On January 7, 2008 former councilman Mayor Nutter took office as Philadelphia’s 98 mayor and on January 4, 2015 he will leave the position he has held over the last eight years.
During the last year a lot of people have weighed in with their two cents over Nutter’s tenure, including Nutter himself.
These people focused on what he’s accomplished and what he hasn’t, but with eight years as the Mayor of Philadelphia there was oh so much more.
The articles that have been written were typical: Nutter’s successes, failures and stumbles because in this city journalists always have a bone of contention they like to use to pick their teeth with.
There were things that haven’t been mentioned either on purpose or accidently on purpose, but whether they adequately entailed Nutter’s time in office depended on the agenda of whoever was reporting on them.
Still, eight years is a lot to cover.
It’s important to look at not the typical stuff, but what Nutter did to make his time speak for itself.
So here are some of the things that the outgoing mayor did which had an effect on the residents of this city; the good, the bad and the you-ought-to-be-ashamed -of –yourself.
Michael Nutter won the 2008 election by almost a landslide or at least a Philly landslide; he garnered 83% of the votes.
People were excited when Nutter took office because he was considered to be a breath of fresh air after John Street’s reign who, in 2005, Time Magazine called him one of the worst mayors in America.
• Immediately after being sworn in Nutter signed his first executive order: he declared a crime emergency citing the ongoing violence that resulted in over 390 homicides the previous year.
The new mayor stated that he wanted the crime rate to decrease every year over the next three years.
So how did he do?
With the hiring of Charles Ramsey as the Police Commissioner, the homicide rate has continued to drop. In 2008 there were 331 homicides, 2011 326, and so far in 2015 there have been 256.
It also should be noted that crime has dropped all over the nation so what Philadelphia isn’t that uncommon.
Mayor Nutter also wanted to improve graduation rates on both the high school level as well as for college graduates.
During the 2007-2008 school year, 4,467 students dropped out of high school and the number increased even more during the 2010-2011 school year to 4,574 students. Since that time, however, the dropout rate has significantly gone down from 45% to 25%.
When Nutter took office, only 18% of students graduated from college. In 2009-2013 that number increased to 23.9% and in 2014 the number was even higher – 34.6%.
• During his inaugural speech, the new mayor also expressed a desire to make Philadelphia the greenest city in the nation and to that end he created the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability.
Through the office and after a year of work, Greenworks Philadelphia was created.
Greenworks identified 15 possible objectives in areas such as energy, environment and economy.
Launched in 2012, TreePhilly was created and it provides people with free trees in addition to helping them care for the trees.
Every spring and fall over 1,000 trees are provided to individuals to plant on their property and they also plant as well as maintain trees on city streets.
To date, 15, 177 free trees have been provided and over 10,000 trees have been pruned. It is their goal to provide every neighborhood in the city with tree coverage.
To view the Greenworks Philadelphia 2013 progress report, please go to: http://www.phila.gov/green/PDFs/2013ProgressReport.pdf and to view its 2014 progress report, please go to: http://www.phila.gov/green/PDFs/Greenworksprogressreport.pdf.
• Michael Nutter also had big plans for the city such as overhauling the zoning code, reduce and change taxes in order to attract development, go after the pay-to-play policies that existed in the city’s government, control health care costs, hiring 400 new police officers and creating more jobs, but right after Nutter took office the recession hit and all his great ideas had to be put on the back burner.
To be fair, Philly didn’t suffer during the recession like so many big cities did.
They weren’t able to hire 400 new police officers, but did get 200 more out on the streets.
The city was able to get back all the jobs it lost during the recession and even added over 4,000 more.
• The mayor, in 2010, made a bid to improve the financial lives of the residents. It would also establish the quality of the relationship he would have with members of City Council.
Nutter requested that council get rid of the DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Plan) program citing the fact that it costs the city $22.3 million per year and in 10 years it would increase pension costs to $258 million.
He also pointed out that the city couldn’t afford it, that it would put an unreasonable strain on the taxpayers of the city, and that it would put an incredible strain on the pension fund.
He was 100% right.
Unfortunately members of City Council didn’t quite see it like that probably because if the program was eliminated they wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the loop-hole that enabled them to retire for one day, collect a fat check and return to work the next day.
So they amended it, but left the loop-hole in place which Michael Nutter didn’t appreciate and then they declared the mayor to be anti-council making him public enemy #1.
Council would proceed to make his ability to introduce or pass bills almost impossible unless there was something in it for them.
