Why I'm supporting Fattah -- Philosophy Matters

Anyone who's read anything I've written on this blog the last several weeks knows I'm supporting Fattah for Mayor. There's now a big push on, however, to rally around Mike Nutter as the only candidate that can stop Knox. If the other candidates had qualities that were roughly similar, I'd be happy to join the bandwagon. But to me Fattah is miles ahead of the others. So I thought it would be useful, at this point in time, to recap why I think so.

First, a preamble: I went into this election year thinking that the most important contests are those for City Council because it didn't seem to me that there was much of a difference between the mayoral candidates. And I continue to think the Council elections are extremely important. No good mayor can accomplish much, and no bad mayor can be stopped, without a committed, smart, honest and progressive City Council. Neighborhood Networks has endorsed a slate of such great candidates this year, and I hope you all can help them as much as possible. You can find them at the NN website. To see the endorsed list of at-large candidates, you should go to http://www.phillynn.org/files/atlarge.html To see the endorsed District candidates you should go to http://www.phillynn.org/files/district.html

Having said that, I want to turn back to the Mayor's race. I now think the mayoral choices are stark and important. Chaka Fattah stands head and shoulders above the rest. All the others, in my view, should be unacceptable to any voter whose priority concern is social justice. Dwight Evans should be ruled out because he led the fight to privatize the schools and to preempt the City's power to regulate predatory lenders. I doubt many of us are thinking about supporting Knox or Brady, so I need not say much about them. Mike Nutter is in a category all his own and I'll address the dilemma he poses at the end of this post.

But Chaka Fattah is the real deal. I think you all know that he's spent a lifetime fighting for the downtrodden and dispossessed, from the time he and his family began fighting back against the gang menace in West Philly in the seventies, to his innovative and successful promotion of programs to educate at-risk youth in Congress. He is running for mayor now on a platform that would elevate fighting poverty to the central theme of his administration, based on a philosophy that elevating the most dispossessed lifts us all. It is the reverse of the trickle-down economic theory that has pretty much dominated City policy for decades, certainly all my life in Philly which began in 1969. That was a year when the national War on Poverty was coming crashing down due to the War on Vietnam which had so horribly built up. The City tried for awhile to maintain some of the programs that were being abandoned by the federal government, but soon we had Rizzo and Nixon, and the Poverty War was mostly done. Locally we turned to huge construction projects as the key to prosperity, even while we closed Philadelphia's only public hospital, and shifted our goals to a War on Crime as a way to incarcerate, rather than eradicate, the problem of a sharply racist, and class-divided city.

Since then there has been an improvement of tone out of City Hall, but little improvement in policy. Instead there's been a grand experiment with trickle-down. For 22 years I watched as a member of City Council's legal staff as one proposal after another came before that body to put money in the hands of a developer, an entrepreneur, a ball club owner or an entire industry, with little or no assurance that any part of the subsidy would wind up helping the poor. The help was supposed to come naturally, as this building project, or that shopping center, or this new skyscraper, or that new convention center, was slated to create a slew of great new jobs. The school system in the meanwhile was allowed to slip into a state of near oblivion, with the responsibility to fund it left to the state but not actually picked up by the state. Generations of Philadelphians grew up with little or none of the skills needed to take any of the good jobs that actually existed in the city or region, and the low-level service jobs that were created were too low both in wage level and number to sustain families. So after 35 years or so of top-down economics the result is that we now have an official poverty rate of 25%, and a real rate that's much higher. Manufacturing jobs paying a living wage are largely a thing of the past. Housing deterioration is rampant, while thousands of women and children, and single men with no hope, have no homes at all. Many of them have resorted to drugs as an escape, and others, completely abandoned to despair, have resorted to killing each other in increasing numbers. In sum, intense privation has settled like a blanket over vast swaths of the City.

To deal with this catastrophic reality, Fattah has focused like a laser on upgrading the education and marketable skills of those left behind and left out of the current institutional framework for schools and schooling. Thousands of inner city residents of all ages, hopefully tens of thousands, would get the hand up they need to develop an economic future for themselves. To me Fattah's ideas are carefully thought through, and eminently practical and workable, and you can see them all at Fattah's website: http://www.phillyforfattah.com/policy_center_detail.asp?service-id=20552.... But focusing on the details of those programs in this campaign, and whether they are exactly the right ones or not, is to fail to recognize the nature, extent and gravity of the challenge we face. What’s most important about Fattah, and Fattah’s campaign, is that he’s asking us to look at what needs to be done in this town in a totally new way. He calls on us to address poverty frontally; not to put it off, ignore it, or hope it will cure itself. Only if we have that intense focus will we have the patience and collective will to try things out, see what works and doesn't work, and then move on to the next thing and the next thing and the next thing until this giant, massive iceberg of neglect is moved off of our horizon.

Compare this approach to that of Michael Nutter. Nutter is campaigning in support of the narrative of the downtown business elite. That narrative says that what mainly ails us is political corruption, a problem that keeps business from thriving, along with an excess of business taxation. The main "reform" organization in town, the Committee of Seventy, has endorsed both comprehensive political reform, and the tax platform of the Chamber of Commerce which calls for eliminating the main business tax, the Business Privilege Tax. Never mind that eliminating that tax would cost the City about $400 million, or 15% of all the money the City raises in taxes. These things together have been conflated in the public mind with "good government" and good government as so portrayed has been relentlessly promoted in the media as the highest political good.

This agenda has also been Nutter's agenda. And the political reform part of it is pretty good. Nutter has accomplished some good political reforms, notably the creation of a City Ethics Board to try to crack down on the City's pay-to-play culture. But the other part of the agenda plays with the lives of everyone in the City by risking a massive meltdown in City revenues in order to create a "climate" that would encourage businesses to come into the City. There is no evidence that this would actually work in anything like the numbers needed to keep the revenue meltdown from occurring. Furthermore, even the "experts" proposing it say that BPT repeal would result in sharp increases in real estate assessments which would then translate into sharply higher real estate taxes. Thus we'd be trading in a tax on business for a tax shared by business and homeowners alike, and one that is massively regressive on poor homeowners, of whom there are thousands in our city. And once again, our major response to ingrained poverty in our City -- despite Nutter's call for new education initiatives which he likely couldn't afford -- would be another dose of trickle-down economics.

Nutter has recently modified his stance in favor of full repeal of the BPT to now call for the Net Income portion of the tax to be cut to the level of the wage tax. That's an improvement, though still extraordinarily risky without a plan to make up for the lost revenues. But whether he truly intends to limit his proposed cut once in office remains to be seen. While in Council he aggressively pushed for full repeal for the better part of two years.

So for progressives our choice is between a reform-minded friend of the business elite whose notion of reform is one that continues, even reinforces, trickle down economics for the poor, or a lifetime progressive who has spent his whole career seeking to remove the blight that's poverty from his constituents and from our town.

Personally I vastly prefer Fattah's trickle up to Nutter's trickle down as the future story of our city. I hope you do as well, and I hope that you can turn that support into action by going to the Fattah website and signing up to help, and give to, the campaign. Or you can call Ray Murphy, Fattah's volunteer coordinator at 215-636-9850. He'll plug you in right away

And now a disclaimer: The views I've expressed here are solely my own, and not those of Neighborhood Networks which has taken no position on the mayor's race.

Thanks Stan

This is an extraordinarily cogent and powerful case for Fattah. His positions on poverty are thoughtful, nuanced, and - to my mind - pretty convincing.

What I am NOT convinced of is Fattah's commitment to making the city government less corrupt and more effective. In interviews, he doesn't seem to acknowledge that there's been much of a problem at all. And no matter how sound your policies are, ineffective administrative practices will weaken their implementation and reduce their effect.

Volunteering for Michael Nutter

I Know Right

While I have every intention of voting for Dwight despite your suggestion otherwise, you definately make a great case for Fattah. I wish more of the Brady/Nutter testimonials on this site were as information based, then we'd actually have a really great debate going without having to hear about grown men in shark costumes, Michael Youngblood, or Local 98.

(that comment is for Stan, I hit the wrong "reply")
_______________________
I support, but do not work or volunteer for Dwight Evans

Why don't you write one for

Why don't you write one for Dwight?

I Want To

After reading an outrageous thread the other night, I actually began writing one. This is an intimidating forum to comment on because quite frankly, my knowledge of the city structure isn't at the level that some of these posters are on. That's part of the reason I like YPP; it's like a crash course in city politikin'. But a blog is a difficult place to convey ideas, so I've been hesitant to just throw up a written testimony that may just add to what I see as a lot of hollow campaign rhetoric (see all of gman’s posts for further clarification), which I honestly think Dwight is above.

But you have a point, no sense in complaining about others' testimonies if I'm not willing to go out on that limb either, so it is hypocritical on my part. And judging from the lack of Evans supporters posting here, someone should say something on his behalf.

_______________________
I support, but do not work or volunteer for Dwight Evans

I have some qualms about

I have some qualms about him, but he has accomplished quite a bit in his life. So, yeah, I think it would be good.

And, I know it can be

And, I know it can be intimidating. It is a real problem.

I'll give it a

I'll give it a shot.
_______________________
I support, but do not work or volunteer for Dwight Evans

Is that really the choice

Is that really the choice for progressives?

If you didn't know that Stan was an attorney, and in my impression a very good one, you can just take a look at this piece. It is a well written argument in supposition format.

I disagree with you Stan, but I cannot disagree that this piece is very well put together from an argument standpoint.

Gaetano

and I ask this with a smiley face, one good attorney (I'm actually retired) to another: Are you suggesting that people should look at my piece only if they didn't know I was an attorney? That because it was written by an attorney "in supposition format" that it might be something people might want to bypass? Aren't you a little worried about advancing certain stereotypes about our profession?

I'm remarking at what a good

I'm remarking at what a good argument you are making and the style in which you are making it. It impressed me very much.

But, people already have such negative sterotypes of our profession. I would think you would have to do something pretty drastic to advance the ball further than were it is.

I, Dan, am voting for Chaka Fattah

No, just kidding. Though if the polls hold...

Anyway, here is what I will say about Stan, and his posting: Stan is, as Ray says, a real curmudgeon, to the nth degree. He is, however, a good hearted, progressive person, who unquestionably says what he truly believes.

So, if you are voting for Nutter, what I ask you is that you prove him wrong. If you think Nutter is a hero, as many of you do, then take the concern Stan has, and if Nutter is lucky enough to win, hold him accountable, and again, prove Stan wrong.

Stan, a curmudgeon? Are we

Stan, a curmudgeon? Are we talking about the same Stan?

Stan walks the walk, that is for sure. And, whoever wins, must be held strongly accountable. It is apparent who I support, but make no mistake, I do not see perfection and will ensure that I will hold him accountable with my vote, deeds and words.

Why I am voting for Nutter

I do not have the time to compete with such a lengthy manifesto, nor the writing skills, so I'll just attempt to make a couple points.

Taxes: Local taxes and Federal taxes are not the same animal. Philadelphia has to compete with the surrounding counties and other large cities for residents and employers. When you have the HIGHEST TAX BURDEN of any large American city, you are a tremendous competitive disadvantage.

