Let's make this simple: what is Michael Nutter's agenda for party reform?

The endorsement of Brady for Congress in Michael Nutter's Inky op-ed yesterday wasn't strange, but this was:

I want to outline why I think Brady is an important asset to my new administration. Both as a member of Congress and as head of the city's Democratic Party...Brady and I have had many discussions about the need to change the way we do business in Philadelphia. I believe he supports my agenda for reform in city government and the Democratic Party.

Practically, I understand why a Democratic Mayor would want to forge a relationship with the Democratic Party chair, but if that is the road Nutter is going down, then he needs to answer the same specific questions that have been asked of Brady about reforming the party.

Here's my attempt at boiling down some of the concerns into a simple agenda for Philadelphia Democratic Party reform:

  1. Will the party change the unfair special election process so that individual voters have some say?
  2. Will every ward leader in the party commit to holding open ward meetings, where anyone can watch and ask questions?

  • Will the party chair convene an annual platform convention so that all members of the party can share their ideas for the policies and laws that party-endorsed candidates will push?

  • Will every committee person in the city commit to canvassing their division every election, making at least three attempts to have face-to-face contact with a voter?

  • Will the party chair lay out appropriate and inappropriate ways for ward leaders to handle "street money" to stop the shaking down of candidates, especially judges, for office?

    Bob Brady is an interesting guy. I don't know him super well, but I like him.

    Bob Brady has not, however, committed to an agenda for reforming what some of us perceive to be the problems in the Democratic party.

    Brady did meet with some of us "progressives" last year to discuss this. As Clout reported:

    The gripes? Unresponsive committeemen. Corrupt judicial elections. Undemocratic selection to fill City Council vacancies. Weak voter-turnout efforts. Patronage. Nepotism. Politics as usual...

    "Bob went by himself into this group of 20 people, about 10 of whom had real issues with him," said Hannah Miller of Philly for Change. "He sat there and took it. I have nothing but respect for the man. "

    "He was kind of in the hot seat," said Jen Murphy, chairwoman of Philly for Change. "It's the start of a conversation. "

    Ray Murphy of Philadelphians Against Santorum said, "I think Bob Brady is a nice guy. I had a good time, but that doesn't change what a lot of us are doing. "

    Marc Stier of Neighborhood Networks gushed on his blog: "Congressman Brady was charming, articulate, incredibly quick on his feet and well prepared. "

    Our breakfast was fun, but nothing was really resolved. Brady has indicated that he is open to talking again, but for whatever reason, nothing has happened yet.

    That's why it is exciting that Mayor-elect Nutter says that he has been talking to Chairman Brady about reforms in the party. But why the secrecy about it?

    Nutter does not say what reforms he is suggesting they are nor can they be found on his website.

    I hope Mayor-elect Nutter is willing to take on the agenda for party reform above and share with us his plans too. The people listed above by no means lead the city or even the “movement.” However, the concerns we articulated to Brady last year, that I attempt to capture above, are real, and they affect a majority of Philadelphia voters.


    My gut feeling is if we

    My gut feeling is if we change the rules for #5, #1-4 will start to organically fall into place as new committee people step into or run for office.

    Excellent post, though.

    Of course, not just Nutter but nearly all of our local elected officials bear some accounting in terms of this. The only difference is that Nutter has claimed to propose some vague thing to deal with some part of these issues and in some vague way Brady was supposedly responsive.

    Like Nixon going to China

    I think the Bob Brady / Michael Nutter reform alliance is kind of like Nixon going to China. Not that there is much good to say about Nixon, but in a time of paranoia about communism, he was publically trusted to open up that relationship.

    In the same way, Bob Brady is trusted by all the ward leaders and the party structure, which means that he is the trusted "honest-broker" who could actually bring reform, if he got on board with that agenda. It sounds like he and Nutter have been meeting, and come to some common vision of a new direction.

    Not to be a dictator...

    ...good points. BUT, this post is a very simple, and direct question to Michael Nutter. So we can keep talking about the meaning of Nutter's op-ed at a meta level, but there is another thread open to do so. This thread is looking for an answer: what is Nutter's specific reform agenda?

    If you have answers, or better yet if the Mayor-elect has answers, put 'em below.

    Nixon and Nutter

    If Nutter actually delivers on his statement that Brady has agreed to reforms, then the Nixon/China analogy works. Right now, I think a better parallel is Nixon's secret plan to end the Vietnam war.

