A simple request last week from City Council President Anna C. Verna threatens to upset the delicate balance of a city panel that is just getting its legs - or so fear some of the panel members.
The panel is the Criminal Justice Advisory Board, a group formed nearly 10 months ago to try to resolve long-simmering issues with no easy solutions, from court backlogs to prison overcrowding.
Its high-profile members, who meet monthly in a small room in City Hall, include Common Pleas Court President Judge Pamela Pryor Dembe, Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison, District Attorney Lynne Abraham, Court of Common Pleas Administrative Judge D. Webster Keogh, Public Defender Ellen Greenlee, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, Municipal Court President Judge Marsha Neifield . . . . Get the picture?
The issue? Council appeared to have caught up with the board's . . . well, existence, during budget hearings a few weeks ago. (Unhappy with Mayor Nutter's proposed budget for many of the criminal justice agencies, the board voted on its own proposal and discussed it with Council.)
Now Council wants a seat at the table, a message Verna made clear in a hand-delivered letter Wednesday to Dembe and Gillison asking for the board to amend its bylaws to let in Council.
Excitement did not fill the air when Verna's request was shared at Thursday's board meeting. Nola Joyce, Ramsey's longtime aide who was sitting in for him, put it most gently when she shared her experience on a similar board in another city. When a council member from that city joined the board, what that member heard there translated into public hearings and budget cuts, she said.
Abraham pointed out that the monthly meetings were public anyway, and she and Dembe voiced no objection to Verna's request. Also, it was noted that similar panels in other jurisdictions include council members.
Still, a final decision was delayed as discussion began about who, exactly, would represent Council on the board - a Council member or a Council staffer?
Or, as Judge Keogh put it: "I'm concerned they'll appoint somebody . . . anybody . . . some wacko."
- Marcia Gelbart
City Hall sneaks are out
City Council and the Mayor's Office will get a chance to work out any leftover tension on the blacktop Friday night.
Imagine the spectacle: Mayor Nutter posting up against Councilman Bill Green, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown draining threes over Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler.
Alas, no elected officials are likely to play, and a Nutter/Green grudge match is sadly out of the question, as the councilman will be out of town.
Still, staffer vs. staffer could make for a good game.
Tumar Alexander, Nutter's government affairs aide, expects to play and coach. Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison could suit up. Gary Steuer, the mayor's cultural adviser, has some college experience.
Anchoring the mayoral team is Nutter's 6-foot-5-inch spokesman Doug Oliver, who played small forward for Lock Haven University.
"I won't be a good coach if Doug Oliver doesn't have 22 shots," Alexander said.
Nutter is reputed to be a decent basketball player, but Alexander said he is unlikely to play.
Council had hoped to counter Oliver with Joseph Meade, who played at West Chester University, but he left his job as an aide to Councilwoman Brown a few months back, so it was not clear whether he is eligible.
"They're going to have a size advantage for sure," said Justin DiBernardinis, an aide to Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez who is helping organize the game.
DiBernardinis had hoped Council members might want to play, but so far he has not found any takers.
"None of them want to go out there and blow out a knee," said DiBernardinis.
He hopes he'll have more takers for a hoped-for softball match over the summer.
The location of the proposed game has not yet been settled.
- Patrick Kerkstra
Phila. sleepover ends
Mayor Nutter isn't afraid to kiss in public - just take a glance at a new television ad that begins airing today.
The ad is part of a new $1.4 million tourism campaign developed by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. Its title: "Philadelphia, XOXO."
In it, right at the very end, the mayor blows animated kisses to viewers, wrapping up a pitch to convince them to take a trip to Philadelphia.
The ad is a successor, so to speak, to the tourism agency's old campaign, "Philly's More Fun When You Sleep Over."
That's the one that featured former Mayor John F. Street, as well as celebrities such as Nicole Miller and Peter Nero running around in pajamas. (Street, like Nutter, wore a suit in the TV spot.)
The Nutter ad will run through Aug. 16 - or 2,000 times from today until then.
- Marcia Gelbart