Politics: Honey, I Shrunk the Mayor

What do the Mummers Parade, the SEPTA negotiations, the Dad Vail Regatta and the Manayunk bike race have in common? All required Congressman Bob Brady to swoop in and bail out Mayor Michael Nutter

The difference in styles showed up best during the Dad Vail Regatta controversy last year. For more than half a century, the Regatta has brought in hoity-toity rowing clubs from all over the nation and Canada for an event that draws roughly 30,000 spectators. That’s a lot of hotel rooms and cheesesteaks in a down economy. But when the Dad Vail’s leaders informed Nutter they were moving the race to Rumson, New Jersey, “The Nutter people appeared to be focused on getting the Regatta back in 2011,” says John Hogan, Commodore of the Schuylkill Navy, “whereas the Brady people were all about keeping it here in 2010.”

Philly never needed to face the threat of losing the Dad Vail. Before turning to Rumson, the Dad Vail board sent the city at least one letter, asking for a sit-down with the administration. It got no response. A similar thing happened with the Democratic National Convention. The Democratic Party wrote the Nutter administration asking if Philly might like to host in 2012. But there was no response until Brady started making phone calls. It’s incredible enough that our Good Government Mayor is running an administration that fails to do something as basic as open the mail. But transgressions like these are all the worse when the same guy keeps turning up at the scene of your boo-boos, looking more capable.

In the Dad Vail scenario, Brady found an ally on the Dad Vail board who confided that little Rumson might not have the infrastructure to play host to such a big event. In fact, as the days and weeks passed, the Dad Vail people were finding out more about Rumson — and panicking. But Rumson’s shortcomings could have been Googled by the Mayor’s Office — that is, if they had thought in terms of aggressively fighting to keep the race here at all. Heck, plain common sense will tell you a town of 7,000 people probably can’t find parking for an event four times the size of its own population.

Brady knew the regatta was in trouble. So when Dad Vail board president Jim Hanna called and requested a meeting with local officials, he showed up ready. “I didn’t like the way they had treated the Mayor, or the city,” says Brady. “And I told the Mayor, ‘We’re not letting these guys leave without committing to us for 2010.’”

When Hanna concluded the meeting by asking to take the issue back to his board, Brady stood, leaning his great bulk over the conference room table, then sneered and jerked a meaty thumb at all the players in the room. “You have a board to report to,” he told Hanna. “He has a city. I have a Congressional district. And after what you guys did, if you don’t go out there and announce you’re coming back in 2010, I’m gonna have my own press conference!”