July 30, 2013 |
IT WAS JANUARY 2009, and the stars seemed to have aligned over Philadelphia, signaling what should have been a Golden Age of government transparency in our erstwhile corrupt-and-contented city. Pennsylvania's new Right-to-Know Law - with its key clause that all government records are presumed to be public - had just gone into effect. No longer must citizens prove why records should be available to the public. Under the strengthened law, government agencies must prove why not . And Philly had elected as mayor a reform-minded councilman, Michael Nutter, who was wrapping up his first year in Room 215. Open government is his thing.
June 26, 2013 |
Throughout his 2007 campaign and five-plus years as mayor, Michael Nutter has promoted the virtues of government transparency and open records. At a U.S. Conference of Mayors event in Philadelphia last month, described as an "innovation summit," Nutter patted himself on the back for releasing 47 data sets covering everything from crime to property values. But in the last year, the administration has created new procedural and legal hurdles, with attendant delays, for people seeking access to city records.
June 10, 2013 |
In journalism, we have a saying: Three makes a trend. A few weeks ago, I ran into three different movers and shakers on our city streets. Each one first shared disillusionment over the usual suspects rumored to be running for mayor in 2015, and then expressed disgust with the current occupant of the office. One's face twisted in disdain as he spat out the words: "The guy is irrelevant, and has been since the morning after his reelection. " Another noted, "It took six years to build the Hoover Dam; six years in, this guy still can't figure out how to collect delinquent taxes.
June 3, 2013 |
"MITT Romney doesn't get it. " That's what Michael Nutter said at last year's Democratic National Convention. The mayor jabbed hard and fast at the Republican contender on the subject of education. Never mind that Philadelphia's schools have been in perpetual crisis for years. And here we are again, $304 million short. His plan? Try to keep the blame on Harrisburg. If they won't raise vice taxes, don't blame Nutter for the fact that our kids' schools, if they are still open, do not have foreign language or music or art or counselors or nurses or lunch-room aides or secretaries or security or disciplinarians or librarians or books or paper.
May 23, 2013 |
MICHAEL NUTTER will welcome technologists and mayors to a closed-door Innovation Summit this week. At Media Mobilizing Project, we work with poor and working people every day to tell our stories and connect our struggles using media and technology. Mayors, listen up: these are the innovations that our communities need. 1) Pay Your Workers Enough . Forty-two percent of city workers earn under $35,310 annually - below poverty for a family of four - and this number has doubled since 2008.
May 14, 2013
I AM TIRED of hearing legislators crying "no new taxes. " Why? What's wrong about tax increases? Would you rather have new and more efficient roads and bridges, or no new taxes? Would you rather have a new and more efficient infrastructure, or no new taxes? Would you rather have a functioning and more efficient school system, or no new taxes? I could go on and on, but these are just a few serious problems that need to be addressed now. If these can't happen unless taxes are raised, then I say raise the taxes.
April 30, 2013 |
THE PENNSYLVANIA Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority. The name seems to embody governmental minutiae, a bureaucratic backwater with little relevance to taxpayers. At times in the past, that's not far from how PICA operated. But this year, the state board that oversees Philly's finances could play a dynamic role in shaping the city's budget plans. And it's already caught up in a political tango between City Hall and Harrisburg. "A lot of people are eyeing PICA," said Zack Stalberg, president of the good-government group Committee of Seventy.
April 24, 2013 |
WHILE MAYOR Nutter was at Yale University on Monday talking about gun violence, his anticrime efforts back in Philly took a beating from the city's top prosecutor. At a City Council hearing, District Attorney Seth Williams lambasted Nutter's proposed budget for the D.A.'s office of about $32 million, similar to the current year's funding. Williams said a flatlined budget would, in effect, be a cut for him because he's taken on new responsibilities and costs in recent years. "What we do is simply not valued by the mayor," said Williams, who is asking for $2.8 million more.
April 11, 2013
SO, PHILLY loses another firefighter, after which Mayor Nutter states, "We must never forget the grave risks that these heroic public servants take every day at a moment's notice on behalf of us all. " Now living in Nashville, I read the Daily News every day on my Kindle and I find Mayor Nutter's statement somewhat ironic. As someone who used to live one block from where Capt. Michael Goodwin died protecting my old neighborhood, I urge Michael Nutter to never forget the words of his statement above when he tries to fight the salary arbitration case against the firefighters, or refers to the noble police force of my hometown.
April 10, 2013 |
Tom Knox is bored. How else to explain the millionaire businessman's statement last week that he would not run for governor in 2014 after all and was aiming instead to inject himself into the 2015 race for mayor of Philadelphia? Back in 2007, Knox gained some credibility the way a tornado does - with brute power. He spent nearly $11 million of his own money to build an instant media brand and finish second in the five-candidate Democratic primary for mayor. The neophyte pol was leading in the polls until his opponents ganged up on him to suggest his lack of governing experience was a liability instead of an asset, and to attack some of his past business practices, notably offering high-interest payday loans when he owned a bank.