Economics: I do not believe that Nutter is advocating trickle down economics. The idea is to bring in new jobs so residents of this city can work in the city and use the tremendous advantage of public transportation to get to those jobs. Anyone who has gone job hunting will agree that the vast majority of good jobs in this are are located outside of the city.

Poverty: Yes there are alot of poor people in Philadelphia. How come no one bothers to ask why? How come no one addresses the economic conditions that created such poverty....the loss of the good paying industrial job base. Philadelphia has not created jobs in the modern economy to replace those jobs. With the loss of the tax-base, the infrastructure (especially the schools) begins to crumble and the self-perpetuating cycle takes hold.

Corruption: You can not ignore this as some sort of "well that's the way it's always been". As long as our local politicians worry more about what's good for themselves, not what's good for the city, we will all continue to suffer.

Violence: When people are poor, when schools have a 40% drop-out rate, when there is a lack of good jobs, when drugs are the easiest way to make money, when guns are easily accessible...what the f do you think is going to happen?

What I see in Nutter is the ability to connect the dots, the ability to see the relationship between all of the different issues affecting the city, instead of zeroing in on one thing that plays well in certain communities. He is not perfect, no man is....but a careful examination reveals an intellect and integrity that is above the field. This is why I think pretty much every newspaper editorial board in the city has chosen to endorse him in a field of five candidates.

here's what I wrote to Stan in a different context

(not nearly the length or breadth of other remarks here, but...)

I am amazed that you continue to give Nutter so little credit. He, like the others, has programs into which he would like to see money poured -- education reforms, cops and parole improvements, etc. -- and he knows that he can't just gut the budget and expect to have funds to spend. at the very least, he's been willing to spell out where he thinks money will come from to offset any changes in tax income

PDF of his budget explanation

nobody else has given their numbers in this detail, and a lot of people (Fattah included) seem to be running the city on vapor-ware at the moment. plus, we all know that there's a give and take in the process, and even if Nutter were to propose draconian cuts, he'd get shouted down over the program slashes that would be required.

I just don't see this as being nearly the dire scenario that you forecast, Stan, and Nutter's strong leadership on good government and higher graduation rates, and even less-discussed but critical issues like sustainability, zoning overhaul, and transit reform, would make a huge difference to changing the culture of complacency in this city. I just don't see Fattah bringing any kind of tangible movement of the air into City Hall.

acm

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
— Margaret Mead

Ob disclaimer: voting for Nutter; working for Stier; endorsing Ruben, Toy, Carpenter, Green-Ceisler, Untermeyer, and others; rooting for Roberts, Quinonez-Sanchez, Ackelsberg, . . .

And here's what I wrote back to redfox1 who I respect greatly

guess your amazement, Redfox, comes from the fact that you didn't spend the better part of two years of your life fighting Nutter and his tax cutting zeal. I'm one of the few individuals on earth to have had that honor. Since retirement I've focused on two things, building Neighborhood Networks and building One Philadelphia, an organization that came into existence mainly because Nutter so fanatically -- I'm sorry I just can't find any other suitable word -- fought to abolish, not just cut, but abolish the BPT. I know how hard it is for people who weren't in and out of City Council hearing rooms at the time to understand, much less accept, that Nutter could have so single-mindedly pursued such a simplistic policy. And I say simplistic because he was immune to any suggestions during the Council debates that there could be a fiscal downside to his plans. Nutter derided Lance Haver, the City's Consumer Advocate, when Lance suggested appending a fail-safe to Nutter's tax cut bill that would stop the year after year cuts, or reverse them, if certain benchmarks on new businesses or jobs weren't met. No, Nutter wanted a clean tax cut bill. (As I write this I'm noticing the analogies to the current war funding flap, but not intending to create them.) Frankly, I never could understand it, and was deeply disappointed the whole time this fight went on. I do respect Nutter's intelligence, his honesty, and much of his other work, although there are other blemishes I won't get into. But there were mounds of evidence, including a report from his own economic consultant, that tax cuts don't magically make money, they lose money, especially in the short run. And the money can only be made up by substitute taxes, like from real estate tax hikes, or service cuts, and perhaps new efficiencies. But Nutter never came up with proposals that dealt with these revenue losses in any way. He simply denied they would happen.

So bottom line, I've just seen and experienced too much to lay it all aside based on logic. I've seen Nutter turn his back on logic and have seen no evidence in the campaign that he is yet to have any concern that reckless tax cutting can have disastrous consequences for the City regardless of the merits of his other ideas. And I'm deeply sorry to have to say any of this because without that Achilles heal he might indeed be a fine mayor.

Well, isn't that special?

Supporters of different candidates for mayor engaged in respectful dialogue at YPP? And they said it would never happen!

Hopefully it's a good sign that there will be the critical mass of unity necessary to hold whomever is elected to whatever office to uncompromising standards of accountability.

And maybe soon we can get to the discussion of what the best vehicle for organizing that critical mass might be? (My favorite theory is that progressive unions can be the core entity, but I look forward to hearing from those more knowledgeable about the Philly political scene).

I can't wait until gman and Susan co-write a post pledging their support to a "progressive agenda."

Great Discussion - A few thoughts on Poverty and Violence

Roma258 asks why no one has asked why Philly's poverty rate is so high, but Fattah's camapaign has not only asked this quetsion but we also offer solutions for dealing with it. The fact is that bringing more jobs to the city will not equate to lower unemployment for those who are chronically unemployed unless we deal with the very difficult and often controversial issues implicated by generational poverty. Those with the highest rates of unemployment often do not have the education or skills to obtain jobs in our modern, knowledge based economy. And even worse, in the most impoverished African-American communities there is often a fundamental lack of hope and motivation that one's life can be any different. Let's not forget about old fashioned racism and sexism either. Fattah's opportunity agenda is, at its core, about inspiring hope among the most impoverished in our city and then providing a real chance to obtain the education and skills necessary to not only change an individual's life, but to impact entire families. We're talking about breaking the cycle. The violence in our communities is a symptom of this lack of hope and opportunity.

As I stated in a prior post, my husband is an assistant principal in one of the toughest high school's in the city and he's always taken aback when his young black male students tell him that they don't think they have a future at all. When he asks "Where do you see yourself in five years", so many just draw a blank and don't expect to live much past their teenage years. This pervasive hopelessness and lack of education is now exploding in our city's poorest communities in the form of our escalating murder rate.

Fattah is committed to dealing with these difficult and often uncomfortable issues because he is convinced that the key to Philadelphia's prosperity is in its people. This is not about playing to "certain communities", it's about the fact that the devastation gripping "certain communities" affects all of our communities and keeps Philadelphia from reaching its potential and drains our fiscal resources.

La-Toya Hackney
Chairwoman, Fattah for Mayor

Florida Nader voters stood on philosophy too

I'll start by being harsh because winner-take-all elections are harsh by definition.

If you, Stan, convince even one possible Nutter voter to support someone else, you are bringing Tom Knox one vote closer to Room 215.

That's harsh. But that's the truth.

The philosophy of third place candidates counts for not very much after elections. If you read Mother Jones, you know what Nader's philosophy is today.

But that was true before he helped elect Bush.

Maybe we'd all be better off if his supporters kept espousing his philosophy and sucked up and voted for Gore.

Now, Knox is no Bush. At least, I don't think he is. You can go back and read my argument with Dan on this very subject. But progressives facing the choice of well-rendered philosophy versus electoral reality deserve an answer to your most articulate depiction of Fattah, so I thought I'd weigh in with my, um...

did somebody say, lengthy manifesto?

***

Your points are very thoughtfully rendered, so I'll try to address them thoughtfully.

You start by eliminating Evans.

Dwight Evans should be ruled out because he led the fight to privatize the schools and to preempt the City's power to regulate predatory lenders.

I once got into an argument like this with Dan re: another candidate I'm not voting for. Keeping a bad deed scorecard is, in my opinion, a bad way of selecting a mayor or most other elected officials unless the bad deeds reveal a PATTERN that seems to predict future behavior.

If they do, the bad deed says something significant. If not, it doesn't and…well, I'd suggest maybe what you're trying to do is make a gut-level selection sound more intellectually-reasoned than it really is.

In the case of Dwight: do you really think that his bad payday loan vote reveals a pattern of anything? Is Dwight suddenly bad on poverty issues after that vote? I'll answer that question: no. It likely was a vote he traded once, as all effective legislators trade votes occasionally.

You and I agree on charter schools, but NOBODY in the race, including Fattah, is about to shut them down. An issue that everyone is wrong about is not a logical issue to justify disqualifying an otherwise capable candidate.

I think you probably disqualified Dwight for the same reason a lot of us disqualified Dwight: because you didn't think he could win.

More on eliminating candidates for that reason later.

btw, I once defended Fattah to Hal Rosenthal. Hal said he couldn't support Chaka because Chaka didn't support ADA's agenda enough. "Show me a pattern of issues he's bad on," I said. "He's got a 95% voting record!" (He doubted. I proved.)

"Just admit it, Hal," I added, "You just want to support Saidel because your gut says he'd make a better mayor!"

(I believe Hal is now supporting Nutter. Thanks, Sue!)

***

Your nostalgia for when the city tried to recreate federal poverty-alleviating programs (the 1970's) is admirable and if I were politically-active then, that's how I'd have felt at the time. The city was flush in the Seventies, with more than two million residents and far more taxpayers. Thirty years ago, the city could more realistically try to fill gaps left by the federal government in ways it simply lacks the resources for anymore.

It also reveals why you so frequently conflate national economic policy with municipal economics. My father, an auditor for both the city and the federal governments, would be driven crazy by your wide-brush renderings of both as the same, by your calling the Frank Rizzo-Bill Green-Wilson Goode-Ed Rendell-John Street economic approaches the same as Ronald Reagan's.

I am not alone in pointing out that your righteous anger at Reagan's economic misdeeds (1981-89) does not make sense as an economic analysis of Philadelphia's present economic woes.

To be specific: the ills of Philadelphia are not the result of all those administrations' conspiring with villainous rich guys to soak the poor, a la your favorite bete noir, trickle-down economics.

You may believe:

after 35 years or so of top-down economics the result is that we now have an official poverty rate of 25%, and a real rate that's much higher

But to believe so is to live in an economic vacuum where there is only (1) our local government and (2) the federal government and nothing else, certainly no other municipalities with whom Philadelphia competes. To do so is to ignore the very real fact that other cities similar to ours (like New York, Chicago, Boston, etc) encourage businesses to move into them (thus wantonly participating in top-down economics) and still have lower poverty rates than ours.

Our poverty rate is not the result of the past five mayors' practicing trickle-down economics. If you need to paint with a wide-brush, you could say Rizzo gave away the store in city contracts, Goode lost control of the city budget and government post-MOVE, Rendell had one really creative year and seven of mere fiscal responsibility, and Street had about the same, only with less creativity.

Wide-brush view: that mix of status quo and bad governmental decisions led to Philadelphia's being in the situation it is in, to the extent that the mayors mattered.

I agree that Fattah's focus on poverty and improving the skills of Philadelphia's workers is genuine, refreshing, and that he's had an elevating effect on debate in the mayor's race. I'm glad he ran.

But you are wise to avoid the details of Fattah's war on poverty and to simply post a link to his website.

Put simply: like Fattah's well-intentioned plan to eliminate the Federal Income Tax by charging high fees on the sale and purchase of stocks, Fattah's war on poverty plan is a good way to ruin an economy while trying to do the right thing.

