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December 27, 2015

What they're saying: The legacy of Mayor Nutter

Opinions are mixed, but mostly positive

As Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter's tenure comes to a close, many – including himself – are reflecting on his time as the city's top executive.

He recently spoke with PhillyVoice in an exit interview, discussing his proudest accomplishments, biggest challenges and local and national politics.

While Nutter is busy sitting down with virtually every local news organization before Jim Kenney is sworn in as his successor on Jan. 4, many are sharing their thoughts on the former's impact during his two-term stay.

On Sunday, the Philadelphia Inquirer's editorial board said that since he took office in 2008, the progress made under Nutter has outweighed the shortcomings.

The newspaper writes that despite disappointments such as increased taxes, delayed union contract negotiations and an apparent inability to work with City Council, he has moved the city forward in a number of important areas.

The Inquirer cites improved ethics at City Hall and the elevation of Philadelphia's status worldwide under Nutter:

Philadelphia's stature, not just nationally but worldwide, has grown with Nutter's support for signature events, including rap mogul Jay Z's Made in America music festival, the World Meeting of Families visit by Pope Francis, Philadelphia's citation as this country's first World Heritage City, and its hosting next year's Democratic National Convention.

Patrick Kerksta of Philadelphia Magazine seems to agree. In a recent assessment comparing the outgoing Nutter and the incoming Kenney, he writes that many have made the case that Nutter is "image-obsessed" and "politically inept," among other things.

Yet Kerksta argues that if you take a clear look at his tenure, Nutter's flaws and failures (he leaves a desperately broken school district, for example) are overshadowed by what he's gotten done.

Whatever his political failings, Mayor Nutter is leaving Philadelphia safer, bigger, better educated at the collegiate level, more cosmopolitan and somewhat more prosperous than he found it in 2007. On his watch, millennials and immigrants flooded in, the city’s profile on the world stage grew, and corruption was simply not tolerated.

NewsWorks has been conducting several interviews regarding Nutter's legacy, touching on a number of aspects of his administration.

Two Temple University professors applauded him for bringing Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey – who is also leaving Philly – in to head the city's department, and for his work connecting low-income residents to public benefits.

Alex Balloon, Director of the Tacony Community Development Corporation, told NewsWorks' Dave Heller that his neighborhood has seen progress in its foreclosure rate since the recession hit, which occurred almost simultaneously with Nutter being sworn in. However, he noted it has not gotten back to where it was before the economic crisis.

The Inquirer's Inga Saffron told Heller that in terms of development, Nutter has cleaned up the ethical shortcomings in the city's planning and zoning, but overall results in that sector have not improved.

Overall, the opinions of Nutter's tenure in his final days are mixed, but mostly positive. Although many remain critical of his political abilities and lack of progress on some long-standing civic issues, most seem to agree he leaves Philadelphia heading in the right direction.