The pension fund is taxpayer-supported and it is $5 billion short of where it needs to be regarding the ability to honor existing pension promises.
The DROP program does nothing for the average Philadelphian except add to their burden.
In 2011 the voters, who agreed with Mayor Nutter, had their say when they cast out several council members who were enrolled in the DROP program.
As the city fought its way through the recession, 2011 proved to be a challenging year for Mayor Nutter as he faced reelection and for the city of Philadelphia.
• With the popularity of social media continuing to soar, a new trend called flash mobs became all the rage.
Flash mobs started out harmless enough. Large groups of people, mobilized by social media, would meet at certain places to perform a random act and then leave.
However, in Philly they had to take things up a notch.
Groups of young men would meet to rob, destroy personal/public property or assault innocent bystanders.
Many of these types of flash mobs were going on in other big cities and even in London over the course of two summers which amounts to one year. That wasn’t the case in this city.
After the second or third incident within one week, Mayor Nutter decided to put a stop to it.
Instead of holding a press conference in City Hall, he opted for a different type of pulpit – the one located at his church, West Philadelphia’s Mount Carmel Baptist.
During the 30 minute sermon he told youth to “Take those God-darn hoodies down, especially in the summer. Pull your pants up and buy a belt ‘cause no one wants to see your underwear or the crack of your butt.”
He went on to say, “If you walk in somebody’s office with your hair uncombed and the pick in the back and your shoes untied and your pants half down, tattoos up and down your arm, on your face, on your neck and you’re wondering why somebody won’t hire you? They don’t hire you because you look like you’re crazy!”
Nutter also had something to say to the parents: “The Immaculate Conception of our Lord Jesus Christ took place a long time ago, and it didn’t happen here in Philadelphia. So every one of these kids has two parents who were around and participating at the time. They need to be around now.”
He then launched into his most powerful statement during the sermon: “You’ve damaged yourself, you’ve damaged another person, you’ve damaged your peers and, quite honestly, you’ve damaged your own race.”
Nutter then instituted a curfew 9 P.M. curfew for people under the age of 18 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
After three teens were arrested the violent flash mobs stopped.
• For years the Philadelphia School District operated in a cloak of darkness when it came to how they spent the millions of dollars it received.
In 2011 Mayor Nutter decided to remove that cloak by getting the district to sign an education accountability agreement which will allow the city to have access to information such as facts, documents, and financial reports.
The school district officials signed the agreement with the hope that additional funding from the city will soon follow which it has.
• In 2013, Mayor Nutter introduced Shared Prosperity Philadelphia, an initiative to help reduce poverty within the city by working with various agencies.
They established five goals and three strategies.
So how did they do?
Well, they admitted that the problem was persistent and complex which people already knew.
They opened BenePhilly Centers across the city which helps people in need submit applications for assistance programs. They also got a vehicle that travels to neighborhoods as well as attend neighborhood events.
In 2014, they increased the number of jobs to 8,800.
In 2013, they were able to open Financial Empowerment Centers that offer free financial counseling to low-income residents.
• Mayor Nutter raised taxes four times. Currently the sales tax is 8.0%. If Governor Wolf follows through with his plan to raise state sales tax to 8.0%, Philly’s sales tax will sky rocket to 9.5%.
By raising the sales tax, he has hurt small businesses because people have ventured outside of Philadelphia to New Jersey and Delaware to spend their money.
He got a cigarette tax imposed which also hurt small business owners.
The mayor stated that the money was needed for the school district, but later on he would say it was to encourage people to stop smoking. He needs to make up his mind on what excuse he wants to use to treat smokers in this city as ATM pariahs.
Michael Nutter claimed that it was all for the school district; to get them more money, but there’s more to it than that.
The city’s law states that they can’t give the district less money than they did the year before. It has to be the same or more. So every year they city has to come up with more and more money.
• Always looking to take things a step further, in 2015 Nutter said that he wants drug stores to stop selling cigarettes.
If he ever bothered going into a drug store he would realize that some have already done that while others have greatly reduced the amount of cigarettes that they sell.
Nutter should walk away with the warm, snuggly thought that he has totally ruined it for people who smoke in this city by banning them from partaking in their habit in city parks, bars, and restaurants.
Funny how the mayor never went after the people who liked to drink alcohol, but that might have hurt him and his cronies from throwing a couple back after work. A lot.
• Most relationships have great beginnings and not so great endings. The same can be said for Mayor Michael Nutter and Occupy Philly.
