How About a Nutter Executive Order Decriminalizing Marijuana in Philadelphia?

When it comes to the mayor’s bully pulpit, are gross injustices against African Americans simply not on the menu?

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Philadelphia is a city of big personalities and big egos. And, the biggest personality, both in style and substance, is His Honor the Mayor.

According to its Home Rule Charter, Philadelphia believes in a single, very strong executive.  This is reiterated time and time again throughout the document, the de facto constitution of the city. This is also a good thing because it means that in time of dire straits, when political courage is needed, it may be found in the stroke of a pen. As the popularly elected chief executive of a city of 1.5 million Americans, Philly’s mayor must have an acute sense of democratic will along with a deft understanding of practical policies and, most importantly, the limits and the scope of his power.

As Philadelphia mayor, Edward G. Rendell demonstrated this understanding expertly when he demanded reopening the city’s public pools and libraries on the weekend, the financial consequences or quibbling of City Council be damned. “When I became mayor,” Rendell told years ago, “2 of our 61 branch libraries were open on Saturdays.  So, working people weren’t able to take their kids to the library.  I forced the library to start using volunteers.”  At the conclusion of Rendell’s two terms as Mayor, all 61 branches of the library were open six days a week during the school year. Like the public libraries, Rendell also demanded the pools to be open.

After all, he was the Mayor.

And, he demanded concessions from bloated, business-hostile public workers’ unions. The unions howled and never forgot Rendell’s betrayal of liberal canons.

Still, it had to be done, and we were better for it because it communicated to everyone that Philly was back open for business after the abysmal 1980s mayoral tenure of W. Wilson Goode and the racist fear-mongering of Frank Rizzo. It gave us hope, and these executive actions by Rendell ushered in one of the most stunning eras of economic development and social betterment in Philadelphia’s history.

Carrying on this liberal tradition last week, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter exerted his executive swagger by banning smoking in outdoor public parks despite this not actually being a problem. After all, we already have littering laws on the books, and nobody in his right mind believes that outdoor smoking is the same kind of harmful secondhand smoke found indoors.

Still, Nutter wants to keep a high profile as the city’s chief executive and at least get the “participation” ribbon in the race to be Philly’s best mayor — so he did it anyway.  It was a stylish chord to strike, particularly in a city seemingly obsessed with wagging its finger at its citizenry without doing a damn thing to actually improve lives.

Last month, when Jared Shelley of the Philadelphia Business Journal asked Nutter on 6ABC’s “Ask the Mayor” Twitter conversation what the city was doing about the trash rife on Philly’s streets, Nutter responded in all-caps:  “PEOPLE SHOULD STOP THROWING TRASH ON THE GROUND.”   OK then.

Yesterday, Nutter executed his executive privilege by signing an order raising the city’s minimum wage surrounding city contracts and subcontracts.  He has the power to do it, so he did it!

More important to Nutter’s action, though, is the fact that raising the minimum wage is now politically expedient and requires no real effort on his part.

There’s something very much not politically expedient for him to recognize going on right now, though.

The Philadelphia Police Department disproportionately arrests African Americans for marijuana possession. This isn’t a small disparity, either:  Police arrest African Americans at five times the rate the PPD arrests white folks for the same crime. This is wrong. And, Nutter has unilateral executive control over the Philadelphia Police Department based on the Home Rule Charter and according to every reasonable person in the universe, too.

Councilman Jim Kenney even called Nutter out on the Mayor’s inaction in terms of this perverse injustice, insisting that Nutter could stop it today with an executive order decriminalizing marijuana.

“I don’t know what Councilman Kenney thinks an executive [like Mayor Nutter] could do unilaterally,” responded Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald to Philadelphia Weekly. I guess executive orders can’t really do anything aside from, you know, opening the libraries, banning smoking in public parks, and raising the minimum wage. Gross injustices against African Americans are not on the menu, apparently.

