Post-Pope, Frustrated Nutter Asks Philly: What Kind of City Do You Want to Be?

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter walks down a blocked off Market Street, with City Hall in the background, in Philadelphia on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, before Pope Francis' trip. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter walks down a blocked off Market Street, with City Hall in the background, in Philadelphia on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, before Pope Francis’ trip. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Mayor Michael Nutter has heard the critiques of last weekend’s Papal visit to Philadelphia — and he thinks they lay bare some disturbing qualities about the city he leads.

“We have to figure out as a city, how do we declare victory, how do we enjoy success, how can we be more positive about any number of things that go on in this city,” a plainly frustrated Nutter told me yesterday in an impromptu phone interview soliloquy.

In the mayor’s view, Pope Francis’s visit was a huge success for the city, an event capable of elevating Philadelphia’s profile on the world stage.

“If you were here, it was one of the most spectacular things you ever saw,” Nutter said. “The only people criticizing what went on is us. We pound ourselves, criticize ourselves unmercifully, and everybody else [outside of Philadelphia] is saying it was the best of all events.” Read more »

Mayor Nutter: Press “Scared the Shit Out of People” Over Pope Visit


Monday morning, at what mercifully looks to have been the final Pope press conference, I asked Mayor Michael Nutter a question. I’m paraphrasing, but it went a little like this:

For those who made it, this weekend was amazing. But a lot of people stayed away because they got the message the city was closing down for this event. Is there anything you’d do differently? Is there anything you wish the media had done differently? That Philadelphians generally had done differently?

Nutter allowed that there were surely things the city could have done better. Then he turned to the media’s role.

“In some instances, you all scared the shit out of people,” Nutter said.

“So did you,” another reporter shot back immediately. Read more »

It’s Shockingly Easy to Get Into Philly Right Now

Follow Philadelphia magazine’s live coverage of Pope Francis’s historic visit all weekend long.

For months now, the unfortunate message has been that visiting Philly this weekend will be a logistical nightmare.

But it’s not. Not yet anyway. Getting into Center City is a relative piece of cake. The highways — those that are open anyway — are empty. Volume on most boulevards into town is extraordinarily light. And SEPTA and PATCO are both reporting far lighter-than-expected crowds.

True story: I just drove from Delaware County to West Philly, where I parked a car at 38th and Market Streets, and then strolled downtown. It was like driving into town early on a Sunday morning. Here was the scene on my way in at Chestnut and Farragut (between 46th and 47th).

Chestnut and 46th, around 11:30. | Photo by Patrick Kerkstra

Chestnut and 46th, around 11:30 a.m. | Photo by Patrick Kerkstra

Read more »

Will Pope Francis Make Philly Exhibit-A When He Critiques U.S. Policy?

PopeSkylineIf it wasn’t obvious before, it is now that Francis has finished his address to Congress: the Pope will not be shy about calling America out during this visit.

This morning, he directly, if briefly, addressed American immigration policy (it lacks empathy), climate change (it’s real), the death penalty (it’s bad), poverty (it needs fixing) and capitalism (it’s complicated).

Will he do more of the same in Philadelphia? Oh yeah, and likely at greater depth.

Francis already has two events slated — an address on immigration at Independence Mall, and a visit to a Philadelphia prison — that seem certain to have strongly political themes. The wild card is the massive, public mass on Sunday. We don’t know yet what Francis will say, but this is the World Meeting of Families, and while the definition of family is in flux all over the world, Philadelphia is among the most gay-friendly big cities in the nation.

The point is this: Philadelphia will be the real-world backdrop for a pope that seems likely to address a host of hot-button urban issues. Such as… Read more »

Behold, the Ultimate Pope Map

Confused by the plethora of pope maps? You’re not alone. Which is why three Philly programmers have graciously put together the ultimate, interactive pope map. This map makes sense of the traffic boxes, the security perimeters, the towing zones — everything. Behold:

What could make such a map even better? An easy-to-understand visual timeline of events. And they’ve got that too.

The map uses publicly available information, so there’s nothing new in here. But it does a fantastic job of sorting all that disparate, scattered information into an easy-to-understand format. The map was coded by Lauren Ancona, Thomas Fuchs and Mjumbe Poe. Ancona and Poe are City of Philadelphia employees, who are performing this public service on their own time. Thanks to all three.

For much more on surviving — and enjoying! — Pope Francis’s visit to Philadelphia, make sure to check out Philadelphia magazine’s pope survival guide.

How Serious Was Seth Williams’s Review of Those Porny Emails?

Just about two weeks ago, District Attorney Seth Williams announced he wouldn’t be firing the three prosecutors in his employ caught up in the Porngate email scandal. They will, instead, get sensitivity training. If you missed that news, well, that was probably the point. Williams announced his decision at 4:23 p.m., on the Friday before Labor Day weekend (making it this year’s No. 1 news dump, bar none).

