On a January day seven years ago, a long line of hopeful people encircled Philadelphia’s City Hall to salute a new mayor. Seven years later, the verdict on Michael Nutter is disappointment.
On a January day seven years ago, a long line of hopeful people encircled Philadelphia’s City Hall.
Folks were there to shake the hand of the new mayor, Michael Nutter, whose surprise victory spurred hopes for an overdue era of ethical, reform-minded leadership
Seven years later, the popular verdict on Nutter’s tenure is disappointment. To be fair, the global economy dealt Nutter a brutal hand that he actually coped with pretty well. His administration has been ethically solid. On his watch, the city has grown bigger, younger and greener.
But too often, as events play out, Nutter ends up looking thwarted, baffled and peevish. The problem is not his IQ or values. It’s leadership.
Turns out, the mayor isn’t all that great at two essential skills of leadership: getting people to join your parade, or getting in front of useful parades started by others.
The arc of disappointment Nutter has traveled with his onetime fans eerily parallels that of Barack Obama. Yes, each man has had bad luck. Each certainly has been cursed with a legislative body that mixes mulish resistance with outright insult.
But isn’t the essence of leadership figuring how to surmount bad luck, defuse enmity, create momentum toward results?
No one leadership style is going to prove perfect for all tasks or tastes. I’d count Ed Rendell as a great urban leader, particularly in his first term. But, for my austere tastes, he could be too transactional and ethically loose. I’d like the next mayor to somehow combine Rendell ‘s let’s-do-this elan with Nutter’s ethical compass.
Which brings me to this question: What qualities are YOU looking for in the leaders whom Philadelphia will elect this year? What makes those qualities important to you? Who embodies those qualities?
Here’s why I ask.
At WHYY and NewsWorks, we’re making leadership a focal point of our city election coverage. We’re asking questions such as:
What does it take to get things done in Philly? Do some local habits of leadership set the city back? And what have the candidates done in their lives that suggests what kind of leaders they’d be?
We want to know what you think about these questions.
Working with the Young Involved Philadelphia group as a partner, we crafted a short Survey Monkey questionnaire to collect responses to that set of questions from voters young, old and in the middle.
YIP circulated the survey to its membership at the end of the year, and some interesting responses have flowed in. Now, it’s the turn for WHYY-FM’s audience, NewsWorks’ readership and anyone else to let their views be known.
You don’t have to be an eligible Philadelphia voter to take the survey, but if you’re not, please be sure to fill out the ZIP code section. That will let us know.
Just click on this link to take the survey. It should only take a couple of minutes. When you finish it, be sure to mark the box saying that you found out about the survey through WHYY/NewsWorks. That’ll help so much in our analysis of the results.
We’re interested to see whether the YIP constituency’s views differ much from those of the broader audience. We’re interested to see which leadership qualities people yearn for most. We’re intrigued to see how often, it at all, the announced candidates for mayor and City Council get cited as embodying the leadership traits that people seek.
And we can’t wait to see what names, familiar or outside the box, people cite when asked who embodies the leadership qualities they value.
The city election is just about the heat up. As we report on it, we want to make sure we’re reporting on the matters that truly matter to voters. This survey is one way you can help us meet that goal.