    Check out my website!

    I just voted for the guy, I

    I just voted for the guy, I never got invited to the discussion between Nutter and Brady about "reforming the party". I also voted for Gov. Rendell and I never got invited to the planning for the casinos.

    Sounds like a job for "real" journalists not pontificators er I mean bloggers. ;)

    this coming from king pontificator...

    ...don't get your feathers ruffled sean, my "dictator" comment was really addressed toward gowest--not you.

    and my comment to gowest, and any future commenters, is not meant to throw snark, but to attempt to keep the convo focused.

    lastly, sean, get real, you did way more than vote for nutter, you wrote about him and followed him a lot. do you know, or does anyone else know what he said about reforming the party? does it jibe with the agenda above?

    Not to beat up too much on

    Not to beat up too much on the press but this is something the press really should be pressing our dear Saint Nutter on. They also should stop reporting the Boy Scouts had a $1 a lease when they never actually had such an agreement and no $1 checks ever came from the Scouts - ever. And there was no WMD in Iraq. Sometimes we should ask more of journalism - including beating up a little on the politicians we actually like. Its their job.

    "City Government and the Democratic Party"

    Just to highlight the scope of this (which I think is the right one): The "city government" half of Nutter's statement is addressed on Nutter for Mayor ("Ethics Policy"). It includes a section on campaign finance reform, which does affect how the party does its thing. The real question is what Nutter (or Nutter/Brady) is proposing to change the internal structure of the city Democratic party.

    Again, I don't think Nutter uses words loosely, especially in a high-profile op-ed. He could have said "I believe he supports my agenda city government" and left it at that. The insertion of "and the Democratic party" is significant, and suggests that more is on the table here than patronage jobs and the contract negotiations.

    --Tim (aka Short Schrift)

    Just so I understand

    You're saying that looking outside of reforming the internal structure of the Dem party, Nutter's primary reform of "city government" will be changes in campaign finance? I'd think if we all put our heads together, we could come up with a few more important items.

    Great post, great comments

    I think that one thing that everyone agrees on is that some specifics from Nutter about his reform initiatives would be appreciated. That would be the first step towards "accounability." (That's a typo - but it's actually also accountability with a Philly accent.)


    DE, you are totally right. We are all agreed. That's why Tim is the last person who gets to say stuff like this:

    Again, I don't think Nutter uses words loosely, especially in a high-profile op-ed. He could have said "I believe he supports my agenda city government" and left it at that. The insertion of "and the Democratic party" is significant, and suggests that more is on the table here than patronage jobs and the contract negotiations.

    No more speculation on what he may have intended. It's that not big a city, I am sure Nutter knows these questions are being asked, it's time we get real answers.

    Tim, Karen, Sam: you guys have been loyal Nutter supporters. Go back and see what you guys said about the party, reform, Brady and also see what Nutter says. See if you can come up with any specific party reform points.

    Otis: you work for Nutter. Is there an official reply?

    Sean is right: where are the journalists? Dan Pohlig and Patrick K--i see you have blogged on this, but have you guys sought any further comment? What is your analysis based on your past coverage--does Nutter have a party reform agenda on record?

    What about you Marcia Gelbart, Tom Fitzgerald, Dave Davies, Gar? Where is the beef on this coverage?

    Sometimes a little push-pull

    Sometimes a little push-pull with even our best and brightest is strategic. Coverage on this issue may force Brady to go on the record for something he only promised verbally to Nutter which is important because well "talk is cheap" as they say.

    My take on Brady

    Frankly, I like the man. Simply put, he gets stuff done. Whenever he's involved w/a union contract dispute, he gets the issue resolved w/minimum pain to the parties involved (including the public). Would he have made a good Mayor? I don't think so; he's the very apotheosis of someone who gets things done using the existing network, rather than being a big picture person the way Nutter's record suggests that he will be. But this doesn't mean that he's a bad guy for the City. Quite to the contrary: I think that all available evidence strongly suggests that Bob Brady is good for Democratic Party, City, + progressive interests.

    Is he as progressive as we might like? No. But, you all know the cliche about letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.


    I just fell off my chair.

    I just fell off my chair. You think that he is good for the party, and progressive interests, eh?

    So, do you like special 'elections'?

    Do you like a closed, undemocratic ward system?

    Do you like patronage?

    Is it the man or the structure?

