ThinkFest Recap: Mayor Nutter Says Jim Kenney Can Be “Even Better Mayor Than I’ve Been”

By building upon his accomplishments, of course.

Philly Mag deputy editor Patrick Kerkstra and Mayor Michael Nutter at ThinkFest.

Philly Mag deputy editor Patrick Kerkstra and Mayor Michael Nutter at ThinkFest.

Did you miss ThinkFest live? Watch it here.

Mayor Michael Nutter said Friday that Jim Kenney can do an “even better” job than he did by expanding upon recent gains in the city, such as the uptick in the high school graduation rate and the decline in homicides.

“He can build on that foundation,” he said, “and be an even better mayor than I’ve been.”

During a wide-ranging discussion with Philly Mag deputy editor Patrick Kerkstra, the topic of the next mayor naturally came up a lot. Nutter said he believes Kenney will be a good leader because he “has that passion for the city.” He said he was able to see what Kenney can do “up close and personal” on City Council. He also praised St. Joseph’s Prep, where the two men went to high school and learned “fundamental core values.”

He said he didn’t know who would be on Kenney’s senior staff, but that “you’ll get done the things you can get done because of the great people [in your administration.]”

Asked if the recent improvements in the city are sustainable, Nutter said yes, if those topics are a priority.

“It takes a daily focus on those issues, and it takes serious leadership on the top,” he said of maintaining recent gains in public safety in particular.

But enough about Kenney. What about Nutter’s own plans for the future? What’s he going to do when he leaves office? “I have no idea,” he said. Nutter added that he would be involved with the Democratic National Convention as well as the presidential campaign, but that he didn’t know exactly what his day job would be during that time.

Other highlights:

Nutter on income inequality in Philadelphia: “We have the highest poverty rate of any of the top 10 cities in America, and we’re listed as No. 19 of the richest cities. … This is insanity.”

Nutter on the city’s political culture: Kerkstra asked Nutter how healthy he believes the city’s political culture is currently. Nutter laughed. “Really?” he asked. “That’s what you’re trying to do to me? … It’s like the theme song from Love Story. Where do I even begin?” Nutter decried the low voter turnout across the country, saying it “is one of the most frightening local, state and national trends in recent American history. I think we should really be concerned about such lofty concepts as democracy and citizen participation.”

Nutter also said he wants more young Philadelphians to take the next step and run for office. “I’m increasingly concerned that many young people are just finding other avenues,” he said. “There’s a nobility in this profession” and “you get a psychic benefit just about every day,” he argued. Plus, “someone needs to do this work and be committed to it.”

Nutter on bragging: “I think we’ve just been too shy in too many instances, shy about ourselves and many of the great things going on in our city. … We need to shout out to the world some of the great things that are going on in this city.”