Former City Solicitor Nelson Diaz didn't wind up going to Washington earlier this year, when he was rumored to be a possible pick to become President Obama's secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

But he's headed to the nation's capital anyway, albeit for a shorter stay.

Last week, Diaz was one of 28 people selected to serve on the President's Commission on White House Fellowships.

A former Common Pleas Court judge, he'll be in the company of folks like retired NBC newsman Tom Brokaw and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark, who will serve on the panel with him.

The commission is responsible for recommending 11 to 19 fellows to the president - out of 1,000 who applied and 30 who were selected as finalists.

Clark, a retired U.S. Army general, is a former fellow, as are former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.

- Marcia Gelbart

Holes in Nutter cabinet close to being filled

Mayor Nutter is getting closer to figuring out how he will replace former top policy adviser Mark Alan Hughes, whose last day was last week, and Commerce Director and Deputy Mayor Andrew Altman, who is leaving the administration at the end of the month.

"Do we have the capacity internally already to absorb their duties? If so, will we need to split the portfolios? If not, will we look locally or nationally to hire? These are the questions we're working on now," said Nutter spokesman Doug Oliver.

Although outside hires are possible, it seems more likely the jobs Hughes and Altman performed will be divvied up among existing personnel.

Altman's massive portfolio - encompassing economic development, the Commerce Department, and the Planning Commission - is almost sure to be broken up. That might satisfy some administration critics who contend Altman's plate was too full, but it would also be a blow to Nutter's notion of a city government where high-powered deputy mayors break down barriers between departments.

Replacing Hughes, the city's sustainability director, could be simpler. Oliver said that Hughes had developed a comprehensive sustainability plan for city government in his year on the job.

"We have a great plan in place, which now simply needs to be put into operation," Oliver said.

- Patrick Kerkstra

Latest PICA member is a Mellow fellow

Meet Wadud Ahmad.

Criminal-defense lawyer. Amateur government wonk. Poet and song lyricist.

Not the typical profile for a member of the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority. (To hear his "ambient soul music," go to

But last week indeed, Ahmad, an appointee of state Senate Democratic Leader Robert J. Mellow, became the newest member of the lawyerly bunch, practically walking into a hornet's nest when he showed up for his first meeting. The five-member authority is in charge of overseeing the city's financial well-being - not a pretty job.

Last week, board members went round and round trying to define PICA's exact responsibilities when it comes to requiring the city to submit a new budget to them, and the date by which they must accept or reject that budget.

Traditionally, both of those things happen by June 30. But this is not a traditional budget year. In the end, PICA decided to inform Mayor Nutter that a budget was due by today.

What happens next is unclear.

For now, maybe the board's - and Nutter's - best move would be to listen to track 3 of Ahmad's CD. Its title: "Optimism."

- Marcia Gelbart