There are good ideas in it, like using the Community College to retrain thousands of workers for a changing economy. But the truth is that Knox proposed that idea before Fattah did, and that it's part of Nutter's proposals too.

What Nutter doesn't do is propose creating layers and layers of new bureaucracy and then declare that in doing so he will end poverty. I'm going to get harsh again for a moment: such fatuous talk and inadequate answers have been soothing comfortable Liberals for decades. A Mayor Fattah would have made a lot of people feel good because he talks a good game about ending poverty. But when his programs failed to live up to advertisement, he'd likely have left a lot of disappointed poor people dealing with a city mired in a lot of debt, just as well-meaning Mayor Street is leaving a lot of disappointed poor people dealing with a city plagued by too much gun violence.

Your reasons for predicting Nutter's fiscal meltdown have changed over time in such a way that I'd argue they reveal a truth about you: you start with a conclusion your gut says (Nutter = fiscal meltdown) and then come up with a recipe du jour to get to that predetermined conclusion. When last you and I argued taxes, you predicted ruin because Nutter would not heed Econsult's advice and allow reassessments on properties that had gone up in value. Now, to your credit, you admit Nutter would allow such reassessments (although, I'd add, Nutter allows for deferring some payments for the poor and elderly until after a property is sold); of course, now you argue that his allowing such reassessments is why we shouldn't vote for him. But, I'd argue, that too is a predetermined conclusion you were always going to come to anyway.

I note: when you argue, you still calculate Nutter's tax cuts as though they'd all reach conclusion in one year, and until you stop—hopefully you'll have the chance to attack them for the next eight years—you'll be employing a really demagogic tactic, even when you are being admirably fair in assessing Nutter's governmental reform achievements.

What Nutter believes that you do not is that governing this city is not and should not be a choice between listening to the city's most impoverished or listening to the Chamber of Commerce.

Nutter believes in listening to both.

What Nutter believes that you do not is that Philadelphia's high taxes, relative to municipalities we compete with, are part of the reason why we have the poverty that we do. Nutter believes that right along with improving the school system and retraining workers, making the city more competitive for jobs and attractive for starting businesses, is part of what a mayor should do when 25% of his constituents live in poverty.

I'd argue Nutter's plans to improve the city's schools are better than Fattah's merely because Nutter lasers in on something he can affect positively, class size. Fattah's layers-of-bureaucracy approach doesn't laser in on anything; it goes in a thousand different directions and pretends that we can pay for more than we can. No one can say which of his proposals he'd employ if he were elected because he never talks straight about budget or what happens if he can't lease the airport.

As I've said before, I really do like Chaka Fattah. I've voted for him and volunteered for him in his House races, and I even have an odd respect for a candidate who frittered away a huge lead marching to his own drummer, tilting at airports, as it were. I think this campaign has shown that his skills and approach to politics are better-suited to the national legislature, where only his best ideas are liable to become law, and where his problems with budgeting can be solved by the pragmatism of others.

But the harsh fact is that Fattah has lost his lead and didn't raise enough money to stay competitive.

The fact is it is very hard to imagine how Fattah can be elected mayor.

***

Two candidates are pulling away from the field: Knox and Nutter.

Progressives reading this blog face a choice.

Admittedly, my choice was easy.

I always believed this year offers the kind of opportunity for achieving governmental reform that comes around only once every fifty years or so. And I always believed Michael Nutter was the best guy to achieve such reform and that he possessed the best vision for unifying the city, and had the best skills for making the city better. (If you don't think I'm ecstatic, check out my crazy-sounding posts since the last poll numbers came out.)

But for you--now I'm addressing others--you who were closer to Fattah or Evans (or even Brady), your choice is harder.

You can make that portion of governmental power that you're afforded as a citizen, your vote, a matter of philosophy, as Stan does.

Or you can deal with the reality that the philosophies of losing candidates will mean a whole lot less starting May 16.

And that starting January 1, all Philadelphians will be dealing with the reality of either Mayor Tom Knox (and probably Council President Blackwell) or Mayor Michael Nutter.

If you choose what Philly For Change chose last night, to support Michael Nutter for Mayor, give me a call: (267) 307-8821, or get in touch with the Nutter office: 215-545-9700.

I really hope folks can start feeling as good as I do about supporting Michael.

Thanks,

Sam

PS: Nice to see you last night, Stan. We should get a beer in a couple of weeks.

Proudly supporting the whole BEAUTIFUL Philly For Change Ballot, featuring MICHAEL NUTTER for Mayor

Front page

This comment should be there.

I support Michael Nutter for Mayor

Bylaw 203(3)(c) of the YPP

Bylaw 203(3)(c) of the YPP charter states that only one long-winded piece from Sam may appear on the front page per week.

I wish that bylaw would also apply to Stan

But he clearly has free reign, even when he repeatedly misrepresents facts and then claims they are merely his opinions/memories.

Viva Stan!

Why didn't anyone post about the PFC endorsement? I imagine that if a certain other candidate had received it, it would have been the main subject of the blog today. Interesting, to say the least.

I support Michael Nutter for Mayor

I tried deliberately to avoid personal reflection in my blog

and others responding pretty much did too. It's too bad you decided to get back on the psychoanalytical track, Sam. Because it really doesn't matter whether or not I "start with a conclusion your gut says (Nutter = fiscal meltdown) and then come up with a recipe du jour to get to that predetermined conclusion." A) I don't start with a conclusion, and B) it doesn't matter if I do, if my conclusion is correct. And, of course, your own predetermined conclusion is not particularly well-hidden.

So let's again look at my basic conclusion, which I've expressed before but which I have to return to now. 2-1 does not equal 3 no matter how many times Michael Nutter says it does. And it doesn't matter if you break the 1 into components when you subtract it from 2 -- or, in other words, eliminate taxes bit by bit over a number of years -- taking that 1 from 2 still doesn't equal 3.

It's all well and good to decry the current state of the Philadelphia economy, I decry it as well. That by itself doesn't overcome simple math. If in the first year Michael Nutter cuts taxes by $30 million, that money will not be there. He will have to deal with pensions and health care, and hiring new police and cutting class size and all the things he wants to do without that $30 million. And if he cuts taxes by another $30 million the next year, he will have lost $60 million from the next year's budget as his expenses go even higher. And so on and so forth. At some point some businesses may come. But they won't be paying much business tax and they will not make up for those lost funds. Even the Tax Reform Commission's consulting firm said so. And if we have to argue that out again, we will.

Now he may be lucky; corporate profits may continue to explode as they have over recent years and cushion the loss. But I've previously published figures here that show that during the last 10 years of tax cuts, while revenue grew, the number of businesses in Philly dropped. So what was happening was an explosion of corporate profits that was captured by the Net Income Tax, one tax that was not cut.

We cannot count on that good national fortune to go on forever, and even if it does, Nutter wants to start cutting the Net Income Tax which captures the revenue from those wonderful corporate profits. Fattah does not. I suggest that it is Fattah who is by far the greater fiscal realist, and not Nutter.

For all of his accomplishments, Nutter's tax blindness is a central flaw. He risks the fiscal strength of the City in a way that is more dangerous than what Reagan did at the federal level, because if the theory that local tax cuts generate more income fails, he is not going to be able to borrow from the Chinese to make up the difference. Bankruptcy court, or sharp cuts in services will be the alternative.

I will repeat more of what I have said on other occasions about tax cuts. It would be nice to have them and indeed it would be helpful to the economy to have them. But we need to do so in a responsible manner. And I have written how to do that here:http://youngphillypolitics.com/node/1926 The gross receipts tax should be cut or eliminated, the net income portion of the tax should be graduated (with help from the state) currently exempt industries should be taxed to spread the burden around, and an income tax should be enacted to enable taxation of interest and dividends. Among other things. But that is all different than taking a sledgehammer approach. And for all his vaunted intelligence and thoughtfulness, Mike Nutter has only favored the sledgehammer approach to business taxes. And it is a giant roll of the dice.

Again, I believe that taxes play a role in economic growth. But not to the point of recklessly abandoning the ones you don't like without even a suggestion of ever looking back.

So, I'm sorry to dispute the notion so widespread on this site that Nutter is a fiscal genius and electing him would overnight fix the City's fiscal woes. No, if he stuck to his plans he would make them worse.

And that tax cut plan is, indeed, trickle down economics, although you're free to call it whatever else you'd like, for instance, improving the business climate. But it's always called things like that, and we have, in fact, been trying as a City to improve the business climate for the last 30 if not 130 years in the City by throwing every kind of conceivable incentive to business that we could imagine. We certainly haven't tried the Fattah approach that you deride here of directly improving the lives of the people in whose interests we are allegedly always advancing as we stuff money into corporate pockets. Fattah is saying we should try something new, and, to repeat myself once again, he does not suggest russian roulette with the city's fiscal soundness to do it. He seeks to raise new money. If he doesn't raise it, he won't have it to spend. Which will be too bad, but will not have us laying off police as Nutter may if his tax cuts do not reflect a midas touch.

So I'm going to try to be a little briefer here than your post so that maybe both of mine combined will not exceed yours by much. I'm not going to go into detail on Fattah's plans, maybe later if we keep this up, but not now. I'll only say now that those plans, centered on educating those left out and left behind at every stage of life are, to revive a sixties phrase, right on. They don't have to have every i dotted and t crossed to make sense because there is no sure or settled way to attack the level of entrenched poverty we have in this town. I expect there will be much experimentation and much revision, much as was done in the New Deal when there was another crisis of poverty. But to do that, in these times, represents the very height of caution and good judgment, because it means the candidate is facing squarely the overarching domestic issue of our time, not flinching from it because it is difficult.

And that again is why I'm for Chaka Fattah and can't be for Michael Nutter. And the polls be damned.

Downstream from the long wind

In the 2 years it took me to read Sam's comment, Stan managed to slip in his own essay. My eyes went in and out of focus while reading your reply Sam, but here's where you lost me:

Your nostalgia for when the city tried to recreate federal poverty-alleviating programs (the 1970's) is admirable and if I were politically-active then, that's how I'd have felt at the time. The city was flush in the Seventies, with more than two million residents and far more taxpayers. Thirty years ago, the city could more realistically try to fill gaps left by the federal government in ways it simply lacks the resources for anymore.

It also reveals why you so frequently conflate national economic policy with municipal economics. My father, an auditor for both the city and the federal governments, would be driven crazy by your wide-brush renderings of both as the same, by your calling the Frank Rizzo-Bill Green-Wilson Goode-Ed Rendell-John Street economic approaches the same as Ronald Reagan's.

You have a good ten years on me Sam, but from what I know the 70's were a terrible time for the city. It's when the economy collapsed here and nationally. It's when population loss began in earnest and was at its fastest. The 70s's were a terrible time.

The one difference between the 70's and today is that then, most poverty reduction programs were federally funded. Today, as a result of 30 years of Republican domination, much of that money has "devolved" and is now allocated by the state or block granted. And a lot of that money is gone--to tax cuts for the rich.

So, I guess I feel like I have to call you on your analysis of policy--I'm no expert, but I have spent quite a bit of my (short) professional life looking at and talking about policy--and I think Philadelphia can and should do more to pursue more sources of its own funding for local initatives, cause I don't see things changing fast enough in Harrisburg and Philly to keep up with our needs here.

