Time spent with John Street is rarely dull. My radio feature on the former mayor’s life in semi-retirement is based in part on a two-hour sit down in his Temple University office.
He seems happy and engaged in his teaching, and is building new relationships with former adversaries. The exception is Mayor Nutter, whom he criticizes with an intensity that borders on obsession.
But there’s one topic in the story that deserves more discussion. Street expanded on his widely-reported statement that many African-Americans see Nutter not a black mayor, but as a mayor with dark skin.
The difference, Street explained, is that a black mayor has an appreciation of the special issues that African Americans confront, as opposed to issues that concern all people, or even all poor people.
And that raises a question I should have asked him: When he was mayor, to what extent did he see himself as mayor of all the city, as opposed to a mayor focused on the issues of black Philadelphians?
It reminds us of his 2002 statement in a speech to an NAACP conference that “the brothers and sisters are running this city.”
One final note: I wanted to share the observations of Neil Oxman, a political media consultant who ran ads criticizing Street in more than one mayoral campaign. Street recently invited Oxman to lunch and to teach at his class. I didn’t have room for Oxman’s comments in my radio piece, but you can hear my interview with him by clicking on the audio above.