Under Nutter, Philly Became Awesome

Sorry Rendell. You've been left in the dust.

Photo by James Losey, Creative Commons License.

Photo by James Losey, Creative Commons License.

Editor’s Note: Updated with bullet points reflecting the city’s improvements over the last seven years.

The Nutter administration has just released a huge data dump that not-so-subtly makes the case that Mayor Michael Nutter may be the most capable and enlightened executive that Philadelphia has had. Ever.

It’s called the “Tale of the Tape” and it is… comprehensive. The report, which you can see in full below, zooms in an array of indicators that make the Nutter administration look very good indeed. Remarkably, this report doesn’t just look at the city’s performance before Nutter took office and after. No, no no. This one takes scorekeeping to a whole other level, benchmarking Nutter’s term with those of mayors Street, Rendell and Goode.

How much cash did Nutter raise for city schools compared to his predecessors? How much did the murder rate decline under Nutter, as opposed to those mooks who came before? Under Nutter, the city’s population has grown 3.6 percent. What about the other hizzoners? They all lost population. Losers. And don’t even get started about bond ratings. Nutter enters his final year with an A2 from Moody’s. Goode had a B; that’s right, a B.

What’s fueling such over-the-top victory lapping? Nutter is on the edge of irrelevance, as the election for his replacement draws near. This is also the season (beginning with Philadelphia magazine’s own extensive retrospective) for legacy pieces from local media outlets on the Nutter years. The administration–which has been pretty miserable at telling its story for a long time now–is making a major effort to shape those pieces and influence how Philadelphians think of their mayor.

And so the report includes the following nuggets:

  • Part 1 Crimes, down 17 percent.
  • Fire deaths, down 32 percent.
  • Local funding for city schools, up 43 percent.
  • Job growth of 4,164 (which is awful, really, but much better than Nutter’s predecessors).
  • A 7.1 percent decrease in the residential wage tax (no mention is made of the three property tax hikes).
  • A 20 percent increase in the number of Philadelphians with bachelor’s degrees or better.
  • You get the idea.

There are, of course, some indicators where the Nutter administration doesn’t stack up so well. The 26.3 percent poverty rate, for instance, is higher than the 23.8 percent Street bequeathed Nutter. The report does include the depressing poverty figures, but you’ll find no mention of progress on tax delinquency in here, or a chart documenting a decline in police corruption cases. That’s fine. Mayors don’t need to trumpet their administration’s failings.

What might be more important, when weighing these seemingly staggering improvements in Philadelphia’s condition over the last 30 years, is to think about how much further many other cities have come over the same period. The population gain of 53,000 tallied in the Nutter years beats the hell out of the decline his predecessors posted, but it’s no better than what New York, or Los Angeles or Washington D.C. have done. Other cities have matched or surpassed Philly’s declining homicide totals as well. And most cities, remember, are not starting off in the same enormous hole that Nutter inherited in 2008.

None of that takes away from what the administration has accomplished. But it should temper the triumphalist cries just a bit.

Philadelphia Tale of the Tape