Philadelphia Metropolis


The Enemy of My Enemy

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John Street and Sam Katz continue their Odd-Couple bromance in the latest (December) issue of Philadelphia Magazine. You may recall that Street had urged Katz to take on Michael Nutter in next year's mayor's race.

Katz declined - at least he ruled out a run in the Democratic primary -- but in his Philly mag column the two-time opponent of Street gives the former mayor a chance to air hisStreet use this.jpg grievances against Nutter.  And grieve he does. Here is Street's opening quote:

Street: "Mayor Nutter has been incredibly arrogant, incompetent and offensive...He has reduced political capitulation to an art form. He has no political courage. When a mayor proposes a budget or a tax program, he has to be willing to fight for it.  This mayor just abandons his own proposals."

Katz: No, tell me how you really feel.

Katz didn't really say that.  I just put it in because it's a good line.

Katz didn't really say that.  I just put it in because it's a good line.

Katz does give the former mayor a chance to articulate in public the case he has been making in private in his quixotic search for someone, anyone to oppose Nutter in 2011.

I have two things to say to Street about it. I agree with your critique. Don't call me up and ask me to run.

Street's book against the incumbent is a prescient summary of criticism I have heard around town about the mayor for more than a year.

An anecdote: I spent most of 2009 and some of 2010 working on a major project for the Philadelphia Research Initiative on the public schools. As part of it, we interviewed a lot of folks who were wired into city politics - either as participants or policy makers. At the end of each interview, I made it a point to turn off my digital recorder and ask, as an aside: What do you think of Nutter so far? I got four differing reactions: some would sigh a sad sigh, some would roll their eyes, some would say "Don't get me started" and some did all three. What those folks said - and what Street says in the Katz interview - is basically the same thing: 

-- Nutter missed an opportunity in his first year in office to use the recession as a reason to stare down the city's unions and extract job-benefit-salary concessions from them. Street on this issue: "Nutter made the biggest mistake of his career when he put off the new union contract as a newly minted mayor...He frittered away the chance to make changes."

-- Nutter was long on promises but short on delivery with key constituencies. Street again: "Business people supported a guy they thought would implement a pro-business agenda. He turned out to be a tax-and-spend Democrat. Latinos have been excluded from his decision-making. The African-American community heard a lot of commitments. He's not kept a single one."

-- Nutter has failed to deliver on many of his reform efforts.  Street: "His 311 program has failed. Philly-State has been abandoned. On the things that matter, Mayor Nutter has crippled the city."

I'll stop there, but Street does go on, writing the latest chapter in the book titled The Street-Nutter Mutual Detestation Club.

Street does not mention that Nutter has enacted a lot of the ethics reforms that were passed because of you-know-whose administration (Anyone out there remember Ron White and pay-to-play politics?). Nor does he mention that the recession knocked this city and many others for a loop. But, it is not his job to be fair.

As to the problem of rounding up an opponent, I will say again what I said before: Anyone who runs against Nutter will have to run against what he didn't do - stare down the unions, change the course of city taxation, more effective delivery of neighborhood services - than what he did.  And it is hard to run against Sins of Omission.

Besides, as John Street knows well, in Philadelphia an incumbent mayor can be intensely disliked by large segments of the voters - even be in the midst of an FBI investigation - and still win re-election.


-- TF 




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