In the beginning, Nutter showed love to the protesters who camped out at Dilworth Plaza next to City Hall.
The movement started prior to the mayoral elections and being the quintessential politician, Nutter said all the right things for the camera.
He did all the right things even going so far as to hosting the fifth game of the Phillies versus the St. Louis Cardinals.
It wasn’t until the elections were over and Nutter had won a second term that he held a press conference about the problems with the protesters.
Apparently these problems had been going on since October, but didn’t become unmanageable until after the elections.
What a coinky dink.
• Although Mayor Nutter wasn’t solely responsible for the hiring of Arlene Ackerman as superintendent of the Philadelphia School District, it was under his tutelage that she was hired.
Ackerman didn’t have a spotless resume and Nutter didn’t take the destruction she had left at her previous posts in California and Washington, D.C. as a possible problem.
Once he had made the decision to fire her, he reached out for anonymous donors to pay her off mostly because they didn’t want her naming names.
Instead of disclosing the names of these donors, Mayor Nutter chose not to use their money.
So much for transparency.
• More often than not when you have something good there will be aspects of bad that goes along with it.
This is the case of Shared Prosperity Philadelphia. Most of what is bad rests on the shoulders of Philly’s elected officials and not just Mayor Nutter.
The initiative’s purpose is to reduce poverty in this city which is a difficult task since the poverty rate is 12.2% and Philly has the highest poverty rate among the top 10 cities in the nation. It has been this way for over 30 years.
Mayor Nutter has made Shared Prosperity Philadelphia’s task even more difficult by undermining their efforts as he has raised taxes, given tax breaks to the wealthy and focused on providing a better quality of life to the rich millennials and gentrifiers who are pouring into the city.
This has caused rental prices all over the city to increase making it impossible for people who don’t qualify for assistance but still financially struggle to find decent housing.
During Nutter’s tenure the needs of the homeless have been ignored.
Emergency housing (shelters) are lacking in space, no additional money has been provided and no additional housing has been added by the city.
He likes to brag about bringing more jobs into the city, but they are mostly in the retail sector (226), jewelry stores (159), food (137), and home goods (117). All of these jobs are low-paying or offer no benefits.
Mayor Nutter and the members of council have only made it harder for the poor to exist in this city, but perhaps that’s their hidden agenda.
It’s just not the high taxes that are the problem or even the low paying jobs that Nutter thinks is going to improve the poverty rates that are the problem.
It’s the carelessness towards the low-middle income residents that has been going on for years.
While still a councilman, Nutter voted to cut L & I’s funding. Perhaps if they weren’t so underfunded situations like the Salvation Army’s building collapse that killed 5 people in 2013 wouldn’t have happened.
Perhaps calls to L & I for help wouldn’t be ignored.
It’s also debatable whether constantly increasing taxes would even be necessary if elected officials would get off their lazy rumps and go after the deadbeats who, as of last year, owed the city and its residents $423 million in unpaid real estate taxes.
• Putting aside all of these issues that Mayor Nutter ignored or just didn’t bother to address appropriately, for someone who campaigned against crime and poverty, you would have thought that during his eight years in office he would have drafted a bill calling for the increase in the minimum wage tax which may help the poor be not so poor.
That didn’t happen until 2014 when Councilman Kenyatta Johnson introduced a resolution increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Although minimum wage increases fall under Harrisburg’s duties, it is believed that if Council presses the issue, any claims by Harrisburg would not hold up in a court of law.
Nutter has chosen to stay silent on this issue and no hearings have been scheduled although the minimum wage was increased to a paltry $10 an hour for airport businesses and employees.
Everybody, at one point in their lives, has done things they wish they didn’t. Mayor Nutter has as well. Although he probably wouldn’t admit it.
• Nutter did not endorse Barack Obama when he ran for president, but he certainly took advantage of the Obama administration even traveling up to the nation’s capitol several times to participate in Obama events. Fortunately, the Commander-in-Chief doesn’t hold a grudge.
• In 2009, the mayor made the decisions to close some of the libraries which in many areas they are the life blood of the neighborhood.
Neighborhood libraries not only offer a place where books can be read, but free internet service is available and they even hold classes on things like resume writing and computer basics.
• In 2013 Philadelphia Magazine published an article by an apparent Caucasian man who wrote about his experiences with sending his child to live and go to school at Temple University which is located in a predominately African American area.
Mayor Nutter who, as a member of City Council, didn’t have a problem when Mayor John Street exclaimed that the “brothers and sisters are running the city.” No he did not.
