Jobs, school woes stare Michael Nutter in face in second term
In a race that featured little suspense, Mayor Michael Nutter cruised to re-election last night by defeating Republican challenger Karen Brown and independent hopeful Wali “Diop” Rahman.
Nutter’s victory either signaled his ability to convince voters that the steps taken in his first four years were significant enough or the lack of faith in two candidates largely unknown to most voters. He must now help turn around a 10.9 percent jobless rate and a Philadelphia School District plagued by budget woes and leadership turnover.
The school district has experienced eight straight years of improved test scores, but been plagued by controversies regarding the superintendent, School Reform Commission and budget woes. State lawmakers are also pushing for vouchers, which could further hamstring the district.
“If education is the long-term issue, then jobs are the relatively short-term issue,” said Zack Stalberg, executive director of the Committee of Seventy, a political watchdog group.
Nutter recently appointed two new members to the five-member SRC and has shown more involvement since the spring.
Nutter, in his victory speech last night, said his administration has put some of the city’s problems “on the ropes, but we have not delivered the knockout punch needed to move this city forward.”
He went on to urge the city’s grownups to behave like adults to improve education and lower violence.
“We must redouble our efforts to continue to attract businesses and jobs to Philadelphia,” he added.
Major council overhaul
Six of the 17 lawmakers who make up the city’s governing body elected last night will be newcomers in January, which could mean an opportunity for Nutter to do a better job of building relationships.
“He has not had a great working relationship with City Council and this gives him an unprecedented opportunity to try to restart that relationship, one in which he has nine votes on issues he cares about,” Stalberg said.