Beyond that Sam, when I read your stuff, I have bigger questions.

I have to wonder, where have you been? You never used to come on here and talk about economic justice issues. I know you have done some peace work, and I know you were a paid political operative in your younger days, but what else?

I know that Stan, as much as he and I have disagreed over the years, knows his shit when it comes to the city budget. You and others dismiss his 25 years of service to City Council to David Cohen and others, pretty quickly.

It makes sense that you do this in the context of an election where you'll do what you need to do for your guy, but the tradition of YPP prior to that is to really examine ideas and flesh them out. It's hard to do that when you always spin Stan. Other Nutter supporters, who vehemently disagree with Stan and I on Fattah, have managed not to do that--why can't you?

Our economy is broken Sam and it needs a bigger fix than an "if you build it for business, good jobs will come" mentality. Sam Katz started that shit in 1991, Ed Rendell picked it up and over 16 years later, wages are still not rising and poverty is still going up--despite the fact that on Street's watch the city experienced more new construction than at any time since the 1930's.

That doesn't mean that a more sensible tax structure should not be put in place--and every candidate for Mayor has talked about changing the business tax structure to create more fairness--but tax cuts are at this a moot point in addressing Philly's larger problems.

That's why at the end of the day, I think your support of Nutter is just the same as the support you cite above in referencing Hal Rosenthal. You basically say Hal supported Saidel because it felt right in his gut, regardless of the issues at hand. I think that's why you support Nutter.

We're mostly idealists here, and we can all respect that, but the election is still 13 days away and for people who are still on the fence--take your time. Sam's definitiveness is a part of a very smart campaign strategy that is looking to consolidate support for Nutter now in terms of money and volunteers.

There's still time for a lot of surprises and for all of you to follow your hearts.

It's also worth noting that I am a member of the Philly for Change Steering Committee, longer than Sam even, and I do not plan to vote for the PFC endorsed candidate. Democratic groups endorse slates that not every member always agrees with, an I won't dispute the results of last night's votes, but Sam has consitently tried to paint a picture of a uniform, monolithic bloc of support for a very narrown definition of "reform" that people like myself prove untrue every day.

[after posting this, I realized I lost the moral high-ground here: this comement is super long too. Sorry ;)]

Wind blows from everywhere

And thank goodness I had that extra 16 months or so to get through your reply.

First off, it was Stan, not I, that characterized the 1970's in the way you find offensive:

...the trickle-down economic theory that has pretty much dominated City policy for decades, certainly all my life in Philly which began in 1969. That was a year when the national War on Poverty was coming crashing down due to the War on Vietnam which had so horribly built up. The City tried for awhile to maintain some of the programs that were being abandoned by the federal government, but soon we had Rizzo and Nixon, and the Poverty War was mostly done.

My background is boring--and usually the guy with the losing argument turns to his opponent's background (you're better than that, I think)--five years with Peace Action (a peace and social justice lobby) where I was eventually Canvass Director, one year with Greenpeace, got paid for some election work in those years including Field Director for a U.S. Senate campaign, four years as a Committeeperson, um...Board of Trustees of First Unitarian Church for eight years (four as Finance Chair, four as Property Chair, did about a dozen sermons), then Anne's Field Director last year. Oh yeah, I'm also an English professor.

I think I'm an idealist.

I leave it to others to judge whether "I always spin Stan" and whether I fail to "flesh out" my arguments.

I thought too much flesh was one of my problems.

We honestly disagree on whether "tax cuts are moot at this point," and apologize if you think I paint reform monochromatically. It's complicated, but I think on some level there is agreement on its meaning getting rid of inefficiencies in city government. I think that goal is more important to Nutter than it is to Fattah.

I know you complain I try to be silver-tongued too much, but one of the most impressive choices Fattah made was hiring you as volunteer coordinator. You, buddy, were not the problem.

You're right: the PFC endorsement vote was definitely not unanimous.

And without the polls, and now ALL the other endorsements, Nutter probably wouldn't have gotten it. PFC is a pretty pragmatic progressive group (say that three times fast).

But I believe we have to live (and vote) in the real world. Things shook out the way they did.

And it shook out as Knox vs. Nutter

Proudly supporting the BEAUTIFUL Philly For Change Council Slate and MICHAEL NUTTER for Mayor

Silver tongue strikes again

To me, city government in unethical largely because it has failed to prioritize the needs of the majority--the poor and the working class--in favor of the business elite. This is a pretty clear trend as I look back at the history of this city's government and beyond to the state's and the nation's.

I know, I am swimming against stream with the hope that one day, somewhere justice and equity--especially of the economic variety--can prevail. But I do still believe that and it's why I am supporting Fattah.

No-bid contracts and the other primary ethical concerned that spurred many reformers into action in 2003 are horrible symptoms of a governmental body that always looks out for those in power and the business elite. No disagreement there. I want to clean up city government too, but i don't just want to put "faux wrapping" on our city's ethical problems: I want to solve them all.

So Sam, once again, beautiful writing. But you failed to address my central point. I know it was hard to find, since brevity escpaed me last night, but I will repeat:

Today, as a result of 30 years of Republican domination, much of that money has "devolved" and is now allocated by the state or block granted. And a lot of that money is gone--to tax cuts for the rich.

So, I guess I feel like I have to call you on your analysis of policy--I'm no expert, but I have spent quite a bit of my (short) professional life looking at and talking about policy--and I think Philadelphia can and should do more to pursue more sources of its own funding for local initatives, cause I don't see things changing fast enough in Harrisburg and Philly to keep up with our needs here.

and this:

Our economy is broken Sam and it needs a bigger fix than an "if you build it for business, good jobs will come" mentality. Sam Katz started that shit in 1991, Ed Rendell picked it up and over 16 years later, wages are still not rising and poverty is still going up--despite the fact that on Street's watch the city experienced more new construction than at any time since the 1930's.

That doesn't mean that a more sensible tax structure should not be put in place--and every candidate for Mayor has talked about changing the business tax structure to create more fairness--but tax cuts are at this a moot point in addressing Philly's larger problems.

That's why at the end of the day, I think your support of Nutter is just the same as the support you cite above in referencing Hal Rosenthal. You basically say Hal supported Saidel because it felt right in his gut, regardless of the issues at hand. I think that's why you support Nutter.

Just for clarity's sake, i say tax cuts a re a moot point because I believe every candidate, and I know for sure Nutter and Fattah, have plans to restructure the business tax and to continue reductions to the wage tax started by Rendell.

Stopping Knox: Fattah or Nutter?

Stan, the last part of your post is the most interesting.

I understand why you support Fattah. Voting for Fattah is a vote to make ending poverty the #1 policy priority. Even if Fattah can't win, it still might be worth voting for him to make a statement.

Is making that statement more important than stopping Knox?

I am asking because I don't know myself.

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Check out my blog!

I am currently working for Marc Stier and Ellen Green-Ceisler.

Two weeks ago...

The tables were turned two weeks ago and I suspect if Nutter was still behind in the polls, his supporters would say that they would vote for him anyway to make a point. That said, it's 2 weeks before the election and while it is in the interest of the people in the lead to narrow the field, here in reality, a lot can still happen.

So ben, it's an interesting question, but let's wait and see yet.

My analysis two weeks ago

My analysis two weeks ago was that Fattah could beat Knox if enough voters from the third tier candidates switched. I thought that the anti-Knox ads might make voters from other candidates get worried enough to strategicly vote to block Knox.

Something else seems to have happened. The ads and negative media coverage have caused Knox supporters to jump ship and look for another candidate. Nutter's surge has come at Knox's expense. He is the only candidate who has been able to do this-- I think it's because his message of reform is slowing seeming more authentic than Knox's. That's what makes Nutter so dangerous to Knox. He is the only candidate who can appeal directly to Knox's base.

Still, all of this is based on polling. There are an extremely high number of undecideds. So the electorate is still very fluid. In addition, polls tend to underestimate the true support of candidates with strong field operations. Fattah certianly has a better ground game than Knox or Nutter.

In short, I have no idea what's going to happen or what will actually be a sucessful strategy to stop Knox. I'm pretty much worthless.

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Check out my blog!

I am currently working for Marc Stier and Ellen Green-Ceisler.

Stop Knox? Or Stop Fattah?

Two weeks ago, stopping Knox was a priority on this blog, in Brady's campaign, and almost nowhere else. If it was shaping to be a Fattah-Knox race, Nutter supporters were probably more likely to switch to Knox to stop Fattah than to Fattah to stop Knox.

According to Katz's blog, a Keystone poll is due Friday.

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I support Michael Nutter for Mayor. My slate.

The last part of your comment is the most interesting

where you say you're pretty much worthless. I know you don't mean that. You're in a quandary is what you are, and to some extent we're all in there with you. And there's nothing we can do about it. So I say, screw the polls unless and until they're overwhelmingly clear, which they probably never will be in this race. Vote with your heart, your gut, and your best judgment.

A vote for Fattah is a vote for Knox...

I just thought I'd throw that out there to raise the level of debate a bit. You do realize, Stan, that you are advocating for the election of a loan shark, right? I mean, haven't you seen the scary mascot that's been running after Knox at each campaign stop?

I work for Damon K. Roberts in his run for City Council. Unless otherwise stated this and every comment by myself is the opinion of myself, and not of Damon or any other candidate, organization, committee, etc.

Very helpful Alex

A thorough analysis on your part has helped change my mind ;)

Here's the thing

Anti-Knox strategic voting -- which is something I've thought about for a while -- can only work if you believe that the polling you're seeing is an accurate reflection of what's going on. We're getting enough similar polls right now that they may be.

One note: I assume each of the campaigns is doing their own private polling. If they have good numbers, they'll share them; if they don't, their silence is telling.

Nightly tracking polls

That's what I hear Knox is doing. Do you think it's a coincidence he doubled his ad buy this week? I don't.

No one else has the money to do heavy polling now.

Fattah, Brady and Evans are basically out of money and have done nothing but drop in the polls for at least a month. No matter what anyone on this blog, or in any campaign, would like to think it is now a two way race. Now is the time to pick a side.

There is only one candidate in this race who has gained ground in the last few weeks and I think that trend will continue. It's not about policy anymore, now it's just about politics. Enjoy the ride.

I support Michael Nutter for Mayor

Fattah will WIN

Polls be damned indeed. Let's not fetishize poll numbers, especially the simplified versions of them published in the mainstream media. They are notoriously inaccurate in local elections, where field actually means the most.

Elections, especially local elections, are won on the ground. And Fattah not only has the best ideas, but the best field operation in Philly, perhaps anywhere.

On the morning of May 16, we will see Fattah ahead by at least 5%, with Brady in second, and Knox and Nutter battling for third place. You heard it here first.

Wishful thinking...

Jeff, I have the utmost respect for the work that the SEIU/Change to Win is doing in Philly and across our nation. However, I really fail to see how Fattah can win at this point. I work in two areas where I assume that Fattah is betting on strong support in (the 36th and 40th Wards), but I see very little to indicate that he will carry these supposed "strong holds" let alone the multiple other areas where he would need to pull support from to win.

