Mayor Nutter Sails Into a Second Term
by caroline waxler
As far as job growth is concerned, he is spearheading the conversion of the Philadelphia Navy Yard into a clean-energy campus. Already the Navy Yard includes more than 100 companies, 8,000 employees, and $400 million in private investment. The mayor shared this part of his vision in his acceptance speech on November 8. “Four years ago, I said that Philly could be the greenest city in the United States of America. Today the federal government is investing $130 million at our Navy Yard to build a clean-tech hub, our recycling rate is three times higher than it has ever been, and we are one of the leading cities in America taking advantage of the growth in the green economy.” The mayor hopes that this “greening” will translate into the other sort of green—which will go into Philadelphians’ pockets in the form of new jobs. “If you’ve got a job, you’re paying taxes. If you’ve got a job, you’re supporting yourself and your family. If you’ve got a job, you’re not running around the streets engaging in all this nonsense that we see out here. Making sure Philadelphians have jobs is my number-one job.”
When dealing with the Herculean problem of gun control, the mayor is smarter than to tangle with the NRA. Instead his focus is on curbing and ultimately stopping the proliferation of illegal guns. “Did you know that now you can rent a gun?” he asked incredulously. “Illegal guns are contributing to the slaughter of African-American men and boys across America, and we’re not done until the penalty for being caught with one of these weapons is so severe that it makes you think twice about touching one, let alone carrying one.” Since he took office, there are 14 percent fewer shootings, 15 percent fewer violent crimes, and a 20 percent drop in homicides.
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As for education, when Nutter entered his first term, he faced the same dilemmas as other big-city mayors: shrinking budgets, low test scores, a wall of bureaucracy, and one special circumstance: The state government had taken control of the school district during the 2001 budget crisis and was not making a success of it. In spite of these challenges, the mayor has made headway in improving city schools, starting with establishing the Mayor’s Office on Education to create a new funding formula, bringing an additional $51 million dollars in funding to Philadelphia students. “Four years ago, I said that more of our young people should be graduating from high school and going on to college. Today—for the first time—the high school graduation rate has increased to more than 60 percent, we have had nine straight years of testscore gains—the best of any major school district in the country—and the percentage of Philadelphians with a college degree is on the rise.” Although there is still a long way to go, Nutter is committed to continuing the struggle. “We cannot grow, we cannot compete, we cannot prosper as a city if we do not focus like a laser beam on creating a learning environment that allows each child to reach his or her full potential. It’s a moral imperative, and it’s an economic imperative.”
In September he signed an executive order to reestablish the Mayor’s Commission on African- American Males, cochaired by former Mayor W. Wilson Goode Sr., who created it 20 years ago; Bilal Qayyum, president of the Father’s Day Rally Committee; and Jamar “Izzo” Izzard, a radio host at 107.9 FM. The commission was formed to address issues related to unemployment, incarceration, lack of education, and healthcare for African-American males. In October, Nutter hosted the Cities United Conference, which dealt with how to respond to the problem of violence in African-American communities and to account for the societal and familial impacts of this violence. Nutter feels very strongly about improving the plight of African-American men and boys in his city. “I’m the mayor of all Philadelphians, and it’s my responsibility to create jobs, improve education, and enhance public safety for people, no matter what neighborhood they live in. But the numbers don’t lie, and there is a particular problem in cities across this country with African-American men and boys killing African-American men and boys. That’s an outrage, a national problem, and something that we have to talk about honestly, deal with, and address.”
photography by ryan collerd; Kait Privitera (election night)