The second anniversary of the building collapse that killed six people inside a Salvation Army thrift shop is fast approaching, but the city still has too many structures that pose similar hazards to public safety.
With less than a year remaining in his final term, Mayor Nutter most likely spends some of his time pondering his legacy. During those moments, he should remember what happened in Center City on June 5, 2013 - when a building that wasn't being properly demolished caused the deadly collapse - and ask himself if he has done all he can to prevent a similar tragedy in the future.
The evidence indicates that he has not. Consider Inquirer staff writer Alfred Lubrano's revelation in March that dozens of dilapidated buildings that were so dangerous they were supposed to be inspected every 10 days had not been examined in months. And thousands of buildings in bad enough shape that they were supposed to be inspected every month had not been looked at regularly.
Elsewhere, that type of record might get someone fired. But Nutter has stood behind Licenses and Inspections Commissioner Carlton Williams - who, rather than acknowledge that reforms in his department since the Salvation Army deaths have been inadequate, has accused his critics of making "absurd and false comments."
What is absurd is that no one seems to have suffered any consequences since it was discovered that nine new inspectors hired by Williams were allowed to inspect about 200 buildings even though they were not yet certified to do so. The lame excuse that the rookie inspectors were undergoing a training exercise doesn't wash - not when their work was officially recorded as having been conducted by a certified inspector.
The buildings in question reportedly have been or will be reinspected properly to ensure the city isn't held liable for inaccurate records. But that in no way excuses a rather haphazard method of approaching building inspections that sends the wrong message to novice inspectors learning the craft, even as families still mourn the loss of loved ones in the building collapse.
Nutter vowed after the thrift store disaster to "fix what needs to be fixed." But his subsequent stonewalling when asked to allow public scrutiny of City Hall records on demolition permits suggested a defensive posture. That may be an obstacle to the type of overhaul L&I needs to ensure it's protecting the public.
It's not as if nothing has been done. City Council has recommended reforms, Nutter has made some changes, and it was announced Wednesday that the Fire Department will help inspect commercial and industrial buildings. But L&I still appears to lack experienced, forthright leadership.