Like many Philadelphians, I have been disappointed in Mayor Michael Nutter's response to the budget crisis. Instead of thinking big, the administration allowed almost no public input and just dusted off proposals from the Street Administration.
The criticism has been fierce. Outraged residents have called, written letters, and packed community meetings. In the past, budget forums have followed a predictable pattern. Mayor Nutter speaks for about five minutes and then open the floor to questions. A parade of frustrated citizens then lined up at the microphones to vent about the budget cuts.
On Monday, I wrote an op-ed for the Daily News about changes that Nutter could make to make the meetings more productive.
. It appears that the criticism has had some impact.
This time, Mayor Nutter spoke for much longer. He gave detailed information about the financial situation and explained where the shortfalls in city revenue were happening. Nutter also gave a good overview of city vehicles ( a controversial topic at previous forums) and savings identified by the fleet department.
Residents also got to hear directly from three department heads-- the fire commissioner, the head of the recreation department, and the director of the library-- about their rationale behind the cuts. Previously, deputy mayors and department heads had barely participated.
Nutter also mentioned a few bold ideas that have been missing from the discussion. He spoke about a lawsuit seeking to force the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to pay for the court system and mentioned the need to get costs associated with the criminal justice industrial complex-- which accounts for 24% of our budget-- under control. These are the kind of big proposals many expected to hear from this mayor.