The Philadelphia Magazine Endorsement: Nutter for Mayor

From murder to pay-to-play, it’s time to change the status quo. Only Michael Nutter has the ideas — and sense of urgency — to pull it off

Brady, with his working-class charm, would have been a great candidate in a bygone Philadelphia; today, his is literally the face of a machine that is at the root of our problems.

And Knox, a self-styled “outsider,” is anything but, as we outline on page 130.

These times call for change and urgency and vision. In his reasonable and understated way, that is what Michael Nutter represents. We interviewed all five candidates, and overwhelmingly chose Nutter in a staff vote, for his vision and specificity. He was, for example, the only candidate who seemed to realize that the title of the brilliant Thomas Friedman book The World Is Flat does indeed apply to the Delaware Valley. He spoke of the need for regional leadership and cooperation, and called for an end to our “suburbs vs. city” loggerheads. He pointed to Chicago, where Mayor Richard Daley founded the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus — 272 mayors working together to advance the common good across rural, urban and suburban lines. Nutter proposes a Metropolitan County Caucus here, in an effort to bridge the regional divide.

In a larger sense, that is the true upside of a Nutter mayoralty: He stands a greater chance of bridging the divides that currently hold Philadelphia back. John Street, after a 2003 reelection characterized by stark race-based rhetoric and voting, had an opportunity to connect us, one to the other: black to white, suburbanite to urbanite, young to old. He didn’t even try. Nutter has the potential to make us One Philadelphia. Nowhere was that more on display than in his response when he came to our Center City office and we asked about the murder epidemic:

Two hundred and ninety-six black men were killed in Philadelphia last year. If the Ku Klux Klan came to town and killed 296 black men, the town would be in an uproar, we’d be in total lockdown, the FBI, CIA and three agencies you’ve never heard of would be here, trying to figure this problem out. The fact is, since 72 percent of the victims have a criminal record and 81 percent of the perpetrators have a criminal record, and it’s happening “out there,” people are like, “Why do I have to worry about it?” You need to worry about it. It’s damaging our reputation. It is literally tearing the heart out of this city. In this current environment, no one can say anything, because there’s a black mayor and a black police commissioner and 85 percent of the people killed last year were black. You can’t really say anything because, oh God, you’re criticizing a black mayor. I wouldn’t care if the guy was polka-dotted. Four hundred and six people dead? We need to be saying something. Whether it’s someone with a criminal record or a five-year-old girl in her mother’s car, citizens of this city are being killed, and we have a moral obligation to do something and not get caught up in this race stuff. If you live in one of these neighborhoods, if you’re ducking and dodging bullets every day, what you’re trying to figure out is: “What in the world are the police doing? And where are they?” If you don’t live in one of these neighborhoods, you’re talking about “martial law” and how “Stop, Ask and Frisk” means “People’s rights are going to be abused.” We will not abuse people’s rights. But it is more dangerous for a black man in this city between 18 and 40 than it is to be in Iraq. I want to stop the killing in this city. Somebody got a better idea? I’m all ears. Otherwise, we can just continue to do what we’ve been doing. I don’t think it’s been working.

MICHAEL NUTTER HAS his flaws. He can get wonky, and he has a reputation for ­micro-managing. But in this one response, as throughout his political career, Nutter exhibits precisely what the next mayor needs to do. He needs to talk about this country’s original birth defect — race — in a way that speaks to all Philadelphians, and he needs to inspire, and he needs to boldly lead in a way that confronts our status-quo culture. We endorse Michael Nutter for mayor, and we simultaneously challenge him to do what Philadelphia needs: place principle over pragmatism, straight talk over obfuscation, the common good over the narrow interest. And if you elect him, we pledge to call him out should he fall short of walking the talk that inspired us to single him out as the best choice to lead this city.


Comments on this story? Please send them to us.