Is It Possible That Our Twitter-Obsessed Mayor Isn’t Communicating With Occupy Philly?
Yesterday afternoon, Michael Nutter held a press conference at City Hall to address the latest developments with Occupy Philly. “Occupy Philly has changed so we must change our relationship with them,” he announced, citing communication issues as one of the primary problems facing the alliance between city government and the Occupiers.
In any other city, I would find this lack of communication to be totally plausible, but not in Philadelphia. Long before the Occupation began, Michael Nutter’s proved that he wants to be accessible to the public in a way that no other Philly mayor has. I’m not talking about showing up to shake hands at block parties or blowing the air gun at the start of the Philly Marathon. This is a politician so committed to direct communication with the people of Philadelphia that he tweets for himself—often times making himself seem dorky or overly excitable. For better or for worse, Michael Nutter is putting himself out there for the citizens of this city.
Just this weekend, after seeing local hot-shot chef Marc Vetri complaining about the mayor’s fair-weather friendship —only to speaking to Vetri about development on North Broad Street and not Vetri’s concern over the new tip tax—Nutter essentially begged Vetri on Twitter, a public forum, to privately send him a phone number so the two could discuss Vetri’s concerns. Shortly after, Vetri tweeted that he’d spoken on the phone to the Mayor and that he’d learned a good lesson about the mayor (and later mentioned how badly he felt for throwing the mayor under the bus).
And it’s not just famous Philadelphians. During Hurricane Irene, residents from all over the city tweeted at the mayor with questions and comments—and he responded to them. When citizens tweet about issues throughout the city , Nutter takes a moment to pass the message along to Philly 311 or asks for more information to be sent privately. This isn’t an intern or publicist; this is real-life access to the head of our local government.
He’s not just using the internet, either. In the last 18 months, I have known three people who have received personal phone calls from the mayor. (Two were victims of violence in the city and one lost a brother in a tragic accident—none of them were well-known citizens.) Sure, it may be part of the mayor’s daily duties to reach out to these people, but my point here is simple: He calls. He asks how they’re doing. And for the few moments he’s on the phone with them, he’s listening to their concerns.
This is not a mayor who lets his press people do the talking for him. He’s out there, communicating with the people of Philadelphia on a regular basis about everything from the Phillies to traffic issues to crime. Based on this, I find it difficult to believe that Nutter isn’t telling the truth when he claims to have attempted communication with the Occupiers.
Philadelphia’s Occupy movement has been largely peaceful (with the sad exception of yesterday’s news that a woman was allegedly raped by another Occupier). While movements in other cities have been marred by violence, arrests and confrontations, Philadelphia’s Occupiers have become notable for their drum circles and ’80s proms. This is to the credit of both the protesters and the government.
With that in mind, I wonder: Why can’t the Occupiers throw the mayor a freaking bone here? Have a meeting, communicate with his people and move across the street so one thousand members of the 99% can get to work on construction jobs at Dilworth Plaza?
It’s time for the Occupy Philly movement to organize themselves and find a way to communicate with the mayor, who has, overwhelming been supportive. Communication is a two-way street and this time, the government isn’t the road block.