Mayor Nutter focuses on schools, gun violence in inaugural address
January 2, 2012By Dave Davies
In his inaugural address Monday, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter promised to focus on making neighborhoods safer and schools better in his second term.
It was a strikingly focused speech, in contrast to the broad-based agenda Nutter offered when he took office in 2008.
In his speech at the Academy of Music, Nutter didn't spend much time talking about his first-term achievements or capitalizing on Philadelphia's assets. He didn't talk about business taxes, pension costs, labor contracts, city planning, property assessments, public housing or a host of other issues that have occupied his attention over the course of his first term.
Instead, Nutter focused on two big problems he says are holding the city back.
He said the city must confront the plague of gun violence in the city's neighborhoods. Of the more than 300 people murdered in Philadelphia last year, Nutter said, "nearly 75 percent of those killed? African-American men. Nearly 80 percent of those doing killing? African-American men."
Nutter called it "a local and national epidemic that is insufficiently discussed, let alone taken on."
What will he do about it?
The mayor promised 120 more police officers on foot patrol by summer, coordinated efforts on gun trafficking, and further plans in coming weeks.
When Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey was asked before the ceremony what new anti-crime initiatives were being planned, he talked about traditional approaches to the problem.
"You've got idiots with guns that just go out and shoot people," Ramsey said. "Once they are caputred, they have to stay off the street. That's key is they have to stay locked up. Because they'll either become a victim, or they're going to re-offend and do it again. "
The second big issue Nutter talked about was failing schools:
"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," Nutter said. "Reform, restructure, replace."
Nutter said the need to fight crime and improve schools is "not some moral crusade," but "an economic imperative for our city."
Nutter said a third of the city's budget is spent on criminal justice programs, and he frequently hears potential employers express concerns about the skills of the city's workforce.
Transforming the city's schools won't be easy, since the financially-strapped system relies on a state government that is cutting spending, and the mayor doesn't control the school system's management or budget. But Nutter says he's determined to make big changes.
Click here to read Mayor Nutter's Inaugural Address.