D.A., controller and judges sworn in at sleepy ceremony

TOM GRALISH / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER City Controller Alan Butkovitz (left) and D.A. Seth Williams are sworn in before a sparse crowd.
TOM GRALISH / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER City Controller Alan Butkovitz (left) and D.A. Seth Williams are sworn in before a sparse crowd.
Posted: January 08, 2014

DISTRICT ATTORNEY Seth Williams, City Controller Alan Butkovitz and a 28 Philadelphia judges took their oaths of office yesterday morning at a sparsely attended inauguration ceremony at the Academy of Music.

Butkovitz, an expected 2015 mayoral candidate beginning his third term as the city's fiscal watchdog, spent most of his speech discussing tax policy, poverty rates and other big-picture issues.

"We are truly becoming two cities," he said. "We need to boost the tax base significantly by growing the pie instead of spending our time trying to figure out different ways to slice it."

He drew applause for a line criticizing the closing of dozens of Philadelphia public schools in recent years, and his speech clashed with one before it by Mayor Nutter, who touted the city's economic progress and declining homicide rate in recent years.

Nutter and Butkovitz often butt heads, but the mayor had offered something of an olive branch in his remarks.

"We're not adversaries. We're actually advocates for the public," Nutter said. "I will continue to acknowledge when he has a good idea to save city tax dollars."

Butkovitz's son, Edward, introduced his father and impressed some with his speech.

Williams, kicking off his second four-year term, highlighted the city's higher conviction rates and lower homicide rates during his speech, repeating the phrase, "What a difference four years can make."

"We have tripled the number of prosecutors that work in our charging unit, ensuring that we only charge the right people and only with the right crimes," said Williams, while describing how his office responded to an Inquirer series on Philadelphia's low conviction rate.

He drew the strongest reaction, however, for a part of his speech that wasn't scripted.

"I can spout a buttload - that was actually a 'boatload' - of statistics," Williams said to laughter. "After everything I said . . . that will be in the paper tomorrow."

The district attorney was introduced by another Williams: his longtime friend state Sen. Tony Williams, who, like Butkovitz, is eyeing the 2015 mayor's race.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court welcomed seven new judges to the bench and swore in 14 who run retention elections. Municipal Court gained three new faces and kept four.

All new judges were endorsed by the Democratic City Committee or backed by local unions.

The Philadelphia Boys Choir performed, and Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille and Council Majority Leader Curtis Jones Jr. led the ceremonies.

But most other Council members, including President Darrell Clarke, were not present. Only Jones, Bobby Henon and Kenyatta Johnson showed up.

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah was apparently scheduled to attend but didn't: When introducing those onstage as the ceremony began, Jones said Fattah's name, looked around and added, "Well, maybe not."

The auditorium appeared about half-empty for the rainy Monday-morning affair. Attendance at the ceremony mirrored the turnout for the election that led to it: About 12 percent of voters showed up for the off-year contest, which had no seriously contested races.


On Twitter: @SeanWalshDN

Blog:ph.ly/PhillyClout

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