The recent PHA scandal has revved up the festering feud between Philadelphia’s Mayor Michael Nutter and former mayor and self-appointed PHA Board president, John Street. Nutter’s assertion at a hearing in Harrisburg that the PHA board gave Carl Greene “at every turn a free hand to do as he wished, when he wished” (see In Harrisburg, Street, Nutter Testify about PHA Scandal), set Street on the warpath, causing him to break his two-year silence on his successor.
The feud began when John Street left office, and Michael Nutter ran his campaign on Street’s failures. Indeed, Street’s reputation and overt racism was so bad that I, a lifelong democrat, registered republican for the eight years he was in office. He’s been an embarrassment to this city for decades. While on city council, he made national news when he leapt over a desk to attack a fellow council member. His comment at a 2002 NAACP dinner that “The brothers and the sisters are running this city” was appalling.
John Street‘s Neighborhood Transformation Initiative helped blighted neighborhoods but, at the same time, Philadelphia’s middle class neighborhoods were being decimated by the expansion of Section 8 and the non-regulation of absentee landlords. The resulting exodus to the suburbs of anyone who could afford to leave will be a hard fix, and when firefighters and police, long a stabilizing factor in Philadelphia neighborhoods, are no longer required to live in the city next year, we could see yet another exodus.
Scandals like the Clerk of Quarter Sessions debacle (see Clerk of Quarter Sessions Resigns), and the DROP controversy (see Mayor Calls for End to DROP), are directly due to John Street‘s lassaiz faire attitude while mayor toward the heads of city boards and agencies. Despite recognizing the flaws in the DROP program and moving to end it, when council gave in to union opposition, Street shrugged — and enrolled.
My opinion is that Mayor Nutter was saddled with the results of John Street‘s “brothers and sisters” running the city. Besides the aforementioned scandals, under John Street, the Board of Revision of Taxes became a fiefdom (see BRT serves as political jobs bank), and the Department of Human Services was a joke (see The Death of Danieal Kelly).
On the defense since the Greene scandal raised criticism of the PHA board, (see PHA Carl Greene Sex Scandal), Street’s recent remark that Mayor Nutter is “not a black mayor … just a mayor with dark skin” topped his “brothers and sisters” remark in hubris. In an effort to show the black community’s disdain for Nutter, Street told of a black man who asked him if the city would ever have another black mayor. Say what?! Since when do you have to be “black” or “black enough” to be mayor of Philadelphia? Since when is the mayor’s duty solely to the concerns of Philadelphia’s African Americans?
John Street said Mayor Nutter has turned his back on blacks “in the neighborhoods,” calling the “stop-and-frisk” policy instituted by Nutter as police harassment of mostly young black males. Uh, well, newsflash John, whether you want to hear it or not, young black males commit most of the crime “in the ‘hoods.”
John Street has reportedly been meeting with former republican mayoral candidate Sam Katz and urging him to run against Mayor Nutter next year. Now, I voted republican in every election during Street’s term, and I might not mind taking another look at Katz. But it won’t be because I think Nutter isn’t “black enough” or because I think Katz is “white enough.” And if Katz allies himself with Street, he’s toast in my home.
Mayor Nutter, mostly quiet on Street’s vitriol, did say this: “It is really astounding to me that at a time of great economic distress, the former mayor, seemingly in an obsessive fashion now, would spend so much time focused on racially divisive comments and statements with seemingly no background, no detail, no verification, just talking. Just running his mouth.”
I agree. Running his mouth is always what John Street did best. It’s time for him to shut up and go away — taking take his ghetto racism with him.
Sources: Personal Opinion and experience; Philly.com-Street-Nutter rivalry spawns a sudden sequel