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Phila.'s new boss will stay connected

Michael Nutter is about to become mayor, but he's not about to give up everything - and certainly not his title as ward leader.

Michael Nutter is about to become mayor, but he's not about to give up everything - and certainly not his title as ward leader.

"I think it helps to keep you connected to real people in a real neighborhood," said Nutter, who has led Wynnefield's 52d Ward since 1990.

Nutter views his position as "part of my commitment to the committee people out there who were in many instances the earliest supporters I had. . . . That's where I got my start."

A former city councilman, he's hardly the only elected official to maintain his ward post. There's U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, 34th Ward leader; Council President Anna Verna, 36th Ward leader; State Sen. Anthony Williams, Third Ward leader; and at least a dozen more.

Is it all about amassing, and keeping, political power? Perhaps. But it's also about something else, Nutter said: "You should never forget where you came from."

Nutter also intends to maintain another post: his seat as a director on the Board of City Trusts, which manages nearly half a billion dollars left in trust to the city of Philadelphia, including funds for Girard College and Wills Eye Hospital.

He was appointed for life.

Philadelphia mayors automatically become nonvoting directors, but as a previous appointee, Nutter has voting rights - and he said he intends to keep them.

Street legal

Don't expect a taxpayer lawsuit challenging Mayor Street's eleventh-hour claim to $111,000 in salary increases he publicly refused during his tenure.

Street in 2003 vetoed a City Council bill - he was immediately overridden - that increased his salary from $146,000 to $165,000. It also authorized subsequent cost-of-living adjustments that would have put his salary at $186,000 this year.

Last week he claimed those raises retroactively, setting off a storm of criticism.

But those critics also concede that what he did was probably legal. State Ethics law prohibits a public official from using his authority or confidential information for private financial benefit for himself, his immediate family, or a business he is associated with.

But any action Street took to collect his raises was essentially authorized by City Council, according to the city Law Department. The Committee of Seventy's lawyers looked at it and agreed. Philadelphia Forward's Brett Mandel said he didn't see the legal basis for a lawsuit.

City Controller Alan Butkovitz said the only thing Street may have done that was contrary to law was refuse the raises in the first place.

Superior Court Judge Joan Orie Melvin was ordered by Commonwealth Court in February to accept the pay hike she received, even though she sued not to take it, in opposition to the state pay-raise scandal. The judge could donate the money to charity, the court said, but she could not refuse an increase that was authorized for her office.

Hold the symbolism

Mayor-elect Michael Nutter's unorthodox pick last week for his inaugural party place - the Cruise Ship Terminal in the Philadelphia Naval Yard - raised a few questions.

In holding the event so far from City Hall was Nutter trying to send a message that it won't be business as usual after he takes office on Jan. 7? Was the location intended to highlight the need to redevelop industrial sites?

Nothing so complicated as all that, Nutter said Friday.

"It's a big building with a lot of parking," the mayor-elect said.

Nutter said he learned of the site only last week, leaving the job of planning the event to his inaugural committee.

"I've been a little busy with other things," Nutter said.