A century of City Council experience departed this afternoon, replaced by six new members, and Councilman Darrell Clarke was sworn in for his first term as Council president.
During Clarke's investiture address, he outlined his goals for the presidency, which include attending to Philadelphia's dangerous schools and high drop-out rate problems and creating a business-friendly environment by raising revenue without "putting our hands in taxpayers' pockets."
His fundraising suggestions included selling off city-owned parcels of land, often left vacant, for development, exploring municipal marketing opportunities (citing SEPTA bus wraps as an example), continuing to retrofit city-owned buildings with energy-efficient renovations and attempting to attract business from other countries.
He also pledged to address the underfunded city pension and treat his colleagues with fairness. "It's time to go to work," he concluded, naming Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. Majority Leader, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown Majority Whip and Councilman Bill Greenlee Majority Deputy Whip.
Clarke's bid for the presidency was contentious and, at times, uncertain, at the end of the day hinging on Council's new members. Councilwoman Marian Tasco was an early favorite supported by Nutter, but her decision to retire for a day and accept a DROP payment before coming back to serve another term hurt her politically.
Councilman Jim Kenney threw his hat in the ring as a compromise candidate in early November, saying he knew for a fact neither candidate had the requisite nine votes needed to win the office.
But four new Councilmembers who won the Nov. 8 election – Mark Squilla, Bobby Henon, Dennis O'Brien and Kenyatta Johnson – made Kenney's candidacy unnecessary, as they supported Clarke, while fellow newcomers Cindy Bass fell on Tasco's side and David Oh's position was unclear.
"The mayor supported somebody else for Council president. I'm lucky enough to have been elected Council president," Clarke said in an interview after the ceremony. "The reality is, we have to work together."
"There may be issues that brings us to an impasse, but it will have
nothing to do with who supported who in the last election. There's the
legislative branch and there's the administrative branch – there's always going
to be some bumps and bruises," Clarke said.
Despite the tension, on paper, his goals dovetailed neatly with those of Mayor Michael Nutter, who was inaugurated to serve a second term this afternoon. Nutter said that, rather than focusing on his first-term gains, he chose to highlight the city's two most pressing problems that would need second-term attention – declining schools and street violence.
He also discussed contributing factors to and consequences of each, including the epidemic of illegal gun violence, which is "wiping out a generation of African American men and boys," and the fact that a third of taxpayers' dollars go toward the prison-industrial complex, which is filled with youth who feel they have no other options. "We must show them that if you put that gun down, we will put work in your hands, put a job in your hands, put a book in your hands, put a paycheck in your hands," he said.
"We can reach these kids and I will not accept leaving any of them behind."
Pick up a copy of tomorrow's Metro for more on the City Council-Nutter administration tension – and the possibility of the void it creates being filled by John Street's return to Philly politics.
Click here for photos of the ceremony and video of Mayor Nutter talking about the need for national action to address gun violence, courtesy of Metro's Rikard Larma.