I think that a very large chunk of Knox's support comes from Fattah's base, not Nutters. Take a walk in the projects with me--like Bartam Court or the former Tasker Homes-- and talk with the folks there. Knox is going to clean up in many of those places, where Fattah would have to pull large numbers of people in order to win. Even more suprising to me is the level of enthusiasm that many people in the PJs have for Knox. People have "poo-pooed" Knox's spaghetti dinners, but they have created a buzz for Knox is many of the areas poorest sections and sucked the air out of Fattah's message (I know it goes against the current thinking, but I believe that Fattah and Knox area fighting for a big chunk of the same people, and Fattah cannot win back those folks at this point. On the other hand I believe that the people that would choose between Nutter and Knox can still be persuaded to vote for Nutter, as can those who are deciding between Nutter and Fattah or Nutter and Brady/Evans).

If Michael comes out with a strong push against nuisance bars and businesses, if he pushes a plan to work with businesses to keep kids off of the corners, and he can convince enough poorer folks that he will work to make the police partners with the neighborhoods against crime and violence, than I think he can do very well in "the hood" and that will finish off any chance Fattah has for victory.

You might be surprised how many people have strong feelings about the smoking ban, and Nutter has a chance to parlay that into a message that he will not tolerate certain behaviors in certain places. That is EXACTLY what people in "the hood"s where I work want to hear.

I work for Damon K. Roberts in his run for City Council. Unless otherwise stated this and every comment by myself is the opinion of myself, and not of Damon or any other candidate, organization, committee, etc.

What's fascinating about

What's fascinating about this election is that Knox is pulling votes in poor black communities (which oddly enough could be enough to win) and Nutter is pulling votes in white communities (which oddly enough could be enough to win). That is a sea change in Philly politics.

The concern Fattah should have is that Nutter is viewed as the policy wonk (that can win -- Evans is a wonk as well) and that is taking white voters I think that Fattah thought would be his. More important than that, is that my sense is that the campaigns are keeping all money for e-day so they are not focused on expensive tv time, save Nutter and Knox.

The media endorsements will start to paint a picture of Nutter as the only smart choice -- kind of a Rendell push. Knox will likely hold much of his base as there is not enough negative stuff in the electorate to make drastic movement -- his numbers are steady.

So it comes down to if new voters and others will come out for Nutter -- great enthusiasm for the campaign and a sense that victory is possible. Or if Knox will be able to keep his lead. Fattah could win, but that formula really involves black voters fleeing other choices for his campaign.

Still close.

__________________________________________________________________________
I do not work for/support any candidate for any office in Philadelphia.

It does appear that Nutter and Knox

have run the best campaigns, but then they've had the most money, and that helps anyone look like a genius. Knox has had money because he's Knox, and Nutter has had it for a variety of reasons. But one of them, as one poster pointed out a while ago, is because of his business friendly pose. Even with the funding limits, Nutter's broad base of business support -- including support from big law firms which are slated to save a lot of money from Net Income Tax cuts -- has made it fairly easy for him to raise enough for lots of TV. But for me, the fact that Nutter has the strong support of the big law firms is not a reason to support him.

So all the advantages that money can buy have made these two candidates apparently rise to the top. But I'm still not convinced they'll stay there, I think the Fattah campaign will wrap up strong, and I agree with truthtold that in the final analysis, it's still close and Fattah could win.

Pure speculation

I think it's unfair to discount the thousands of small contributions given to his campaign by ordinary citizens. Many of them, myself included, gave to a political campaign for the first time in their lives. There are only so many law firms in this city. They can't account for over 4,000 individual contributions his campaing has recieved so far.

I don't know why you have this irrational distaste for Nutter, but it seems clear that you won't hesitate to sling mud, even when it's pure unsubstantiated speculation on your behalf.

This is just not true

Even with the funding limits, Nutter's broad base of business support -- including support from big law firms which are slated to save a lot of money from Net Income Tax cuts -- has made it fairly easy for him to raise enough for lots of TV. But for me, the fact that Nutter has the strong support of the big law firms is not a reason to support him.

I will give you the benefit of the doubt on this one Stan and say that you just don't know the facts rather than that you know them and are lying. The fact is that Nutter has hundreds if not thousands more small individual donors than Fattah does. Why don't you check Fattah's finance filings and tell me how much money Klehr Harrison and/or lawyers from that firm have donated to him? Seriously, check those numbers. You might be surprised.

Also please tell all of us which big law firms are donating large amounts of money to Nutter and how much money each has given.

I support Michael Nutter for Mayor

Very relevant information

It is very important to know where Nutter's getting his money. And I agree that if you don't provide substantiation for those claims, Stan, your opposition to Nutter is undermined.

Thanks for the benefit Dr.,

but all things considered, I would have rather gone out tonight than pore over Nutter's contribution list for 2006. But I did it . . . again. And it's what I remembered from the last time I looked, and I'm glad because you had me feeling that I must have missed something, you speak with such conviction.

I am not good at spreadsheets but this is what I found, more or less. Nutter raised about $125,000 from lawyers and/or lawfirms, most of them big ones. That's a bit more than 10% of everything he raised in 2006, from one sector, the law sector. Much, if not most, of the rest came in contributions of $1,000 or more from CEO's, CFO's, exec directors or other high officials of real estate firms, development, financial and various other businesses. There were well over 150 such contributions, many of them $2,000 or more and a fair amount at $5,000. Amidst all of that there were undoubtedly a fair number of regular citizens who gave as well. But the heavy hitters in law and many other businesses are strewn throughout his 300 plus pages of contributors that you can find on the Controller's website. Here's just a sample: Thomas Callan $5,000 (Blackrock Fund Manager) Kathleen Woodward, (Woodward Properties) $5,000, Scott Conking $2,000 (Vanguard Group) Philadelphia Eagles (no name given) $10,000, Ronald Kaiserman, $5,000 (CPA) Johanna Hambrose, $2,500 (Electronic Inc, COO), Luana Neducsin, $5,000 (Neducsin Properties, co-owner), Marsha Perelman $5,000 (Woodford Energy, Pres) Peter Gould $5,000 (Superior Group, President) Terry Marek $5,000 (Intermission LTD, Exec) Timothy Heath, $5,000 Urban Poole Heath, mortgage broker) Kathleen Woodward $5,000 (Woodward Properties, developer) William Hankowsky, $2,500 (Liberty Property Trust, CEO) William McNamara $2,500 (Haverford Hotel Partners, Managing Partner) Ken Kaiserman $4,900 (Kaiserman Co. Pres.) Joseph Frick, $2,500 (Independence Blue Cross, CEO) Carl Dranoff, $5,000 (Dranoff Properties) Neal Rodin, $5,000 (International Financial, managing director) Christina Cavalieri, $4,500 (Thomas Jefferson U Counsel). Then there are a variety of other folks from the corporate world and retired folks or homemakers also contributing similar amounts.

I don't really want to get into an extended debate about why these people gave these amounts. Was it because they think Nutter will do well by them personally? Or is it because they think he will be good for the City? Or a combination of both? I'm probably more cynical than you, but it doesn't really matter. It's much more interesting to talk about the merits of the candidates by our own standards. So to the extent I suggested interest in a line of discussion having to do with Nutter's being owned or not owned by heavy hitters, I regret it. Having started it, and been questioned, however, I thought I owed everyone a look at the data. That's what I just gave. But everyone is free, of course, to look at it themselves and interpret it however they wish. Or choose not to care.

You can get the reports at http://www.philadelphiacontroller.org/cfr.asp

Nutte and Money

He also raised significant amounts from labor.

Dwight's Dollars?

Dwight raised a ton of money; almost as much as Nutter...did it help him look like a "genius"?

Another Reason for Nutter's Strong Campaign

He quit his full-time job in July to devote himself exclusively to running for Room 215; the didn't hedge his bets. He's worked very hard since then on fundraising, policy development, and reaching out to a broad cross-section of Philadelphia.

Well... He also didn't have

Well... He also didn't have a choice.

You're Right

He did have to make a choice, but that exclusive focus is one of the things that helped him run a strong campaign.

No doubt true. That said, I

No doubt true. That said, I really think that is a dumb law.

It's to prevent macing

It was an early form of ethics reform, intended to keep elected officials from using their influence to force public employees to donate to their campaigns.

I support Michael Nutter for Mayor

our members live in those "hoods"

Alex,

Our members and their families live in those hoods. They will not vote for a guy whose #1 mission has been cutting business taxes nor will they vote for Tommy the Shark. It is telling that not one union has backed either Nutter or Knox. There are 150,000 union members in this town, and each has a family and neighbors. Union members and their families vote. And I don't think too many will be voting for either Knox or Nutter.

Like Stan, I believe Fattah can significantly change the way our City government thinks about its responsibility to its citizens. And so do our members. We'll see on May 15th.

Thank God for Stan!

Stan, you make me proud to be a progressive. We need more true believers. It's so refreshing to know there are so many people in my chosen city that believe so strongly in social and economic justice. But I have to say that your initial post and your followup has much more with why you don't support Nutter than why Fattah's philosophy will be successful. Operationalizing a laudable viewpoint into programs that work requires a huge leap of faith. If I really believed that Chaka Fattah could reduce the rate of poverty in this city by half over the next 8 years, he would not only have my vote, but I would be leading the GOTV effort in my community.

Unfortunately, I have probably become jaded and just do not believe that government programs can reduce poverty very much. I believe that government programs can act as a safety net to provide a quality of life that allows for a degree of dignity for those unfortunate among us. Unfortunately, we have not been very successful with that over the past quarter of a century.

I believe the most effective way to grow everybody's piece of pie is to grow the pie, as well as making sure that there is a degree of equality in each's share. The overwhelming majority of our agenda is shared and we need to continue to work towards those equality, quality of life and support goals. Also, I believe very strongly in that education is absolutely crucial in lifting those of us less fortunate out of poverty. And I support Fattah wholeheartedly on those programs.

But Stan, you basically say in your initial post that we got to have faith. Your post does not include the details, the programs, the funding streams, the limitations, nor (I would argue) the realities of Fattah's philosophy. In your post you write,

"He calls on us to address poverty frontally; not to put it off, ignore it, or hope it will cure itself. Only if we have that intense focus will we have the patience and collective will to try things out, see what works and doesn't work, and then move on to the next thing and the next thing and the next thing until this giant, massive iceberg of neglect is moved off of our horizon."

If only it would work, and if only all Americans could garner that collective will. But until I see that, and until I see detailed plans including financial specifics for Fattah's plans, I will have to pass. You basically say that it would be administration of experimentation trying things out. The upside is huge. But so is the downside. We could squander the city's limited resources on programs that fail.

I have already posted why I believe that Nutter's program is the best at achieving a city of opportunity for everyone so I will not repeat it here. So I will retreat into my jaded self and support a candidate that is a proven reformer whose programs (I believe) have the most potential for success.

I support Michael Nutter for mayor.

Another in a series of Nutter supporter posts

that, quite frankly, scare me.

I can certainly understand why people would choose to vote for Nutter over Fattah.

But I simply don't understand why so-called "progressives" would refuse to recognize the validity of the dangers of which Stan speaks.

I don't get where people have such certainty aboutthe degree to which Nutter prioritizes tax cuts as a component of his economic policies. It seems plainly obvious to me that there are inherent risks involved in Nutter's approach.

