THE SAME COULD HAVE BEEN SAID about Council president John Street. Stylistically, though, the low-key Clarke is worlds apart from his old boss. Whether he can be as effective—and Street was perhaps the most accomplished Council president in the city’s recent history—will likely depend on the relationship he forges with Mayor Nutter.
The Mayor fought hard last year to keep Clarke out of the president’s chair. No doubt he feared Street’s influence, or that of John Dougherty, the electricians union boss who backed Clarke’s bid. (Nutter didn’t respond when asked through his press office why he sided against Clarke.) Nutter and Clarke have since made nice, meeting frequently and publicly offering to support some of each other’s initiatives. Philadelphians should hope the détente continues. The city can make rapid progress when a mayor and a strong Council president are on the same page, as Ed Rendell and Street demonstrated. For his part, when asked about Nutter’s opposition to his presidential bid, Clarke says he tries “not to personalize it, but I am human,” and acknowledges that like Street, he has “a long memory.”
Nutter should remember that, and go to whatever lengths are necessary to stay on Clarke’s good side. The new Council president could become the Mayor’s greatest and most unlikely ally—but just as easily become Nutter’s most potent adversary.