Nutter and Brown face off for the top spot

Karen Brown knows she won’t beat Mayor Michael Nutter on Tuesday with a barrage of television commercials.

The longshot Republican challenger has raised just $37,000 during the campaign.

“Wow,” she said in jest.

In lieu of a fat war chest, she is relying on trying to reach as many voters as possible in small and large settings. She said she’s put 50,000 miles on her car and gone through 20 pairs of shoes.

“We’re everywhere,” she said.

Nutter, meanwhile, has had smooth sailing since winning the 2007 Democratic primary. He crushed Al Taubenberger in the general election that year and defeated former state Sen. Milton Street in the primary earlier this year.

Still, the controversial Street took 24 percent in the primary, indicating some dissatisfaction with the mayor. Nutter maintains a campaign office and staff.

“I don’t take anything for granted,” he said.

A third candidate, independent Wali Rahman, aka Diop Olugbala, is also in the race.

Nutter believes he deserves four more years based on, among other things, reductions in violent crimes, shootings and murders.

“I hired the best police commissioner in the United States of America,” he said, referring to Charles Ramsey.

The mayor also cited increases in standardized test scores among public school students and the number of people with college degrees. He describes himself as “actively engaged” in the search for a new School District of Philadelphia superintendent.

City chief education officer Lori Shorr is working closely with state Department of Education Secretary Ron Tomalis and school district adviser Ed Williams.

“We are bringing all the parties together,” Nutter said.

In addition, integrity officer Joan Markman and inspector general Amy Kurland are working closely with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to eliminate corruption and promote transparency and openness.

“We’ve virtually ended pay to play,” Nutter said.

The incumbent, who lives in Wynnefield, acknowledged the tough economic conditions caused him to suspend planned reductions in the city’s wage and business taxes and an increase in the city’s property and sales taxes. He said the city is “not out of the woods.”

The administration has kept a priority on public safety, he contends.

“We did not lay off one police officer or firefighter,” he said.

The city is moving forward, Nutter claims. Three hotels are planned, and more jobs will be coming to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. Also, Teva Pharmaceuticals will be building a plant on Red Lion Road.

The mayor is proud of the city’s enhanced recycling efforts and boasts of increasing work contracts given to minorities, women and the disabled.

The city budget would look better, Nutter believes, if City Council agreed to eliminate the Deferred Retirement Option Plan for city employees.

“Our city cannot afford that program. It needs to go,” he said.

Nutter was elected to Council in 1991 in a new class of seven. Like that year, Council will also have a new president. While most observers believe Nutter is backing Councilwoman Marian Tasco, whom he calls a “longtime friend,” for the top job, he has made no public declaration.

“I don’t have a vote in that election,” he said.

Brown, a retired teacher from South Philadelphia who says she still has a passion for education, planned to run for City Council as a Democrat this year.

The Republican City Committee was desperate for someone to oppose Realtor John Featherman, a reformer. Brown was recruited to the mayoral race and edged Featherman by 64 votes.

If elected, Brown would be Philadelphia’s first female mayor and the first Republican in 60 years. She’s seeking to be the first challenger to oust an incumbent in more than 140 years.

Brown believes Nutter places himself on a pedestal, while she views herself as closer to citizens.

“I’m a working mom,” she said. “I want to walk the streets. The middle class is who I reach.”

In office, Brown would reduce the wage, property and business taxes. She favors an elected school board and merit pay for public school teachers.

Overall, she’d have an agenda of promoting recreation and youth sports, with greater emphasis on schools and reforms within the Department of Human Services. She argues that young people are the future of the city.

“Without them, we have no future,” she said.

Reforms she would implement include restricting Council members from earning outside income and limiting elected officials to two four-year terms. Currently, Philadelphia’s mayor is the only elected official limited to two terms.

Brown thinks Nutter is concerned about the race. Why else, she speculated, would Nutter bring in Bill Clinton for a rally at Temple University? The former president canceled his appearance on Saturday, citing poor weather.

The challenger faults the incumbent for implementing so-called “brownouts” as a cost-cutting measure at firehouses.

The mayor is also wrong, she said, to allow the Occupy Philadelphia protesters to stay outside City Hall overnight.

“I would have never let them stay there,” she said, adding that she’d allow them to remain only from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ••

Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215–354–3034 or twaring@bsmphilly.com