Everyone recognizes that the current taxation system needs to be restructured. No one is naively simplifying the complicated nature of fighting poverty. However, it does seem that some folks are naively simplifying the reasons why Philadelphia's economy has suffered (attributing virtually all the blame to high taxes), why the economies of other cities have prospered relatively (attributing virtually all the credit to tax reductions), and why past poverty abatement efforts have failed (ignoring the bottom-line fact that corporate interests are largely to blame, and that across the board, the only sector of the American public that has made significant economic gains over the past 30 years have been the richest of the richest - and I defy anyone to explain to me how that could be the result of poverty abatement programs). It is also a plain fact that relatively speaking, the only sector of Americans that have improved economically over the past 30 years have been those with higher degrees. Even if lowering taxes were to immediately increase the number of businesses located in our community, we need to be sure that our next mayor appreciates how important it is that more of our neighbors can get higher degrees.

I think that far more dangerous than a vote for someone other than Nutter, is the odd messianic tone of some Nutter supporters, who seem willing to throw solid "progressive" principles overboard because they like their candidate, and who seem to feel that their support of Nutter is justification for dismissing the validity of perspectives of people who might support other candidates. These issues are bigger than Nutter, or Fattah, or Brady, or Evans, or even Knox. And no matter who is elected, we need to realize that any politician is susceptible to governing out of political expediency rather than out of clear recognition of what's in the best interests of the wider community. Nutter has questionably done so in the past - so it isn't a matter of keeping a "report card," it is a matter of being realistic and prudent about what the larger picture is all about.

Just as the unrealistic testimonials of Brady supporters have driven me farther away from considering him as a viable candidate, Nutter supporter who seem to me loose perspective because they're so gaga over their candidate make it harder for me to consider voting for Nutter. So for this voter, Sam, preaching that if I don't vote for your guy I’m helping the enemy, isn't doing your fella any good.

That's cool, D.E.

If you think Nutter's tax proposals are so radically different from Knox's or whomever else you're planning on voting for--if you think as Stan does that Nutter's proposals are more dangerous than Ronald Reagan's (Reagan ran up debt higher than all presidents before him combined)--then I probably can't convince you to vote for Nutter. I'd ask that you look again at his itemized budget, then compare it to his opponents' unitemized budgets. I don't what you see.

Reagan's is an interesting case. His stupid tax cuts certainly helped raise debt, but the biggest reason he ran record deficits is that he spent too much: not on social programs, but on Defense. He more than tripled annual Defense spending, and that extra $200 billion each year really added up.

You and I agree that, nationally, the rich have been the great beneficiaries of the past 27 years of national economic policy. If I were president, the first thing I'd do is raise the top income tax rate to 50%, where it was in 1980.

You and I disagree that making city government less competitive does anything but exacerbate the problems already visited on the city's poor by the national government's unfair treatment and neglect.

I do not apologize when I say Nutter has been more reliable on the issues of ethical government and elections than the other mayoral candidates.

If my tone in describing Nutter is messianic, I'm sorry I sound that way. I've been saying for years that he's my idea of the best choice for mayor, and I'm genuinely excited by his chances now.

Proudly supporting the BEAUTIFUL Philly For Change Council Slate and MICHAEL NUTTER for Mayor

What you don't want to cope with Sam

is that Reagan could just borrow his way out of his hole and pile up debt. The City can't do that when our numbers fail to add up. The Charter requires a balanced budget every year. So if Nutter's tax cut numbers turn out to be funny, at a time like now when we're under big pressure from our own Defense problem -- pension and health care spending -- it's a problem that can't be papered over.

Not quite, Sam

I don't disagree that making City government less competitive exacerbates existing problems. That seems self-evident.

It's a matter of degree and priority. And it's a matter of identifying which constituencies are having what influence on our politicians. And it's a matter of doing the impossible, i.e., taking an impossibly complex set of variables and trying write some kind of equation.

What disturbs me is when people think they have some concrete proof for balancing that equation.

I respect your excitement. But don't assume that anyone who remains skeptical is aligned with the enemy. The main reason why Gore lost isn't because of Nadar. It's because he sucked as a candidate. If Nutter loses by one vote, then it just may be because he didn't go out of his way to convince voters that he will achieve balance on some issues.

I hear you on the tone DE

And to be honest, it sometimes scares me a bit too (and I am a very enthusiastic Nutter supporter at this point). The entire city is DESPERATE for change, so desperate that 60% of voters are seemingly aligned with two people whose stated aim is to drastically reform the city's government (and I think that a bunch of council candidates would be wise to note these numbers, and I think more than one district council person will lose in a little over a week). Does that mean, however, that Nutter is perfect? No. Does that mean that he is above reproach and criticism? He does seem to think so at times, as do some of his supporters, but of course the answer is "no".

I also share your attraction for Brady as someone who has a lot of potential to bring people from all areas of the city, from all economic backgrounds, and from all races/ethnicities.

With that said, I really hope that you and every other voter will take a look at all of the candidates and decide which has the best chance of reforming our seemingly broken city. I believe that most people who are not fooled by Knox's lullabies will come to the same conclusion that I have: that Michael Nutter is our best chance for change. I am not saying that Nutter will be perfect, or that his past is all "blue skies and sunshine", but I do think that his record of persistently/stubbornly pushing for needed reforms, and his record of pushing for higher ethical standards from our elected officials, will convince you to give Nutter a chance to tackle the many problems our city faces for the next four years.

I work for Damon K. Roberts in his run for City Council. Unless otherwise stated this and every comment by myself is the opinion of myself, and not of Damon or any other candidate, organization, committee, etc.

Philosophy Matters - If You Can Put It Into Practice

I am probably infinitely more sympathetic to Fattah's perspective and priorities than to Nutter's. When Fattah was looking like the #2 guy behind Knox, I was feeling pretty good about the idea of voting for him as a partial pro-Fattah and partial anti-Knox vote. But I was nervous. And as the recent polling numbers have made a vote for Nutter look like the better choice from the anti-Knox perspective, I had to figure out if the pro-Fattah case was strong enough in my mind, and all the causes for that nervousness came roaring to the foreground. (I think this is an equal combination of rationalizing a Nutter vote and no longer attempting to rationalize a Fattah vote.)

In a nutshell, I'm very nervous about Fattah's ability to manage the city and implement his vision. The airport lease plan looks quite shaky to me. What I've seen from people like Stan and Ray is that even if the airport lease doesn't happen, it'll be great to have Fattah there in City Hall every day with poverty and opportunity as his priorities. And I don't buy that automatically - if Fattah can't make his wishes happen, it doesn't really matter what his priorities are.

The thing is, I live in the Northeast, so I haven't really had a lot of exposure to Fattah before this campaign. And I don't like what I've seen from the campaign.

  • Filing suit to overturn the campaign limits sends a bad signal about city self-rule and the need to get big contributions out of the process.
  • Poor fundraising and a constant slide in the polls suggest he's having a hard time mobilizing voters behind his message - which in turn suggests he's going to have a hard time getting his agenda pased.
  • The mismanagement of the exploratory committee funds is a minor detail, but it suggests that someone was sloppy or didn't care about following the rules.
  • Filing a campaign finance report early reinforces the idea of a lack of attention to detail. That theme seemed to come up in the City Paper endorsement discussion. It was also my wife's impression from hearing the Radio Times interview, which I have not listened to yet.
  • The tax return disclosure fiasco may have been significantly out of the campaign's control; I don't know. But I don't think it was handled well, and it also reminded me of my discomfort with the idea of a mayor married to major news anchor.

A lot of these are small things, I admit. But they add up. I don't think it's a bad thing to look at polls and make tactical votes. I think it's actually a primitive form of deliberative dialogue. "Oh, you all like these two guys? I kinda like this third guy over here, but I see that's a nonstarter. Wow, I really prefer one of your picks to the other. You think we could go that way?"

Plus we haven't even discussed the seniority-in-Congress issue. If we're going to give up the good Fattah can do with that seniority for Philadelphia and the rest of the country, he better be a dynamo in the mayor's office. And I am not getting that vibe at all.

Now, if Fattah has a major turnaround, galvanizes some support, and makes a charge, maybe I'll have to rethink this all again. As far as I'm concerned, it's up in the air until pretty close to the point where I go in to hit the green button.

Why I Think Nutter Will Be A Better Mayor Than Fattah

I'm breaking a self-imposed YPP moratorium by posting here, but since classes at Penn are over, and the issues Stan raises are genuinely important, I'm hoping I can write here again occasionally without freaking out over silly stuff.

I first started writing on this blog before I'd decided on a mayoral candidate, because of a false distinction I saw being drawn between Nutter and Fattah (and between bloggers on YPP). Obviously, Nutter wants to promote business, and Fattah wants to fight poverty, and that is the frame in which they've been seen. But you can't say that Fattah isn't interested in tax reform or business promotion, or that Nutter isn't trying to help educate the underprivileged or fight poverty.

All of the candidates want to change the structure and reduce the tax burden on businesses in Philadelphia. And Fattah's key proposal for business growth is a tax break for established businesses who relocate to the city, so they can continue to pay taxes at their previous rate. This plan may have some merit, but it's not at all far off from the piecemeal giveaways of the past that Stan laments. If you're categorically opposed to top-down tax incentives for business, I don't know why Fattah would be your guy. (Evans, for example, has been much more reluctant to fully endorse or promise specific tax cuts than Fattah.)

These distinctions -- anti-poverty vs. pro-business, downtown vs. neighborhood, even reformer vs. progressive -- whatever their value as analytical tools, just don't adequately characterize our mayoral candidates this time around, any more than the old racial and economic electoral expectations do. Bob Brady couldn't deliver the big unions; North Philadelphians think a money-man who lives in Rittenhouse is a reformer; and near-expats in Tacony are voting for a black guy from 55th and Larchwood. All bets are off.

Something else we should avoid is appealing to a candidate's "laser focus" (as Stan says) or "instincts" (as Dan says) on an issue, and say that this trumps the details. Obviously, someone can be fighting the right fight in the wrong way. I don't think Dwight Evans's focus or instincts were wrong when he pushed for the school takeover -- he wanted to do something to help those children. Yet his judgement, in my opinion and Stan's, was bad. Likewise, according to Stan's account, Nutter is laser-focused on taxes and the budget, but with a mistaken approach. Philosophy obviously matters, but judgment, experience, and clear, well-defined plans matter as much or more.

Fattah is certainly focused on poverty and education, but while his new programs would certainly leave his stamp, it's arguable how effective they would be in fighting poverty in the city. The major problem facing people in poverty, in Philadelphia and other cities across America, isn't the absence of college scholarship programs, job fairs, or Opportunity Foundations. (I say this as someone with working-class parents who didn't go to college who attended college and then grad school on scholarships, so there's a small pain in my chest whenever I have to say that scholarships aren't the sum of the answer.) It has to do with the failure of the public schools, the absence of jobs for those students' parents and the students themselves, the blight of crime, and the failure of the city (and other govts) to provide help, from basic services to emergency intervention. Some of Fattah's proposals are very good -- I like his emphasis on adult education and childhood literacy, and some of the quirkier proposals are genuinely inspired. But the ultimate product of most of the proposals are a handful of exceptional students like Renata Neal, who despite their achievement, have to go to West Chester for school, and in all likelihood leave the city for a job as well.

