GEEZ, what a ride!
Reflect on Michael Nutter's rookie year as mayor, and you have to marvel at the contrasts.
On opening day, hundreds lined up to welcome him to City Hall. In the spring and fall, he gave fist-pumping speeches to thousands and basked in the media spotlight of a presidential campaign.
In October, he felt the adrenalin rush of holding a World Series trophy aloft before two million fans at the Phillies parade.
And there were terrible lows.
Four times, he had to comfort the loved ones of police officers killed in the line of duty.
When the economy tanked and city finances went south, he held eight town-hall meetings to explain painful service cuts and let citizens vent their frustration.
At his seventh, I watched a man accuse him of genocide against black people and hand him a subpoena for a mock trial. Nutter listened patiently to him and everyone else, and never raised his voice in anger.
In truth, Nutter was treated with surprising respect and civility at those encounters, considering the severity of the cuts, which include the closure of 11 library branches.
That's because Nutter came into office with an enormous reservoir of goodwill, and was brilliant at the public side of the job - renewing our sense of hope and confidence, expressing our joy, sharing our pain and, at times, our anger.
But as the year turns and the economy continues to sour, and as libraries prepare to close the doors, opinions about Nutter are turning, too.
Community leaders and progressive Democrats who once praised Nutter now criticize him as cold-hearted, out of touch and secretive rather than transparent.
Businesspeople and leaders of nonprofit organizations grumble that his administration is dysfunctional and rudderless.
And if one thing about the future is clear, it's that his job is going to get much, much tougher. The city's finances are still sinking, and bigger, badder cuts are probably coming.
I hope that during the holidays, Nutter has some time to reflect on the year that has passed, along with the ones ahead. And for what it's worth, here are five pieces of unsolicited advice.
* Narrow your priorities, and decide what kind of mayor you really want to be.
You spent your campaign and first six months in office leading many to believe that their favorite cause wasn't just an interest, but a priority of yours: education, crime, zoning, planning, sustainability, economic development, minority inclusion, opportunity for ex-offenders, arts and culture, and ethics reform.
If you try to advance on a hundred fronts at once, you tend not to get far in anything.
* Take a hard look at your staff and the direction you give them. Something about this team is not clicking, and you need to sort out what's wrong.
Hand a few of your top people a stiffly spiked eggnog and get them talking about their frustrations. They're smart and committed, and you'll need everybody productively engaged to weather the storm ahead.
They need clear roles, strong direction and empowerment to do their jobs.
* This is a smaller thing, but it matters: Don't forget to spend money sometimes. It's easy when you're in financial straits to jam the brakes on all spending, but that can cost you in the long run.
In the last financial crisis, the city netted millions of dollars by hiring six people in the city's Department of Human Services to do paperwork getting kids onto federal funding streams.
If your managers can show that an investment will bring new revenue or save money, go for it.
* Use volunteers from the private sector to help you in the budget mess - they'll offer free work in the hope you'll hire them later - but keep them focused.
Don't tell borrowed executives you want them to brainstorm on reforming Licenses and Inspections. Give them a specific charge, like analyzing a particular problem or finding the right vendors for a particular task.
* Finally, don't forget that even those who are carping want you to succeed. We all know this is going to be a roller-coaster ride, and we're counting on you to keep us from jumping the track. *