More on Michael Nutter and Trolleys
I received an email from Jim Foster, author of the previously discussed op-ed
on Michael Nutter and trolleys.
As the author of the opinion piece regarding the Route 15 trolley, Michael Nutter and SEPTA, let me clarify a couple of points that may be missed in reading the abbreviated version of my commentary. (For those interested google Chestnut Hill Local and read the two separate opinions on this issue in my columns “Off Center” by Jim Foster. They were printed June 2, and June 29.)
The larger issue here is that $84 million was spent on a transportation system that was well researched, planned, and completed with testing and operation already de-bugged. It was also one whose operational start date was advertised well in advance to the neighborhood. SEPTA knew full well that the street in question (two blocks of 59th Street) had been illegally converted to both side parking by the neighbors and Nutter admits it has been used illegally that way. SEPTA, not without a history of poor community relations, did try and get Nutter to have the street made one way in essence to help legalize an existent non-conforming use, a typical process in Philadelphia usually accompanied with political influence. Campbell saw this as an opportunity to blackmail SEPTA by waiting until a day or two before the publicized start date and went on record that the neighbors would not move the illegally parked cars and they would not accept a one-way street. This was all carefully choreographed with Nutter part of the plan. He denied being a part of that process in a recent phone call, but a reading of his quote in the City Paper last October 6, tells a much different story.
The point is not that ward leaders or councilmen should not deal with local issues, they should. But here they had years to work out their differences with SEPTA regarding the depot at 59th and Callowhill, and no less than a year advance notice that trolley service was to resume. The trackwork had been long completed and the announcement that the newly rebuilt cars were being supplied to SEPTA began in 2003. The Inquirer published photos of the cars, the station at the Zoo and related data and now those involved say they were caught off guard - - - not a chance. This was a political power play pure and simple, crafted to have maximum impact. Councilman Nutter had a larger responsibility to take the bull by the horns, get the system operational, and then preside over resolution of other local issues. That is called leadership and prioritizing. It could have been a win-win if he had the guts; but he does not. Campbell runs the show out there, and he does what he is told.
As I stated in my piece, politics in Philadelphia is hardball without gloves. Councilman Nutter is proving he is not ready for that game.