By Tom Ferrick Jr.
Mayor Nutter's second term will be influenced mostly by the world that lies outside of City Hall. Right now, that world consists of a series of unanswered questions: Will the local economy improve? Will the city reverse its long decline in the number of jobs? Can public schools improve in the post-Ackerman era? Will crime continue its downward trend?
So many questions, so few answers
But, here is a snapshot of
The recession has been hard on
The story can be told in many ways -- with families suffering economic hardship, with an increase in mortgage foreclosures.
We offer two barometers. One is the unemployment rate. It was at 6 percent in 2007, the year Nutter ran for mayor. It has nearly doubled since then. Of course, this number only includes those who are looking for work. It does not count folks who were laid off two or three years ago and have dropped off the radar.
The numbers tell us that joblessness is especially high among African-American and Latino men (approaching 25 percent) and people under the age of 25.
When it comes to job sectors, the last decade has seen a continued decline in manufacturing jobs. (It is hard to imagine looking at the numbers that
It's an axiom of public policy that a city's prosperity rests on its ability to generate jobs for its inhabitants. As this chart shows, traditional blue-collar work -- on assembly lines, at construction sites -- remains in decline.
The good news is that
As this graphic shows, most Philadelphians are not wealthy -- they are not even within shouting distance of it. Only five percent of all households earn more than $150,000 or more a year, while 62 percent earn less than $50,000 a year.
Once again, the jump in poverty is probably due to the recession. Though the numbers change a point or two from year to year, the fact remains that one in four Philadelphians is poor.
Government in Crisis
The recession hit government with hard. Beginning in late 2008, tax revenues dived and the Nutter administration had to scramble to avoid huge deficits. It did this through a combination of budget cuts and tax increases. The sales tax went up, real estate taxes rose, a parking tax was instituted, planned reductions in the wage and businesses taxes were put on hold. The mayor tried and failed to levy taxes on sugared drinks and trash.
Since Nutter took office in 2008, the size of the city payroll has declined -- through attrition; there have been no layoffs -- while city spending, adjusted for inflation has experienced close to zero growth.
But, the pain has not fallen equally on all sectors of government. During the recession, the administration continued the decade-long trend of robbing Peter (the city's central bureaucracy and neighborhood-based services) to feed Paul (debt service and fringe benefit costs.)
You get a better view of the trend by comparing 2001 with 2011. Overall, city government spending has exceeded inflation by nine percent. Most of that additional money went into the fringe benefit pot -- which registered a 67 percent increase over the decade.
A new dynamic was in play during the first decade of the new century. The number of white and black residents remained roughly the same. Most of the growth -- and the growth that fueled the city's slight bump in population -- came from the influx of Asians and Latinos. Both groups also have higher birth rates than whites and African-Americans.
They also tend to be poorer.
Despite the growth of population in
This chart shows the change in the number of black residents in the townships and boroughs that touch
Not all the
Crime & Education
We entered the new century recording nearly 100,000 major crimes -- homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, etc. This year, the number is likely to fall below 73,000.
Homicides spiked a bit this year, but still are lower than the peak year of 2006 when they exceeded 400 murders.
Public education remains
Student performance has been on a steady uptick in the last decade, but still remains far below national norms. To summarize, performance is better but still bad.
One particularly troubled area is the city's neighborhood high schools, many of which have drop-out rates approaching 50 percent and on-time graduation rates in the same range. This chart ranks four-year graduation rates at the neighborhood highs. The institutions tasked with educating the workforce of tomorrow are failing today.