Well, there is one candidate in this race who has, over the years, shown a willingness to take on the entrenched interests and do the people’s business. His name is Michael Nutter, and he’s been on the right side of virtually every public issue the city has faced over the past decade and a half. The Police Advisory Commission, domestic partner benefits legislation, ethics in government, wage tax reduction, the smoking ban — none of it would have happened without former councilman Nutter’s Job-like persistence.
It is Nutter, and Nutter alone among the political class, who has reacted to the murder crisis as though it is, in fact, a crisis. He would declare a limited state of emergency and implement a legal “Stop, Ask and Frisk” policy that has stemmed murderous tides elsewhere, as documented by renowned Penn criminologist Larry Sherman. Nutter’s plan to combat crime is this campaign season’s boldest and riskiest move by far. His commitment to conducting a national search for the next police commissioner — in contrast to others, like Tom Knox, who signals his fealty to the business-as-usual crowd by pledging to promote from within — is just one more sign of Nutter’s instinct to do the right thing.
The other candidates either don’t measure up in terms of vision, or their strengths are not suited to these times. Dwight Evans projects an aura of leadership, and his revitalization of West Oak Lane, where he has empowered citizens groups to take ownership of their community, is a model for how City Hall can spur an active sense of grassroots populism. But Evans, like Bob Brady for that matter, can suffer from bouts of inarticulateness that threaten the marshalling of public will that’s needed to get things done. Moreover, Evans, a 26-year state legislator, has never been known as a reformer.
Chaka Fattah boldly suggests leasing the airport, but his well-intentioned plans for such a windfall — to wage a local war on poverty — smack of big-city, boondoggle liberalism when recent mayoral success stories, from Ed Rendell to Indianapolis’s Stephen Goldsmith, prove that pro-growth strategies expand workforces and fatten tax bases. Fattah is bright and politically savvy, but he is closely aligned with John Street, and we need different leadership and policies.