The city Democratic primary posed a puzzling contrast.
The campaign was graced by an unprecedented explosion of civic energy, with groups all over the city highlighting issues, proposing smart agendas and staging forums. Engaged citizens forced the candidates to address an array of topics that likely would have been ignored by politics as usual.
Yet turnout Tuesday was low to moderate at best. Election day seemed low on fire and passion - by Philadelphia standards.
A paradoxical guess as to why: This was an election of the head, not the gut - and Philly isn't used to that. In this town, perhaps, turnout traditionally has been fueled by tribal and racial passions. Those being blessedly low-key this time, turnout suffered.
While too few votes were cast, I suspect a higher-than-usual percentage of them were well-informed and thoughtful.
For that, you can thank the sustained display of civic energy - buoyed by new campaign finance rules that left traditional pols off-balance.
This focus on things that really matter was the work of many hands. The Great Expectations project, a joint effort of the Inquirer Editorial Board and the University of Pennsylvania, was pleased to be a part of it.
The trick now is not to allow that energy to dissipate. Good elections aren't just a matter of who should win. What matters just as much is setting the winners up to govern well once they take office, in part because the public has thought through the tough choices.
That's why, at Great Expectations, we feel our project - a blend of civic dialogue, issues reporting and academic research - has really just begun.
Our goal never has been just to comment on a campaign. It is to craft a citizen-oriented Agenda for the Next Great City, to be presented to the new mayor and new City Council when they take office next January.
It's been good to see that Democratic nominee (and mayor-presumptive) Michael Nutter has had most of the grassroots' heartfelt concerns on his personal agenda since the get-go. That's a reason he won.
I talked to Nutter on Thursday. He said he'd be happy to cooperate with and respond to the Great Expectations agenda effort.
The citizen-driven agenda might correspond to Nutter's plans on some points, and diverge on others. Either way, the interplay could help create momentum for the city to tackle its problems and exploit its strengths in the ways a great city should.
A number of issues bubbled up during Great Expectations forums that we plan to explore for the rest of the year. Here are a few.
All are issues that Nutter spoke about during the campaign but will need the public's help in addressing if he's elected:
Prosperity, property taxes and the 'hood: The residential building boom and influx of upper-income homebuyers, while good trends, have created deep anxiety in older neighborhoods. To many, rising property values raise the threat of rising taxes and imminent expulsion from long-time homes. The new mayor and Council will have huge decisions to make about property tax revaluation and whether to keep, scrap or revise the 10-year tax abatement for new construction. The abatement has fueled a condo boom but has left many long-time homeowners feeling abused and forgotten.
Take that, Ray Nagin: New Orleans' mayor may have been a rude guest in calling our city dirty, but he wasn't wrong. At forums in working-class neighborhoods, trash, litter and unkempt properties were top-of-the-list issues. Figuring out an all-hands-in strategy for cleaning up the city could be the next mayor's equivalent of John Street's abandoned-car blitz in 2000. It could be a nice companion move to that other yearned-for effort . . .
Cleaning up City Hall: In the way of campaigns, this topic produced a lot of over-the-top rhetoric. What's needed is a careful analysis of whether the new campaign finance rules need tweaking, and a clear grasp of what other steps, symbolic or concrete, citizens need to see before they'll even consider trusting their government again.
Stop and frisk: Nutter's plan to enhance police powers to get at illegal guns became the wedge issue of the campaign's waning days, which meant that calm and perspective fled the scene. I'd like to see some forums at which opponents and proponents get a clear, honest statement of how his plan would work, then explore respectfully the values and goals the idea brings into tension.
SEPTA follies: The mayor doesn't run the mass transit agency - far from it - but perhaps he has a bully pulpit. Why not assemble its core customers - both working-class and young newcomers - for a look forward? Make it not just a gripe-fest, but an incubator for suggestions large and small about how SEPTA could get back into the customer-service business. That wouldn't fix the agency's deep money woes, but it might get more customers, actual and potential, interested in lobbying for state funding.
Zoning and planning reform: Reform is one of those elastic words that can mean almost anything. Zoning reform became a mom-and-apple-pie phrase during this election. To some, though, it means enhancing neighborhoods' power to play NIMBY. To others, it means the exact opposite. This will be a huge fight, requiring both honest public dialogue and mayoral leadership to turn out well.