    I've been known to endorse a "throw the bums out" attitude when it comes to the less progressive parts of the city's Democratic party, but I'm a little surprised by some of the vehemence towards Brady. My opinion is that if Brady does help to do all of the things Nutter claims he will do in the op-ed, then I will gladly accept a kinder, gentler Brady as city chair, with all of his other appeals and his flaws. If he remains an obstacle or ineffectual on all of those points, THEN I will say that he has to go.

    In other words, I take the special elections undemocratic wards, and patronage to be symptomatic of the structure that Brady exists in and helps to lead rather than symptomatic of the man himself. If anybody's heard anything about Brady being mixed up in corruption a la Mariano or Fumo or Street or Miller, then let the Jacobins call for his head. But until then, I don't understand why Brady's position as party chair is the major problem of our political day.

    --Tim (aka Short Schrift)

    So, where is the super duper

    So, where is the super duper secret plan?

    Get back on your chair

    Read my comments again: I didn't say that he was perfect. But, as I said, I can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. And, on balance, I think that Bob Brady is good for the City, Democratic Party, and, yes, even progressive interests. Would I prefer someone with better a better progressive pedigree? Sure. But, I bet that had Brady been, say, Dennis Kucinich, he wouldn't have anywhere near the power he does to help the causes I list above.

    Politics: the art of the possible,

    First of all, you are mixing

    First of all, you are mixing two issues.

    One, Brady is a Congressman from an incredibly safe seat, so he could be as progressive as he wants. His record is OK. He is a guy who I like on a personnel level. Great.

    But two, by no reasonable metric do I consider the Philadelphia Democratic Party to be doing a good job. (Newsflash: even their vaunted turnout numbers during presidential elections are much better than average.)

    So, could you explain by what you judge him on as party chair?

    I agree, as a whole, the

    I agree, as a whole, the Philadelphia Democratic Party desperately needs a shake-up. I've said repeatedly that the best thing which could happen to them would be for them to lose a Mayoral election. That being the case, yes, I point to their Presidential election turnout as a good thing. If it hadn't been for the 80-20 ass-whooping that Kerry put on Bush in 11/04, it's likely that PA doesn't go for Kerry that year.

    So, while I agree that the Philadelphia Democratic Party is far, far from the ideal progressive organization, I'll give Bob Brady credit due for the progressive things it can do. Faint praise? Sure. But don't forget the labor disputes that Brady helps to mediate: w/o his position in the Party, it's doubtful he can do that.


    Again, like I said, turnout

    Again, like I said, turnout in Philly is not that good. As for the ratio of votes (80/20)...

    I mean, you are giving them credit for us being Democrats? They don't turn out very many more votes than they should. And, in non presidential elections, they turn out far, far, far less than they should.

    I don't think that you can

    I don't think that you can place much blame for poor voter turnout on Brady or the local Democratic Party. As a whole, US residents are pathetic about voting. We talk a good game about it, but we don't do much.


    Is this 1984? You just said

    Is this 1984? You just said the reason you thought he was doing a good job was turnout. I said, hey, turnout really isn't that good. You said, you cannot blame Brady for poor turnout.


    Comments are now turned off

    It's always funny to read comments when they get this far down. You can tell that most people who reply have either not read the original post or forgot what it said.

    I wrote this post, so I will only be speaking for myself here.

    I like Bob Brady too. However, he is the leader of the party. Sometimes leaders get stuck cleaning up the messes other people make.

    The Democratic City Committee is a working, urban machine. Some of it works great, and some of it does not.

    This is a long-running coversation--been going on for a while, and to his credit, Bob Brady himself has recognized the folks who have criticized the party and he has made moves to reach out.

    That said, the problems in the party I flagged above have not been addressed.

    Along comes Michael Nutter. He has an awful lot to do right now, and frankly, I'd rather he focus on that rather than say he has a plan to reform the party that he has talked over with Brady.

    But he did.

    He said it. He has never laid out a plan to change things in the party before. he was elected Mayor, not party leader.

    I am glad he is willing to take this on, but he can't just allude to an agenda without actually listing the items that are on it.

    So, my question remains, Mayor-elect Nutter, what are your plans?

    Please feel free to send an email to info AT youngphillypolitics.com, or better yet post a blog entry. Unlike Chaka Fattah, Dwight Evans and Bob Brady, you don't have a user account here, but trust me, it's very easy to set up. And if you have any trouble, email and I will be more than willing to help.

    Comment viewing options

    Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
    Syndicate content