee knew?  Nutter has already asked those very questions - and this may be an attempt by the former mayor to change the topic.

Third, Street has a point.  There is displeasure with the mayor's performance, and not just among black voters, on the grounds Street cites. He's articulating out loud what a lot of people have been whispering - that there is a palpable disappointment in Nutter's performance.

Even if he doesn't succeed in scaring up a candidate to run in the 2011 primary against the mayor, he has done the right thing by going public with his complaints.  It's very black of him.

-- TF



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