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Nutter sworn in for second term

Four years ago, Mayor Nutter promised "a new beginning" for Philadelphia as he set staggeringly ambitious goals for cutting homicides and the high school dropout rate.

Four years ago, Mayor Nutter promised "a new beginning" for Philadelphia as he set staggeringly ambitious goals for cutting homicides and the high school dropout rate.

On Monday, Nutter began his second term still preoccupied with crime and failing schools, the intertwined ailments that "are holding us back as a city."

This time, he did not offer lofty numerical benchmarks during his inauguration speech, or introduce programs to tackle the problems.

In comparatively restrained remarks, Nutter talked instead of community pride and values, at times wistfully recalling his own West Philadelphia upbringing, which he said taught him "right and wrong."

"The numbers are one part, but there's also a feeling people should have in their community," Nutter said after the ceremony at the Academy of Music.

"You want to know that when you can walk down your street, that nothing is going to happen," he said. "I think ultimately that becomes the benchmark."

Nutter spoke of the "proliferation of illegal guns" and an "epidemic" of African American men being the perpetrators and victims of shootings.

He hinted at a crackdown on illegal weapons - likely in partnership with federal and state agencies - and said new police academy classes would put 120 additional officers on the streets by summer.

The gun issue is one of common concern for Nutter and new City Council President Darrell L. Clarke, who cosponsored a package of gun-control bills in 2008 that prompted the National Rifle Association to sue.

The relationship between Nutter and Clarke, who officially assumed his new mantle Monday, will be key to moving legislation through Council.

Clarke was the protégé of Nutter's rival, former Mayor John F. Street, and Nutter lobbied last year for two candidates challenging Clarke for president.

At the academy, the two pledged to work together on the issues that bedevil the city.

"I've known the mayor for more than 20 years," Clarke said. "Every once in a while we'll disagree on the issues, but it's not personal."

Clarke assumes leadership of a Council with six freshmen members, the largest turnover since the 1992 class that included Nutter as a councilman.

All 17 members were sworn into office Monday, along with city judges and row officers, including newly elected Sheriff Jewell Williams.

In his remarks, Clarke offered a broader policy view, discussing the city's business climate and underfunded pension system.

He again suggested the creation of neighborhood development districts to deal with vacant city-owned land, and proposed selling advertising on city property to raise money - ideas he floated last month.

Nutter said that he had not talked to Clarke about the advertising proposal - the more controversial of the two - but added, "It's certainly an idea worth having a discussion about."

Nutter made no mention during his speech about the city's finances, even though he spent his first term engrossed in belt-tightening and tax-raising.

The closest he came to talking about money was when he noted that a third of the city's budget is spent on the "criminal justice complex," and called for alternatives to locking up huge numbers of young men.

"This is not some moral or social crusade. This is an economic imperative for our city," he said. "One-third of your tax dollars dealing with bad decisions and bad behavior. It's a waste of your money."

Nutter lamented the lack of educational and job opportunities for "too many Philadelphians who do not share" in the city's progress."

While going after illegal guns is important, the mayor said, "we must also be brave enough to extend a hand to those who want to put the gun down."

"We must show them that if you put the gun down, we'll work with you to put a book in your hands, to put some work and a job in your hands," he said. "We'll work with you to put your future back in your hands."

On education, Nutter used a new phrase - "reform, restructure, or replace" - for his strategy for low-performing schools.

While the mayor has no direct authority over the schools, he appoints two members of the School Reform Commission. And last year, the School District of Philadelphia agreed to open its books and give the city more say over how school money is spent.

Nutter's plan also is based on a recent agreement - the Philadelphia Great Schools Compact - to expand schools that meet academic standards and close those that do not.

City schools made considerable progress during Nutter's first term, improving test scores and reducing dropouts slightly, although not nearly reaching Nutter's initial goal of halving the rate. The six-year high school graduation rate, 63 percent, is up 4 percent in the last two years, the mayor's staff said last summer.

Homicides in 2011 were down 17 percent from four years ago, but that number is a far cry from Nutter's pledge to reduce murders by 30 percent to 50 percent within five years.

While Nutter avoided such bold predictions Monday, he did paint an optimistic picture of a future Philadelphia.

He asked his audience to imagine a city where more children stayed in school and got job training or college degrees, where young men put down their guns, where poverty dropped and more jobs came to town.

"Imagine . . . if we restore to all parts of Philadelphia the values of community, togetherness, respect, and pride," he said. "This is all within our reach."

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