However, when the article hit the streets, Nutter lost his mind and went berserk.
He wrote a scathing letter to the editor. He then filed a complaint with the Human Relations Commission. Get a grip Nutter, it was one article and perhaps instead of screaming racism you should have taken the opportunity to learn something.
There needs to be real dialogue about race especially in this city, but when you decide to attack an article that’s starting a dialogue that’s not a positive first step.
• The Pope’s visit this past September was fraught with miscommunication, constant announcements by Mayor Nutter and numerous other head-splitting events.
Many residents as well as members of the media felt that the mayor was making this all about him and trying to rack up some extra brownie points for his next venture after he leaves office. It certainly did seem that way.
It was the lies that the residents were told that really went above the typical, run-of-the-mill deception that politicians are famous for.
Nutter couldn’t help but tell residents how great this endeavor was going to be financially for the city, but in the end it wasn’t.
Vendors who purchased licenses to sell Pope gear were chased out by the cops, businesses didn’t make any money and the city is now going to be stuck paying $8 million after being told it wouldn’t cost them a dime.
So either the city was typically incompetent by not filing the papers correctly or Nutter just lied.
If this was Las Vegas the odds would be against Michael Nutter because everyone feels they have been lied to. Again.
Nutter refused to acknowledge that he created a bad tone by making residents feel that they weren’t welcome to partake of the festivities. Then he blamed the media for it without admitting that they just reported on what he said.
As if all that wasn’t enough, the outgoing mayor than had some choice word for the people who voted him into office: “Inconvenience is accepted as being part of being a leader, of being a big city, being a place where other people want to be. And we constantly hammer ourselves, demean ourselves, tear down what we’ve done, and every moment snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory.”
Actually, perhaps Philadelphians would be better off if the Democratic Party didn’t have a noose around their necks and the city’s politicians were snatching every cent they can out of their pockets.
Their refusal to impose term limits, get rid of the play-to-pay system and engage with the residents are just some as the myriad of reasons why people in this city feel demeaned and torn down; it’s because this is how Nutter and members of City Council make them feel on a daily basis.
Michael Nutter has always had a problem with communication. This is probably the one thing that dogged him his entire time as mayor and created hostile relationships with unions, other politicians and even the people of the city.
Sure, other parts of the nation really like him, but then again they didn’t have to live with him.
So has Nutter left the city in better shape than he found it? Kinda sorta.
The taxpaying residents? Not so much.
2007 Election results: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/elections/2007_Election_Resul…
John Street: http://www.phillytalk.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1281&p=9008#p8973
Crime emergency: http://abclocal.go.com/story?section=news/politics&id=5875165
Crime rates: https://www.phillypolice.com/crime-maps-stats/index.html
Graduation rates: http://www.phillymag.com/news/2015/05/21/philadelphia-public-school-grad…
Mayor’s Office of Sustainability: http://www.phila.gov/green/about.html
Nutter wants to drop DROP.: http://articles.philly.com/2010-08-04/news/24971214_1_pension-fund-pensi…
Cost of DROP.: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/heardinthehall/Rendell_.html#hvH5Op7H…
Council amends DROP.: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/the-latest/21243-philadelphia-c…
Nutter’s sermon: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/aug/8/mayor-talks-tough-to-blac…
Shared Prosperity Initiative: https://cityofphiladelphia.wordpress.com/2013/07/11/mayor-nutter-launche…
Sales tax: http://articles.philly.com/2015-11-23/news/68487322_1_sales-tax-sales-ta…
Mayor Nutter and Occupy Philly: http://crooksandliars.com/susie-madrak/city-philadelphia-rolls-out-welco…
Occupy Philly News Conference: https://cityofphiladelphia.wordpress.com/2011/11/14/mayor-nutter-raises-…
Salvation Army building collapse: http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/05/us/pennsylvania-philadelphia-building-coll…
Money owed: http://byteclay.com/article/mayor-nutter-brother-can-you-spare-923-m…
Being White in Philly: http://www.phillymag.com/articles/white-philly/
Nutter goes nuts: http://www.wnd.com/2013/03/black-mayor-rips-being-white-in-philly-magazi…
Taxpayer’s off the hook: http://articles.philly.com/2015-09-24/news/66826500_1_world-meeting-emer…
The big lie: http://www.phillymag.com/news/2015/12/03/philadelphia-pope-visit-cost-nu…
Nutter goes after the press: http://www.phillymag.com/citified/2015/09/28/mayor-nutter-press-pope/