So, rather than comparing Fattah's anti-poverty agenda with Nutter's tax proposals, it's much more instructive to compare Fattah's tax plan with Nutter's proposed anti-poverty/educational programs. Fattah's tax proposals have serious flaws, while Nutter's education/poverty programs make as much sense or more than Fattah's.

I've already mentioned Fattah's tax-neutrality proposal for immigrating businesses. It certainly may attract businesses, especially those for whom the proposition amounts to a full abatement of the BPT, but with so many new businesses qualifying immediately for greatly reduced rates, it blows a hole in Fattah's revenue-neutrality position and Stan's anti-top-down stance. Also, already-existing, relocating businesses are much more likely to bring their top employees with them rather than hire local Philadelphians, mitigating the job creation value. It's also something of a slap in the face to existing businesses in the city and to Philadelphians trying to start their own business -- why not open shop in Delaware, then branch out to Philly later?

There's also Fattah's plan to use the revenue from expiring property tax abatements for affordable housing programs. It's already been pointed out that this revenue has already been calculated for projected future budgets -- so this is not new revenue, but comes at the expense of other programs. (Nutter's proposal to use 10% of the scheduled revenues for housing is both more modest and fair.)

Last, there's Fattah's proposal to replace the current BPT with a net profits charge. Initially, I thought this amounted just to jacking up the net profits portion of the BPT to replace gross profits, but in addition, it actually involves taxing businesses such as hospitals and banks that are currently exempt from the BPT. Since these include the handful of legitimately thriving industries remaining in Philadelphia, and in the case of hospitals, who also perform a much needed public service and subsidized emergency care to the poorest Philadelphians, it doesn't seem wise to increase their costs while cutting taxes for new businesses with less of a proven economic imprint.

But the full switch to a net profits charge is also problematic itself. In particular, it recreates the conditions that led to the use of the gross receipts charge in the first place; large companies like Sunoco or Wal-Mart can cook their books to shift their profits to lower-taxed locales. To a certain extent, this is a danger with any proposal to eliminate the gross receipts portion of the BPT, but the higher the rate on net profits, the greater an incentive these businesses have to hide their money. Again, small, successful Philadelphia-based businesses subsidize out-of-town money -- and there's no way to recoup that money, not for poverty programs, not for anything.

There's also the congestion tax, which may work very well in London or New York, but not in Philadelphia, at least not yet. Not only do we still need car-based commuters to work and shop in the city, Philadelphians themselves are car crazy. The fight from Philadelphia residents with out-of-state plates alone would never stop. I'm inclined to think a system like Chicago's (where residents pay a relatively small annual fee for a sticker giving them the right to non-zoned street parking anywhere in the city, no in-state requirements for registration/insurance) might cut down on the number of suburban commuters parking for free on city streets. I'm not sure how seriously Fattah has been working on this, or wants to after this, but clearly, a congestion tax itself isn't the way to get it done.

On the other hand, Nutter's antipoverty and education programs are much more sensible and considered. Nutter has campaigned hard on increasing the city's contribution to the public schools, by $100 million over five years. He's pledged the same amount to the Community College of Philadelphia, living up to the pledged CCP funding. Over five years, Nutter also proposes an additional $20 million for after-school activities, $50 million for PREP re-entry program for ex-offenders, $25 million for the Housing Trust Fund (again, fulfilling the city's original pledge), and $20 million for the Office of Supportive Housing to help Philadelphia's homeless, shortchanged (again) by the federal government. You can argue that the city will have to work to get the money to support all of this, as they will with Fattah's antipoverty programs. But you simply cannot say that Nutter is disengaged on this issue -- that his only solution to poverty is job creation or tax cuts. Nutter is an honest-to-goodness Democrat.

You see this in Nutter's skepticism about Fattah's proposal to lease the airport -- as strange as that discussion got on YPP. In his statement, Nutter was standing on two bedrock Democratic principles -- you shouldn't needlessly privatize a public asset/utility/service, and you shouldn't ask the poor to pay their own way out of poverty -- in the form of a poor city spending down its assets. It came off here as sounding like Nutter was trying to denounce city spending on poverty as such, which is plainly untrue, but shows the perniciousness of these frames.

The downtown vs. neighborhoods frame has been bothering me as it's been bothering everyone for a while, but I don't think it applies to Michael Nutter. Nutter clearly wants a strong, vibrant, well-planned Center City -- the place just employs, educates and entertains so many Philadelphians, and brings in so much from the suburbs and the world, it'd be foolish not to -- but his hallmark has been, like Dwight Evans on Ogontz Ave, the development of neighborhood avenues that's eluded so much of our city. Yes, Nutter is on the board of the convention center, but he was also the councilman of Manayunk, East Falls, Roxborough, Wynnefield, Overbrook -- all powerful testimony to what Philadelphia's neighborhoods could be like, diverse in race, age, and economics, and all thriving. It's not the Center City condo developer who needs zoning reform -- cash to the right people will get the job done -- it's the woman who wants to open a coffee shop, the CDC who wants to build a community center, the bewildered neighbors who wonder what they can do about a City Councilwoman with a horse in her tiny backyard. In too many of Philadelphia's neighborhoods, the fix is in. The businessmen may be tired of the bribes and the meetings and the unpredictability, but the broke folks are even more tired, because they don't have the money to bribe anyone.

This leads me to my last point -- I promise -- and it comes back, full circle, to Stan's invocation of focus, philosophy, and instincts. Stan concedes Nutter's reputation as a reformer, but frequently suggests that political corruption is a chimera: that it isn't really as big of a problem as it's made out to be. If this were just Stan's position, I would be bemused, but not worried.

The problem is that Fattah, too, has consistently downplayed both the extent of and the damage done by political corruption in the city, stating more than once that a few bad apples may be corrupt, but that generally, city government works just the way that it's supposed to. We catch the Corey Kemps and the Tony Marianos every few years, and the rest of us can go about our business.

Now, most of the discussion from Stan, Ray, and other Fattah-supporters/Nutter-skeptics has been whether Nutter's reform credentials are sufficient, or whether he needs more credibility as a progressive to be supported. For me, Nutter passes the test. On the other hand, we have to consider the converse, whether Fattah's progressive credentials are sufficient, and whether he needs more credibility as a reformer. To me, the signals there are much more troubling. I don't care at the moment about his personal ethics or history, or his campaign's. As a serious issue facing the next head of Philadelphia's government, Fattah just doesn't seem to take ethics and reform seriously enough. And this makes no political sense to me at all, since rank-and-file voters are so desperate for reform that they're lining up behind a loan shark who at least plays to the issue. And the real issue isn't what's happened before, but what will happen when the man is in room 215. Fattah's lack of consideration for this issue, his sense that it's not really a problem he has to contend with, is troubling. All the more so because it reminds more than a few people of another smart, wonky Philadelphia politician with a good record, who ran for mayor promising opportunity for the neighborhoods, but who was never really able to wrap himself around the issue of political ethics and reform, and who's leaving room 215 after eight years, having squandered his legislative promise. Fattah is not John Street, but he doesn't seem to be learning nearly as fast as he would need to learn to bring this city back.

Here's where you lose me Short Shrift

It's when you suggest:

rather than comparing Fattah's anti-poverty agenda with Nutter's tax proposals, it's much more instructive to compare Fattah's tax plan with Nutter's proposed anti-poverty/educational programs. Fattah's tax proposals have serious flaws, while Nutter's education/poverty programs make as much sense or more than Fattah's.

I'd love to use that frame, and I can see why a Nutter supporter would want to, but you've provided no convincing analytical basis to suggest we no longer need to worry about Nutter's tax agenda. If I'm right, and I think I am, Nutter can't achieve any of his good sounding proposals, and in fact, jeopardizes his ability to have a functioning government, if his tax proposals are adopted. So how can we look past them, even as we're evaluating his other ideas? If as you say it's the details, not the philosophy that matters, the main detail is can you fund the government. Never mind the new programs, the first question is: can you fund the government? Critics of Nutter's tax policy think he can't at at time like this when the City is already under huge fiscal pressure from exploding pension and health care costs.

The fact that Fattah may have a problematic tax idea or two doesn't change the fact that Nutter's are potentially disastrous. And to answer your question on why I don't worry a lot about Fattah's idea, it's because I doubt it's a serious money-loser at all as D.E. has pointed out.

I'm not going to point by point answer the rest of what you have to say because, you should pardon my putting it this way, it mainly points out a philosophical difference between you and me. And that's a pretty personal matter. How should one judge politicians? Is it by viewing a list of their programs and looking for the best scientific evidence of whether they will work? Or by looking at where they want to take the government and the people of the City. In truth, a nuanced evaluation of both is probably best. But how much weight to give to each everyone will have to decide for themselves. For me, Fattah's direction is so compelling, so capable of changing the debate not only in this City, but in the country, that I'm willing to give him some slack over the details of his programs. In fact, I don't actually think they can be fairly evaluated since the problem is so intractable and ingrained, and I foresee quite a bit of experimentation before we get it right. But even if I were highly critical of the specifics he's laid out, which I'm not, I strongly want a mayor who, first thing when he arrives at the office, is thinking what can I do today about this problem which is overwhelming the lives of 1/3 of our citizens. Particularly compared to the possibility of having a mayor who every day has to be thinking about how to rescue the City from a fiscal mess partially of his own making, without raising taxes he previously recklessly cut.

Yes, the Tax Cuts

Stan is right that my post didn't directly address Nutter's tax agenda. There's only so much you can remember when you're into the thousands of words at 5am -- and I wanted to address Stan's pro-Fattah argument, as much as his anti-Nutter one. So I will try to treat the tax cuts here; and since I know Stan likes math, I will use some.

Again, it's always worth reiterating -- Nutter's proposal is to continue the current schedule of reduction in the gross receipts tax, currently at 0.154%, less than half of what it was in 1995 (0.325%). Nutter's goal is the gradual elimination of the gross receipts in 5-7 years, which would probably require an acceleration in the already scheduled cuts. The current pace of reduction has been .01-.02% annually, but that pace slows to a crawl after 2008, bottoming out at .1315% in 2011. This would require a vote of council, but unless those votes move significantly (and I think even with major changes to the membership of council, they're unlikely to), the votes are there. Nutter also wants to gradually reduce the net profits charge to the level of the wage tax, but doesn't give a time frame on those changes -- possibly 5-7 years, probably longer, probably not shorter (especially since this would require a much steeper rate of decrease than the current gross receipts changes).

Stan focuses on the earlier efforts led by Nutter and supported by a majority of council to eliminate the BPT outright. That's where the $400 million figure comes from -- the BPT receipts for 2005 (if I remember correctly). Nutter does not advocate eliminating the BPT outright. Stan's position has consistently been that regardless of what he says now, given the chance, Nutter will push to eliminate both gross receipts AND net profits.

I was curious about Nutter's movement on this issue, which is one of the reasons why I started reading this blog. As it happens, months ago, Councilman Wilson Goode pointed out on YPP that he had crafted the compromise position on the BPT, and convinced Nutter why he (Goode) was right. A year later, Nutter is still sticking by Goode's BPT plan. I'm persuaded by this conversion story, which is why I think the specter of a tax-cut-obsessed Nutter breaking a campaign promise to scrap the entire BPT is just that -- a specter, not a real threat.

