What’s Worse? Boring Mayor Nutter or Tax-Happy Mayor Nutter?

Why Philadelphia isn't living up to its world-class city potential.

I swore I was done. I promised I would never waste another column writing about how pathetic Philadelphia is. And how its complacent residents and businessmen get exactly what they deserve. Washing my hands of all things Philly, I pledged to never again comment on Michael Nutter, who is, without a doubt, America’s most clueless and excruciatingly boring mayor.

But I failed.

It is simply impossible not to rip into Tweedledee’s latest efforts to drive the final stake into the heart of a once-great city by trying to impose, yes, more taxes! But this isn’t a column about how astronomical taxes actually decrease revenue and further a city’s demise. Michael Nutter has never, nor will ever, understand that, so why bother?

It’s much more fun to look at Mayor’s “legacy” to date and marvel about how bad he really is.

In 2011, the end of Nutter’s first term, Philadelphia enjoyed the dubious honor of owning the highest murder rate of any large American city. But in a move that can only be characterized as deceptive, Nutter continues to compare the murder rate each year to that of 2007, the high water mark for killings.

When the police department states that murders in 2012 are “down 15 percent,” a reasonable person would assume that was compared to the prior year. It’s not. In reality, 2012 had more murders than any year since 2007.

Under Nutter’s direction, Philadelphia also wins the championship for highest poverty level. And as a bonus, it also leads in “deep poverty,” which is people living on less than half the poverty-line income level.

Then there’s the violent crime rate, the homeless rate, the illiteracy rate, the unemployment rate, the dropout rate, the graduation rate, and the rate of high-schoolers not going to college.

Is there anyone who doesn’t know whether these rates are good—or horrendous? Anyone? Bueller? Nutter? Anyone?

Didn’t think so.

And what is Nutter’s go-to explanation?

“Cities are hard-pressed to fight (these problems) by ourselves, and we really need partnerships from the state and federal governments as well,” Nutter told KYW Newsradio. That was his response to the poverty issue, but it’s the same for everything. Look to the state and feds for bailouts and handouts.

For years, the funding flowed, and while the problems only got worse (no surprise there), Nutter could at least spin the tale that the money would make everything rainbows and lollipops—so long as that spigot was kept open.

Well, the Piper came calling, and taxpayers’ largesse has slowed dramatically. So what’s a beleaguered mayor to do? Show initiative by freeing up private enterprise so that it can grow and add jobs? Employ creativity in the way our children are educated? Demonstrate leadership by making the city operate efficiently and within its means—the same as hardworking families and well-run companies have done?

Of course not. Like most politicians, Nutter has once again gone to the only playbook he knows: tax, tax, and tax some more.

This time, he wants to raise the liquor-by-the-drink tax to 15 percent and implement a whopping $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes so that he can—you know this one by heart—help fund the black hole called Philadelphia schools.

The biggest problem, after you stop laughing, is figuring out which is more insane: the high probability that these taxes will be enacted, or that he actually thinks they will generate a fraction of the $70 million he predicts.

Reasonable people might be asking how Nutter could actually believe these taxes will work, and how they won’t accelerate the already significant exodus from the city?

In Nutter’s case, the answer is easy. When you’re proud of your city having the highest cumulative tax burden in the nation, more taxes is always the answer.

Nutter’s new taxes would certainly have lots of company, as his cherished revenue streams include taxes on: amusements, parking, business income and receipts, sales and use, hotel, tobacco and tobacco-related products, liquor, use and occupancy, mechanical amusement (distinct from amusement, of course), valet parking (again, different from regular parking), net profits, vehicle rental, outdoor advertising, trash, real estate, and, of course, the infamous city wage tax.

And he tried to get a soda tax, too, because he apparently cared about how fat people were becoming. He failed.

Of particular interest is that Philadelphians pay not six percent sales tax like everyone else, but eight. Yep, that was part of the deal Nutter made with the state legislature several years ago so that the “extra” revenue that tax would supposedly provide, along with suspending payments to Philadelphia’s bankrupt pension fund for two years, would allow the city to regain its financial footing. The plan was to then to pay $800 million into the pension to save its retirees from financial ruin.

Ummm, does anyone think that happened, given that the payment was due several years ago. Anyone? Nutter? Anyone?

Didn’t think so.

S0 many taxes are levied in the name of furthering “public education.” You know, the school system that perpetually runs massive deficits, has zero accountability, and has to cheat on standardized tests to pretend that it’s not the toxic waste dump everyone knows it to be. And despite all the billions spent, how many Philadelphia students pass basic proficiency tests? Here’s a hint. The percentage is much lower than Tom Corbett’s approval rating. And that’s pretty low.


In presiding over the inexcusable lack of snow removal, innumerable police department scandals, violent flash mobs, endless taxation and regulation, and the bottomless pit called Philadelphia schools, Mayor Nutter has taken incompetence to a new level.

Unparalleled history. Ethnic neighborhoods. Great sports fans. Two major river systems begging for development (like the immensely successful riverwalks in San Antonio and Cincinnati). With what had been a world-class city at his feet, Nutter had the opportunity of a lifetime. Had he accomplished just a fraction of what he could have, the sky was truly the limit.

Instead, he crashed and burned on Day One. And it’s gotten worse ever since.

As Clint Eastwood says in Heartbreak Ridge, “You can love me, or you can hate me. Just don’t bore me.”

It’s tough to accomplish two of those three, but Michael Nutter has done so splendidly. Anyone not know which two?

Anyone? Mayor?

Didn’t think so.