Power: An Open Letter to Mayor Nutter

You ran as a reformer, promising to clean up the city’s old-school politics. Six months into “New Day, New Way,” we’re wondering: When are you going to start?

But alas, you undercut virtually all your leverage by announcing that you’d opted to borrow your way out of the problem, to the tune of $4.5 billion (later adjusted to $3.5 billion). In the process, you rejected every major recommendation made by the “Philadelphia’s Quiet Crisis: The Rising Cost of Employee Benefits” study released by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia just after your inauguration, such as seeking an increase in workers’ contributions to the city’s pension plans. We were disappointed; we expected a mayor who was touting “New Day, New Way” to lay out a bold vision, to paint a picture of what Philadelphia could become, to prioritize a series of investments in concert with straight talk about the sacrifices many of us would have to make for the common good. Certainly, part of reforming Philadelphia means confronting the stranglehold certain unions have over the way we’ve long done business. Taking a pass on doing that with the municipal unions right out of the gate sent a “business as usual” signal.

Our concern is that you haven’t attacked the status-quo culture in the way candidate Nutter spoke of. You’ve laudably reformed the mayor’s office, bringing in former U.S. Attorney Joan Markman to ride herd on ethics, in accordance with your staff-directed mantra of “setting a higher standard for ourselves.” Well, we believe you should be demanding higher standards for the political culture as a whole. That’s why we were so disappointed that you asked Councilman Rizzo to delay proposing ethics legislation that Councilman Nutter, we’re convinced, would have supported. Those bills would have required lobbyists to register, would have extended the gift ban, and would have outlawed nepotism and moonlighting.

Again, we understand the rationale; you didn’t want to alienate City Council. Certainly, the moonlighting bill would have done that. Councilman Kenney, for instance, has at least three other jobs — he works for Vitetta, an engineering and architectural firm that has the contract for the City Hall cleanup; he has a paid position on the Blue Cross board; and he gets paid to teach at Penn. And Councilman Green earns $150,000 per year courtesy of the Pepper Hamilton law firm. That happens to be the firm the city hired to represent it in the whole casino imbroglio.

But when you were on Council, you were less concerned about the ramifications and more concerned with standing up for what was right. In fact, you proposed an anti-moonlighting bill similar to the one you’ve asked Rizzo to table for the time being. And to be clear: No one’s saying members of Council can’t hold other jobs. But they shouldn’t get paid by those who do business with the city — an elemental point, and one you once ably articulated. Of course, it’s easier to take the high road, to champion politically tricky positions, when you’re a councilman; but doing exactly that as mayor is even more paramount.