This does not mean that we can reduce the percentage of collections from business taxes without a plan to collect other revenue -- whether it's from matching funds, expanding the recycling program, or (yes) gradually raising property tax collections to reflect the real increase in real estate wealth in the city.

Now the gross receipts portion of the BPT has been consistently cut over the past twelve years, and the total BPT revenue has, small dips aside, consistently increased, and increased in the hundreds of millions of dollars over the past 2-3 years, when the cuts have been the steepest. This is partly due to an increase in business profits, and partly due to an increase in the size and frequency of receipts. Property tax revenues used to vastly outstrip business revenues -- now it's the other way around. This is the chief reason why, proportionally, business taxes make up a much bigger percentage of city revenue than they did ten years ago. (The bottom falling out of state and federal aid is the other major contributor.) Our businesses are doing more business and making more money, even though there are fewer of them. This is a good problem to have.

If I read the FY 08 budget correctly, about half of the BPT revenues come from gross receipts, and half from net profits. We may have a few more years of continuing receipt increases, in which case the revenue will probably not drop precipitously, but might mean as much as a 5-10% decrease in total BPT revenues each year. Lo and behold -- 10% is the capped year-to-year rate for individual property tax increases. (Note: this is my issue the way the BPT is Stan's.) There is no reason why those caps necessitate a revenue crisis at all.

Now, property tax increases are never popular, but you have to consider that while BPT revenues have risen year-by-year even with cuts, as have wage tax revenues, property tax collections have been essentially stagnant for over fifteen years. Adjusting for inflation, they've actually gone down since 1991. So we need to shift some of the tax burden onto property owners, personal and corporate, the vast majority of whom have seen their real estate wealth multiply over the past decade. Nutter has built in the proper protections so Philadelphians don't see vast year-to-year increases, and that seniors and people in poverty don't lose their homes because of tax increases. If business tax collections plummet, causing a genuine budgetary emergency, council and the mayor will need to revisit the schedule of cuts to the BPT and the wage tax. (They will need to do this anyway before 2011.) But we already have the means within Philadelphia to raise needed revenue. It's time for Philadelphia's property owners -- including most of all, the owners of business property -- to pitch in.

Supporting Michael Nutter for Mayor.

Nice post, Mr. Schrift

Glad you're back.

A couple of quibbles:

It certainly may attract businesses, especially those for whom the proposition amounts to a full abatement of the BPT, but with so many new businesses qualifying immediately for greatly reduced rates, it blows a hole in Fattah's revenue-neutrality position and Stan's anti-top-down stance.

If they are new businesses, which presumably won't be attracted to the area without the reduced rates, then it doesn't affect "neutrality" in the sense that it isn't taking away revenue that currently exists. It could be considered "non-neutral" if compared to the businesses that would theoretically be attracted by Nutter's policies if he were elected - but that's a bit speculative.

Philosophy obviously matters, but judgment, experience, and clear, well-defined plans matter as much or more.

I'm not sure that I agree with that - I think a long history of political philosophy is instructive as to what patterns of governing a politician might tend to once elected, no matter if the plans described in their campaign rhetoric might be more balanced - but I think your overall statement there is a reasonable position to take. But even if true, I think that for your position to be valid, then it is all that much more important for everyone to be clear-eyed and non-partisan in their evaluations once policies are being implemented.

There are real differences of philosophy revealed in the rhetoric of Nutter and Fattah on Philly's economy. I have heard Nutter on more than one occassion say that the single most significant issue retarding Philly's economy is taxes. (Which is all that more more interesting when Nutter is sitting right next to businessman Tom Knox, who disagrees and says that the most signficant issues are the quality of services per tax dollar collected and the lack of a well-educated workforce.) I tend to doubt that Nutter's "philosophy" will spell disaster for Philly if he gets elected - but there is certainly a lot of supply-side thinking in his philosophy and in his history. So let's not minimize that fact in making decisions about who to vote for.

The major problem facing people in poverty, in Philadelphia and other cities across America, isn't the absence of college scholarship programs, job fairs, or Opportunity Foundations....It has to do with the failure of the public schools, the absence of jobs for those students' parents and the students themselves, the blight of crime, and the failure of the city (and other govts) to provide help, from basic services to emergency intervention.

There is a lot to agree with there, but I think you're also creating a bit of a false dichotomy. Over the past 30 years, people who don't attend college suffer economically compared to those who do. For the most part, with the decline of unions and the manufacturing sector, there is no longer a way for people with only a high school education to get a decent paying job. College is expensive. Even if our schools were great and jobs were plentiful, without the ability to pay for college the poor will continue to be poor. And the cause and effect is bi-directional. Kids don't perform in schools because they know that they won't be able to attend college. Kids don't attend college because they don't focus when they're in elementary school. So yes, programs focusing on addressing the economics of poor people attending college may not be sufficient, but they are indespensible to addressing poverty in our City.

The downtown vs. neighborhoods frame has been bothering me as it's been bothering everyone for a while, but I don't think it applies to Michael Nutter.

I'm not sure whether it "applies" to Nutter, but it bothers me that over time he hasn't taken what should be relatively simply steps to correct any misperceptions. Just as it disturbed me when Fattah made statements that seemed to discount the importance of comprehensive public planning for areas like Center City, it disturbs me that Nutter doesn't seem to be sensitive to the valid reasons why people are concerned about having a mayor that prioritizes Center City and what's good for businesses over what happens in neighborhoods.

Now, most of the discussion from Stan, Ray, and other Fattah-supporters/Nutter-skeptics has been whether Nutter's reform credentials are sufficient, or whether he needs more credibility as a progressive to be supported. For me, Nutter passes the test.

No doubt, Nutter has some "reform-credentials," but again, I am really curious as to why people discount some disturbing signs: there's Nutter's not stepping up in the "spinning the shit" incident, and more importantly, his collusion with Carol Campbell to disenfranchise Philly voters. I don't think that either of those are "deal-breakers," and I am probably more disturbed by the tendency of Fattah that you described to discount the importance of ethics and reform, but again, let's not let Nutter off the hook for his past actions and what they might indicate about his future behavior.

Reform Credentials

I just think it's a lot easier to assume that Nutter's reform credentials are relatively solid when the rest of the field's reform agendas run the gamut from blatant hypocrisy (Knox) to seeming disinterest (Fattah) to, well, shit-spinning (Brady). I don't need absolute purity, but I do need a correct diagnosis of the corruption issue.

Volunteering for Michael Nutter

Nice reply, D.E. II

1) To clarify my point about the revenue-non-neutrality of tax-neutrality. Basically it amounts to an abatement -- you're forgoing new revenue. But unlike the property tax abatement, where the total taxes remain the same despite an abatement of future revenue, businesses leave the city all of the time. So suppose a Philadelphia-based business, paying full BPT, vacates its storefront for a Delaware-based business, who pays no corporate income tax at all. It's not as though we're not just getting additional revenue -- the city has actually lost revenue at that site.

2) Your point about Nutter's greater emphasis of taxes over workforce education is well-taken, but at the same time, as I pointed out above, Nutter has also campaigned hard on increasing public school funding, Community College funding, and parolee re-entry. It's not just that video of Olivia walking up the steps to Masterman -- I think he is definitely up on this issue. Nutter's wife Lisa is also president of Philadelphia Academies, an education nonprofit with an emphasis on postsecondary and vocational training. But you're right -- just like neighborhood revitalization, he should talk about this more.

3) No, college education is definitely crucial. But I think Nutter's emphasis is rightly on shoring up the educational institutions that the city already runs, and to which it hasn't contributed enough, and from which more students can immediately benefit: namely the public schools and Philadelphia Community College. Someone had an idea to increase the cooperation between PCC and the area colleges, to promote collaborative programs and make sure that more credits transfer, which would make all of college much more affordable. Likewise, the city should have an educational scholarship office to match students up with schools and scholarship programs nationwide, not just those run by the city itself, and guide students through the financial aid process. Even setting up a travel fund so that Philadelphia students who go to school out of the state or the region know that they can come home for the holidays would be a great benefit. Scholarships funded and administered by the city are not the only answer. And likewise, even if every Philadelphian had a free ride to the state school of their choice, it wouldn't matter much if schools were great and jobs were plentiful. And the latter goes a long way towards increasing the affordability of the former.

4) I don't know exactly what Nutter did or didn't do in 2003, but he definitely doesn't come off as a colluder in Tigre Hill's The Shame of a City. I definitely don't like Carol Campbell, but Nutter was a councilman in the district where Campbell was/is an entrenched ward leader. (A lot of personalities in those wards.) If he had had his own political operation, he could have fielded his own commiteemen in that district, but he doesn't. They don't seem to be close and aren't even reluctant allies anymore. But generally, Nutter's reputation has been squeaky-clean, and he's picked pretty vicious fights with almost everyone else who hasn't been. What's impressed me recently is his proposal for a citizen review board for the police department -- an obvious necessity if we're going to have a stop-and-frisk policy, but it shows that Nutter is already thinking ahead, not just about the ethical lapses of the past, but also about those in the future.

Reply to stan

Stan my not recall it, but we know each other and almost always agree. This time is the exception. While I generally like Fattah, I can not imagine how his policies are going to be as beneficial to the poor as Nutters.

I have observed societal events often follow scientific principles. For instance, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Our reaction to Pearl Harbor is a case in point. And of course, those who don't study history are doomed to repeat its mistakes. The Confederacy in the Civil War was doomed to fail. When Jefferson Davis called the governor of Georgia to send his troops to Virginia during the siege of Petersburg, the Governor had the authority to say no and did so, thus Petersburg and Richmond thankfully fell.

The confederacy should have realized our confederation of states established in 1783 failed for a reason. It is, as the South found out, stupid to replicate mistakes.

I have an M.B.A. and 20 years experience in business before I became a teacher. I have never heard of "trickle up economics" as Stan puts it. Gravity pulls things down. In the sixties we launched many great programs, but we also gave money away creating incentives for broken families. Combined, these policies did not attain their goals, and thus we are having this conversation again.

That being said, Nutter has in no way supported the trickle down philosophy. Why Stan doesn't get that I don't know.

Nutters plans for helping the most vulnerable, the most at risk, will work. When I received a tax break for hiring a specific disadvantaged population, I went out and bought ten machines, developed a training program, and hired ten new employees from that specific disadvantaged group. Six of the ten ended up working for me full time until I closed my business in 1984. I also hired my shop mechanic from a similar program. These targeted tax incentives create a multiplier effect that anyone who has taken an Econ 101 class understands. It historically remains unchalleneged in Economic theory.

Trickle down economics is giving the rich a tax break so they'll spend more money and hopefully create more jobs. I have not seen that anywhere in Nutters proposals.

As others have said, Nutter sees the big picture, he can connect the dots. He seeks tough challenges and wants responsibility, like taking back our schools. That is leadership. The others are all comfortable letting someone else worry about the elephant in the room. They seek a fall guy. That is not leadership.

It is as simple as that.

Philosophy Matters

In college I majored in Philosophy. When I received my M.B.A. I was actually able to turn down job offers. Philosphy matters, it makes for intelligent discussions, but policies which promote business get the bills paid.

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