Philadelphia Metropolis


Quack? Quack? Quack?

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duck quack.jpgDid you just hear a duck quack?

I could have sworn I heard it -- faintly, in the distance, in the vicinity of City Hall.

Could it be that Michael Nutter is becoming a lame duck even before he is re-elected to his second term? Quack?

It sure looked that way in City Council this week.  The Council members rejected Nutter's plans to infuse about $110 million into the Philadelphia School District by refusing to either (a) increase property taxes by 10 percent, or (b) impose a new tax on sugared drinks, as he had requested.

Instead, Council decided to move a bill that increases property taxes by 3.85 percent; increase parking fees in Center City and takes a little from the city budget.  Total it raises: $52 million. Council is expected to pass the bill next week.

It's about half what the mayor wanted and much, much less than the district says it needs to fill a $609-million deficit.

This plan emerged despite Nutter's lobbying Council to give him the votes and going on TV to tell the people that the district really really needed the $100-plus million from the city. All to no apparent effect. Quack.

What struck me is that the council people who voted no on this compromise plan included the six who are retiring.  These folks are leaving public service, will never have to face the voters again, and Nutter still couldn't get them on board with his plan? Pathetic.

What do you do when you get your head handed to you like that?

You declare victory and move on. That is what the mayor did in his post-Council session statements. Not to quibble, but a victory is when you achieve your goal.  When you get what you want. Not when you get nibbled to death by recalcitrant Council members.

So, now it is time for some aftermath questions:

Does this vote presage Nutter's second term, where his agenda is continually thwarted by Council?  (They also handed him a defeat on DROP this week, voting to preserve it, not abolish it as he sought.)

What date do you have in the pool on the demise of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman? I think she will be gone by this fall.  I'll pick October. She was the one who decided to save full-day kindergarten at exactly the moment Nutter was using that as a cudgel to get Council to go along with his tax requests.  Cut his legs right out from under him. Probably soured forever whatever semblance of a relationship they had.

She gets a lifetime achievement award for being politically clueless.

As part of a regular gig I have at the Fels Institute of Government, I did a piece about recent trends in the school district that could become important in the future.  Click here to go to that column. 



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