Williams justified his call in a two-page statement that was clearly designed to show that he undertook a vigorous review, and found that the employees in question — Pat Blessington, Marc Costanzo and Frank Fina — were good colleagues who had “regret and remorse” for participating in e-mail chains that were “demeaning, unprofessional, and wrong.”

The emails are certainly demeaning, unprofessional and wrong. By the standards of the modern American workplace, that much is indisputable. The 20 that have been released so far are not only pornographic, they’re also spectacularly misogynistic and racist.

But what about Williams’ other conclusions? Let’s take a closer look at four aspects of the D.A.’s statement regarding Fina, Blessington and Costanzo. Read more »

Kenney to Nutter: You Should Stand Up For Gays When Pope Visits

Jim Kenney, Pope Francis, Mayor Nutter. | Photos by Jeff Fusco and the Associated Press.

Jim Kenney, Pope Francis, Mayor Nutter. | Photos by Jeff Fusco and the Associated Press.

[Updated September 24, 4 p.m., to include Mayor Nutter’s response.]

Democratic mayoral nominee Jim Kenney is calling on the City of Philadelphia to get LGBT Catholics some face time with Pope Francis when he visits the city next week. Why? Because Kenney thinks the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the World Meeting of Families are deliberately excluding gay Philadelphians — and it’s made him livid.

In an op-ed published yesterday in the Philadelphia Gay News (and later distributed to the press by Kenney’s mayoral campaign), the city’s likely next mayor writes that he is “furious” with the Church, and he strongly implies that Mayor Nutter should tell the Pope, in front of a public audience, that he opposes the Church’s teachings on homosexuality. Writes Kenney:

During his trip to Philadelphia, the pope will visit a prison, Independence Hall and the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, in addition to attending a number of private receptions. The city could certainly facilitate an opportunity at any one of those events, public or private, for LGBT Catholics to speak to the pope and make their case for inclusion.

Alternatively, the city could borrow a play from President Obama’s recent trip to Kenya, in which he condemned the government for their treatment of LGBT citizens during a press conference with the country’s leadership. Philadelphia’s Mayor Nutter and the pope will no doubt have public or at least private face time. I urge the mayor to use that as an opportunity to make a stand on behalf of the LGBT Philadelphians who elected him.

Read more »

3 Huge Problems With the Charter School Movement

[Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comment from PIDC.] has a story this week that distills many of the troubling qualities of the charter school movement down to a disturbing essence.

Yes, it’s that bad.

This deeply reported piece by Alex Wigglesworth and Ryan Briggs zooms in on one school and one deal: the academically well-regarded String Theory Charter School, which is housed in a high-end eight-story office building at 16th and Vine. This is the same building that not long ago was the North American headquarters for GlaxoSmithKline. It would be eyebrow-raising enough if the taxpayer-funded String Theory were merely leasing such high-end digs. But the school — or, technically, a separate nonprofit run by two of the school’s board members — actually owns the tower, and acquired it through a $55 million tax-exempt bond deal. Read more »

Indego to Add 24 New Bike Stations in 2016

The wildly-successful Indego bike-sharing program will grow by a third next year, with 24 new bike stations, most of them to be clustered around city parks and waterfronts, the city said today.

What’s paying for the expansion? A $1.5 million grant from the William Penn Foundation.

“Indego is a valuable new amenity in Philadelphia, and its immediate popularity among residents and visitors speaks to the demand for active transportation options in the city,” Andrew Johnson, program director for Watershed Protection at the William Penn Foundation, said in a press release.

Indego notched 100,000 rides in its first two months, and more than 250,000 overall. Those are some healthy numbers for a brand new program. There’s serious demand for the service, and it makes a ton of sense to beef up availability in recreation hotspots. Read more »

Darrell Clarke Thinks Philly Schools Need the Firm Hand of City Council

Left, Darrell Clarke. Right, Bill Hite. | Photos by Philadelphia City Council and Associated Press.

Left, Darrell Clarke. Right, Bill Hite. | Photos by Philadelphia City Council and Associated Press.

Early this month, we told you about City Council President Darrell Clarke’s clear-cut power play to get Council more leverage over the School District of Philadelphia.

Now it’s looking like we underestimated his ambitions.

Clarke — who yesterday welcomed Council back from its long summer recess — wrote what amounts to a sweeping critique of the School District of Philadelphia and Superintendent Bill Hite in an op-ed published in Thursday’s Daily News.

He was responding to a tough recent editorial from the DN, which took Clarke to task for hounding Hite about problems — financial problems school district governance — that the Superintendent simply lacks the power to fix. Said the DN: “The superintendent is laboring under the illusion that the facts matter. They do not. The source of Clarke’s anger isn’t really over any particulars of district spending, it is over the fact that Council lacks control over how the money is spent.” Which, by the by, is exactly what Citified was telling you three days before the editorial ran.

In any event, Clarke was not cowed. His latest statement on the schools goes well beyond his past remarks, which had focused on the district’s financial management. Writes Clarke: Read more »

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