Nutter absent from Council - but his hand is felt

Voting by Council members was influenced by the man expected to be the next mayor.

Posted: September 21, 2007

The Michael Nutter era unofficially began yesterday as the Democratic mayoral candidate cast a long shadow on important Council legislation.

He wasn't in Council chambers, but his influence was palpable in the postponement of two referendums and the introduction of a Nutter-conceived bill to help ex-offenders get jobs.

Councilman Darrell L. Clarke, who cosponsored a ballot initiative to reform the Fairmount Park Commission, would cite only "issues that are off the radar screen" for his failure yesterday to obtain the 12 votes needed on the 17-member Council to put the question on the ballot.

Clarke's bill would have shifted the power of appointing Fairmount Park commissioners from city judges to the mayor and Council. It was cosponsored by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown and was backed by the Philadelphia Parks Alliance.

Nutter has avoided inserting himself publicly in Council business. Although he is considered a prohibitive favorite in November against Republican Al Taubenberger because of the city's huge Democratic majority, allies say he wants to respect the electoral process.

Two Council members, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Nutter wanted more input on both the Fairmount Park bill and Councilwoman Carol Ann Campbell's bill to expand the powers of the Inspector General's Office.

Through a spokesman, Nutter yesterday said only: "I am supportive of efforts to reform the Fairmount Park Commission and to create an independent inspector general. I look forward to working with Council on both of these issues next year if I am elected mayor."

Neither ballot question is dead, and each could appear on the primary ballot in the spring.

Either may have failed without Nutter's input, and some suggested that his influence was overstated - Campbell had been fielding concerns about the inspector-general bill from a number of sources.

Alexander L. "Pete" Hoskins, president of the Parks Alliance, said there appeared to be little disagreement about the substance of the Fairmount Park bill.

"It's all about timing," he said.

Councilwoman Marian Tasco summed up a sentiment apparently shared by several colleagues when she said "a new mayor will have to have some input" on those questions.

Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. said Nutter was a presence whether or not he lobbied Council.

"Whether real or perceived, the fact that there will be a new administration that is thought to have a new opinion on issues facing the city became apparent," Goode said. "That may or may not have had anything to do with how people voted, but there certainly was that type of mood in the air."

For his part, Goode introduced a bill at Nutter's request that would grant a $10,000 tax credit to employers who create jobs for ex-offenders. The bill establishes other requirements for those and other employers regarding ex-offenders.

"This new initiative, created by Michael Nutter, offers a more comprehensive approach to reentry for ex-offenders - it is the next step in addressing crime, violence, and the rate of prison recidivism in the city," Goode said.

Yesterday's meeting also saw the defeat of a resolution by Councilman Brian J. O'Neill that would have required police to check the immigration status of anyone charged with a felony. Councilman Jim Kenney said the measure sent the wrong message to immigrants and would result in reduced cooperation from the immigrant community in criminal matters.

The resolution failed, 12-4, with Council members O'Neill, Jack Kelly, Joan L. Krajewski and Frank Rizzo in support.

Council members Kenney and Frank DiCicco's legislation requiring stores to use biodegradable bags was referred to the Committee on the Environment.

As part of an ethics package, Rizzo introduced a bill to prohibit all city employees, including elected officials, from being involved in personnel decisions concerning their relatives. All supervisors would be requested to disclose any relatives, including life partners, under the legislation.


Contact staff writer Jeff Shields at 215-854-4565 or jshields@phillynews.com.

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