Government watchdogs say that Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s budget address last week sets a bad precedent for transparency in public events.
When Nutter gave his speech last year, furious city workers shouted so loudly that he had to finish the address in another room. Council President Darrell Clarke didn’t want a repeat of that.
During Nutter’s budget address in Council’s chambers Thursday, security was tightened and only some city workers were let inside.
Mary Catherine Roper, a senior attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said that is disconcerting.
“Our government is supposed to be open to its supporters and critics alike,” she said. “You don’t have important government addresses, important government events where some people aren’t allowed in the room.”
She said she did not have enough information to determine whether the event was in violation of the state’s Sunshine Act, which states that legislative meetings must be open to the public.
Zack Stalberg, president of the good-government group Committee of Seventy, said, “It was not possible for an ordinary citizen to just walk in and watch the proceedings and obviously that’s not a good precedent.”
Clarke disputes the notion that attendance at the budget speech was restricted. He says there is always a guest list for the event and that he simply granted Nutter’s request to make room for several staffers.