Tag Archives: philadelphia mayor michael nutter

A Sad Display by a Soon-to-be Former Public Official

As long as they’re not becoming lobbyists, The Curmudgeon doesn’t begrudge elected officials who, upon leaving office, decide they want to make some money. Many elected offices pay pretty well and have generous pensions, but if someone wants to make more money, that’s certainly his or her right – and contrary to what a lot of people seem to think, many of those former officials have a lot to offer a private sector employer.

But there’s a way to go about it, and mostly, that way involves just doing it and not spilling your guts to a reporter about it.

Exhibit A for the wrong way to do this was Hillary Clinton, who famously declared that she and her husband, upon leaving the White House, were “dead broke” even though they both were about to sign seven-figure book deals and both had seemingly limitless opportunities to make money (and without getting involved in something stupid like their ill-fated 1980s Whitewater investment). She should have just kept her mouth shut and gone about making money.

Exhibit B is Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter, whose replacement was elected two weeks ago. On election day a reporter asked him if he had any idea what he might do after leaving office and Nutter, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, said

I want to do something really radical in my life . . . making money for the first time ever.

The Curmudgeon has no problem with the sentiment but a lot of problems with the statement.

nutterFirst of all, Nutter has tried to make money in the past: at the time he was elected to Philadelphia’s city council he was an investment banker.

Which is not exactly a low-paid, public-spirited line of work.

Second of all, Nutter’s current salary as mayor of Philadelphia is $177,679.

That’s $177,679.

Not exactly chopped liver. The idea that a more lucrative job would enable him to make money “for the first time in my life” is not only ridiculous but also insulting to working people everywhere. $177,679 is a helluva lot of money to make, and there’s something wrong a guy who publicly suggests that he’s made some kind of enormous sacrifice to work for such a pittance.

And third, before being elected mayor of Philadelphia Nutter served five terms on Philadelphia’s city council – twenty years. Between his twenty years on council and eight as mayor, Nutter is no doubt in line for a six-figure pension.

How many people do you know who, at the age of fifty-eight, leave their employer of twenty-eight years with a six-figure pension?

The Curmudgeon doesn’t have a high opinion of Nutter as mayor of Philadelphia: he did a few really good things, such as taking major steps to restore integrity in the city’s government – an accomplishment not to be underrated – but he was a poor spokesman for the city, a weak advocate of many of the things he was trying to accomplish, and a failure at taking advantage of the recession of 2008-2010 to make major, desperately needed changes in how his government operates.

But The Curmudgeon’s dismay isn’t about that. It’s about a guy who too often was totally tone deaf to the impact of his words and whose parting shot about how he wants to make some “real money” for the first time in his life because making $177,679 was some kind of sacrifice for him and his family reflects his continued tone deafness, something you think he’d have learned to correct after eight years as mayor, and symbolizes a generation of public officials who seem to view public service as a launching pad to wealth rather than a worthwhile end in itself.

Nutter can make all the money he wants but he probably lost the respect of a lot of people.

Of course, now that he’s no longer running for office, maybe he just doesn’t care.

Political Correctness Run Amok

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is a guy who never settles for saying something in ten words if he can figure out a way to say it with twenty, and often, he sounds like he only hears what he says after he’s said it.  He’s a bright guy, a so-so mayor, but a mediocre public speaker.

After the NFL managed to escape Rutherford, New Jersey without a foot of snow falling on its Super Bowl extravaganza, other cold-weather cities began insisting that their town, too, could host a Super Bowl.  After all, if a toilet of a suburb of New York City can host a Super Bowl, why not other cold-weather cities as well?

And Philadelphia is among those other cities.  After remarks that turn the old JFK premise on its head by talking about what the Super Bowl could do for Philadelphia instead of what Philadelphia could do for the Super Bowl, Nutter wound up his pitch with the following:

When it comes to doing big events and rolling out the red carpet, no city does it any better than the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.

Sisterly affection?  Really?  Is that where the demand for inclusive speech has brought us?  Or is Nutter promoting the various escort services found in Philadelphia?

Whatever Happened to “Innocent Until Proven Guilty”?

Last week in Philadelphia, a building collapsed during demolition of an adjacent building, killing six people and injuring another thirteen.  It was national news.

In the aftermath of the accident, it was reported that a number of area residents had complained to local authorities about what they viewed as the dangerous manner in which the demolition was being carried out, and that those authorities did nothing.

Shortly thereafter, it was revealed that Sean Benschop, the operator of the demolition crane and a possibly illegal immigrant who has had numerous run-ins with the law (and the immigration people) over the years, was found to have traces of Percocet and marijuana in his system.  He was quickly charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter, thirteen counts of recklessly endangering another person, and one count of something called “risking a catastrophe” and was held in jail without bail.

The reaction of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter was extraordinary.  In an interview reported on CNN.com, Nutter

… blamed Benschop’s “reckless and irresponsible behavior” for the building collapse and said Saturday he hopes that Benschop faces “the harshest level of charges … and he is punished accordingly.”

“Justice will only be served if Sean Benschop receives a sentence that buries him in a jailhouse forever, just like his victims were buried on Wednesday,” Nutter said.

Absent in all of the heated rhetoric has been any explanation of how, or if, the crane operator may have been culpable in the building’s collapse.  True, the man had Percocet in his system – but then, a lot of people have Percocet in their system.  And true, he had marijuana in his system, something that is generally not serious for most people but is most certainly serious if you’re operating a crane that’s trying to tear down a building.

But where is any evidence that the crane operator actually did something wrong that led directly to the tragedy?

Do demolition crane operators decide how to tear down buildings on their own?  If they do, this guy may be guilty as hell.

If, however, they take their orders from someone else – a boss, for example, or, heaven forbid, an engineer – then this a much more complicated matter.

Was the demolition plan flawed?  Would the adjacent building have collapsed regardless who was operating the crane?  Or was it the fault of whoever planned the demolition?

Or was the plan sound and did Benschop, perhaps because of the Percocet and marijuana in his system, fail to execute it properly and indeed cause the collapse as a result?

The public’s reaction, its desire to find someone to blame for such a tragedy, is understandable.  Mayor Nutter’s reaction is not.  Yes, he’s emotional, yes, he’s hurt, and yes, he realizes that this whole thing happened in part because Philadelphia’s city government, which he leads, has a very hands-off attitude toward the demolition of non-public properties.

But Nutter’s rush to judgment is disgusting; it’s sheer hysteria.  He has declared the crane operator guilty as charged without sharing a single shred of evidence to suggest that the man did something specific to cause the building’s collapse.  Maybe the mayor knows more than he’s telling, but if he does, he ought to tell it – and tell it now.

We expect some people to rush to judgment on matters like this.  We expect it from someone like a Sean Hannity or Rachel Maddow, and certainly from Nancy Grace.  We’ve come to expect that kind of public performance from those circus clowns.  But public officials have a higher responsibility, and Mr. Nutter needs to remember that he swore an oath to uphold the law and that one of the basic principles underlying law in this country is that a person is innocent until proven guilty.  Juries declare people guilty, Mr. Nutter, not mayors.