By Ron Todt
ABOVE PHOTO: Mayor Michael Nutter is sworn in for his second term to lead Philadelphia.
(Photo: Mitchell Neff)
Mayor Michael Nutter was sworn in for a second term to lead Philadelphia on Monday, promising new efforts to crack down on gun violence and improve the quality of public schools in the nation’s fifth-largest city.
Nutter told members of the City Council and other dignitaries at the ceremony that high crime rates in many areas and lack of quality public education were holding the city back and tearing at the fabric of the community. Addressing those two issues was not some moral or social crusade, but an economic imperative, the mayor said, while vowing not to leave anyone behind in his efforts to transform the city.
“There are too many Philadelphians who don’t feel safe in their own neighborhoods, whose children are stuck in low-performing schools, who are struggling to find work, and some who have given up even looking for a job,” Nutter said.
Criminal justice spending accounts for one-third of the city’s budget, money that is badly needed in other areas, the mayor said. He also noted that black males made up almost three-quarters of the victims and nearly 80 percent of the perpetrators in the city’s 300-plus shooting deaths last year, calling it “a local and national epidemic that is insufficiently discussed, let alone taken on.”
The transition to the new year was marked by deadly crime, with six people killed between Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, most by gun violence that also injured others and kept police and emergency crews scrambling across the city throughout the night.
Nutter said his administration would put 120 new police officers on foot patrol, improve community policing and launch a new effort targeting illegal gun owners and suppliers along with their neighborhoods, especially in the five police districts in which almost half of Philadelphia’s homicides occur. But he also promised inducements to get young people to put down guns and choose a different path, offering help to get jobs and education.
“Because some of these young kids that are terrorizing our neighborhoods are themselves just frightened kids,” he said. “They’re not all bad kids, and they weren’t born like this. These are kids who lack opportunity, who believe they have no future, that there is no door open to them.”
Nutter also said schoolchildren in some areas have been shortchanged by “political agendas, historic mismanagement and a tradition of low expectations.” The mayor said in his efforts to woo businesses to come to the city, the top concern of executives was the education of the prospective work force.
“We will turn around the lowest-performing schools in our system, and if they can’t be turned around, close or replace them with high-quality alternatives. Reform restructure, replace,” he said.
Nutter, 54, a Democrat and former city council member, easily defeated a little-known Republican challenger last year in a city where voters haven’t elected a Republican mayor in more than 60 years. In his re-election campaign, he touted the fact that homicides were down about 18 percent since his election in 2007 as well as his administration’s implementation of single-stream recycling that doesn’t require residents to sort materials and a 311 information call center while avoiding drastic cuts to core city services during the recession.
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