Based upon his track record, Nutter can do everything under the sun with executive orders except, you know, things that actually require political courage. And, when the city sucks at doing something like picking up trash? Or, the police are apparently targeting African Americans specifically for a crime everyone else also commits?

Well, that’s your problem, Philadelphia.

The Mayor is not just a cheerleader for the city. He’s also supposed to be the actual leader of the city.  Right now, he’s only one of these things.

We’re seriously suffering for it.

Follow @jawshkruger on Twitter.

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  • Immortal Illumined

    the greatest plant in the universe is almost free, LET FREEDOM RING! 13

    Boss Franklin would cry in his grave if he knew how PENN denied freedom today

    “any doctor against marijuana is a doctor of death” – cali secret 420

    from 0 states to half the country, from low 20% approval to almost 70%, cali runs this planet by 2 decades, time to tie marijuana to the 2014, 2016 elections, out with the old, in with the new

    20 years behind us southern states, sad and scary….nobody denies freedoms like the south, nobody…the top ten incarcerators on the planet are southern states…even if marijuana reforms did pass the republiCANTS in charge would deny you all your freedoms, centuries of practice…no matter though, we never planned on getting your backwards brethren from day one, half the country already but not one southern state, lol…not 1….the new generations are taking over in the south and they are nothing like their freedom denying parents, let’s ride…

    Deaths by Alcohol and Tobacco: Millions
    Deaths by Prescription Drugs: Quadrupled in last decade
    Deaths by Guns: Millions
    Deaths by the food we are fed: Millions
    Deaths by Marijuana: 0, ever…they are killing my American family while denying freedom

    love and freedom forever


  • matthew brandley

    Ah yes pot, the gateway drug to stupidity and the denial of well paying jobs. Good luck with that idiots. Nobody who wants a well paying job will ever get one since most well paying employers test for drugs. Guess you clowns never even think about that. Oh 1 more thing. Get injured on the job? automatic drug screen . Pot shows up? you dont get paid stupid! I suggest you think long and hard about what you wish for fools.

    • NeCromX

      Funny how do I make $19/hr then. The same people are already going to smoke it if it is decriminalized or not so now they won’t get arrested for it and waste the polices time. It isn’t your problem if people can’t get jobs because of it. If they want a job that drug tests that badly they will stop smoking. If they don’t want to stop smoking they can find a job that doesn’t drug test.

    • Northeaster

      As usual your unhinged anti-pot ranting has no basis. Only cheap and lazy employers use drug screens these days.

    • Adam William Majkowski

      Those things are going out the door as well. FYI the best jobs right now do not drug test. Only low level jobs drug test. College grads applying to corporate positions are not drug tested and if they are it’s only once. Not to mention that really is a lame excuse for wanting to keep weed illegal. We are not going to stop at legalization. Nuh uh. We are going for exoneration of all who have been arrested or fined, compensation for those people, and prosecution for anyone involved in criminalizing weed in any way. Companies will not be allowed to test for pot anymore. It will be considered invasion of privacy as it should be.

  • informl

    Legalize it.

  • Adam William Majkowski

    Phase one : Legalize Weed…….Phase three : Phillies win the World Series…..

  • The only candidate for governor of Pennsylvania who would legalize marijuana, free its prisoners and expunge their records:

  • matthew brandley

    To all you idiots on here who want it legalized. Having worked in psych untits, worked with troubled kids whos parents who have skoked it , Worked on detox units whos people have started out smoking pot and have gone on to harder drugs, it destroys families, lives brain cells careers d you clowns could care less. AS a former emt I have done cpr on to many o d patients to count. . You people could care less except for your own selfish wants and needs. Your all pathetic

    • NeCromX

      Actually it doesn’t do any of those things you say. It’s called an addictive personality and most people start with Alcohol that is perfectly legal. If people can’t control themselves how is that the problem of those of us who are responsible. You can drink yourself to death legally any day of the week and you are going to go on about drugs that don’t even cause as much deaths per year as alcohol or prescription drugs. You gotta be lying about your EMT experience if you don’t know that.

  • Philadelphian

    Users are losers.