Monday’s City Reads
Local Read: “Nutter Looks Back on Seven Years of Accomplishment.”
The final phase of lame-ducktitude is the legacy assessment stage, and it has begun in earnest for Mayor Nutter. First, of course, was Simon Van Zuylen-Wood’s absolutely terrific profile of the mayor and the city’s feelings about him in this month’s Philadelphia magazine. If you haven’t yet read it, you must. It opens with Nutter comparing himself to Donovan McNabb and gets better from there.
Today the Inquirer weighs in, with a story built on a Chris Hepp interview of Nutter. The mayor defended his record, as you’d expect, and as he did in his conversations with Simon, Nutter took a few shots at his critics.
“If you look at a list of measurements of this city government, you will see that, in virtually every category, we are up where you want to be going up and we are going down where you want to be going down,” [Nutter] said.
So why this ennui as his administration winds down? A sense of disappointment in some quarters pointedly captured in a recent Philadelphia Magazine headline: “What’s Your Problem With Michael Nutter, Philadelphia?”
“When folks talk about leadership, I’ve come to the conclusion that what some are talking about is drama. They like drama,” Nutter said. “I know I’m not the most exciting person in the universe. I know I’m not the most interesting. We are not dramatic. But we are tremendously productive.”
There may be a few more legacy pieces in the days to come, followed by a glut of stories next December rehashing all of this again that very few people will read.
National Read: “Welcome to the Open Data Movement’s Turbulent Teenage Years.”
Writing for Next City, Andrew Zaleski takes a hard look at what’s happening to the government open data movement now that all the low-hanging fruit has its own API. Fittingly, Zaleski leads with Mark Headd, who was the high-profile face of the City of Philadelphia’s avant garde open data movement, right up until he quit the job at least in part over frustration with other city departments and the resistance they threw up to the release of more sensitive yet undeniably public datasets (such as tax delinquency balances and city employee salary information). So now Headd is gone, and while there are still a lot of open data advocates within the Nutter administration, Zaleski contends that the data isn’t yet making a big difference in the lives of most Philadelphians. And what happens once Nutter’s successor is sworn-in.
Philadelphia has the infrastructure for an open government. The next hurdle is making it matter to people outside of the city’s small civic tech community — making it relevant to the lives of people more interested in safe streets and good schools than the lofty ideals of a digital revolution. Nutter will leave office before being able to claim that accomplishment. Will his successor?
It’s a smart read, and Zaleski does a nice job of putting the Philadelphia story in a national context. Check it out.