Sunday, February 11, 2018

Book Review: Mayor, by Michael Nutter


Book Review:  Mayor:  The Best Job in Politics, by Michael A. Nutter.  (Philadelphia, PA:  University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018)

This is a really nice book.  It’s easy to read and interesting enough to keep the reader’s attention.  Nutter’s personality, wonky and sincere, comes through.  He dedicates the book to “the incredible citizens of Philadelphia who cared about me and gave me a chance to lead our great city, …” and his teachers, his council staff, and mayoral administration.

Like most autobiographies he starts off with his childhood.  He gives a quick overview of Philadelphia culture, the middle class city neighborhood he grew up in, and the importance of which city high school you attend.  He had intended to be a doctor but changed course after not doing well in Chemistry 101.  And, yes, he discusses his work as a DJ, which actually allowed him to meet a lot of politically connected people.  He talks frankly about his growing interest in politics and his introduction to running for office (and losing) and working within the system as it is.  His description of Philadelphia political players and the campaigns he worked on (John C Anderson), and other political influences (Marian Tasco and Bill Gray) is interesting and informative.  Patience is a virtue when in office and Nutter discusses the issues he was concerned about as a city councilman, and the years it could take to pass legislation, as well as the relationships needed to get the requisite votes.  Nutter can get way out into the weeds in these sections but it is still interesting.

From there he writes about his city council and mayoral campaigns (with a bow to the commercial with his daughter).  The second part of the books is devoted to his years as mayor.  In the introduction he describes being mayor as lonely, but also as a position that allows you to “accomplish tangible things” (kindle loc 90).  In a discussion of politics he says:  “My attitude was that if you do your job, more times than not, you’ll get reelected.  But if you get to the point where you think your job is keeping your job, rather than thinking your job is to do your job, then that’s a sad place to be.” (p. 44)

One of my favorite quotes on campaigning is “When you watch a campaign, it is a window into the soul of how that candidate will govern.” (p. 61).  He governed with similar values.  He writes of having the Chief Integrity Officer’s office right next to his (p. 78)

The recession overshadowed his term as mayor.  He writes often about trying to be as transparent as possible with the people of Philadelphia.  Many of the things he wanted to do were sacrificed just to keep the city afloat.  However, he notes “we were one of the only big cities in American to have our bond rating upgraded” (p. 105) during difficult fiscal times.

He discusses not only his successes but his failures (the idea to close libraries, for example) and how proud he was to have been sued by the NRA.  He writes about spending time with the families of fallen police officers, and his speech chiding parents who don’t take care of their children.  He writes about snowstorms and earthquakes, the Occupy movement, helping people keep their homes when their neighborhoods gentrified, and the potential sale of PGW.

So there are lengthy discussions of policy, a little gossip about John Street, and a great overview of how the city works (or doesn’t).

I enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. 

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Eagles Mural

On the train home tonight I was chatting with the woman sitting next to me.  She showed me a photo on her phone of a painting with an eagle carrying a football player.  The woman wasn't sure if the eagle was carrying a Philadelphia player to victory or carrying off a Patriots player.  I pulled up my phone and checked my Jane mail.  Low and behold there was an email about the same mural.  Turns out the eagle is carrying off Tom Brady. 

The mural was painted by artists at the Meg Seligman studio.  It is currently located at the studio, 829 Bainbridge St.  The studio is raising funds to create a larger mural.  If you want to see what it looks like now and what it could look like check out:  https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/eagles-victory-mural-sports-art#/

It was nice talking with my seatmate.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Paul Perry Writes About Campaigning

Paul Perry, one time candidate for Pennsylvania's 7th congressional district, has written an essay describing his experience campaigning.  Read "What it's like to be rolodexed," in The Intercept (1/31//2018) .