E D I T E D B Y D O R O N TA U S S I G
thebellcurve CP’s Quality-o-Life-o-Meter
John S. Carter, who defrauded the Independence Seaport Museum of $1.5 million, appeals his 15-year plea bargain sentence, saying the penalty is too harsh. “It turns out jail is extremely unpleasant,” he explains. “I would like to leave, please.” Even The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance establishes a new index to track involvement in cultural activities. “This can’t be right,” says analyst. “Under Bridesburg it just says ‘-4.’” Plus 1 Jimmy Rollins and his girlfriend will appear in a fashion spread for Playboy. “Wow,” says Pat Burrell. “They printed my letter.” Plus 1
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Michael Nutter plans to keep 46 of the city’s 73 pools open this summer, despite raising only a quarter of the $2 million he’d hoped to get in private donations. Also, he’s calling them Wet Libraries. Plus 2
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DUKE SUCKS, P. 16
to phase out the program almost the minute protocol still prevailed. The person eventuthe financial storm clouds started rolling in, ally arrested in the shooting was just 13, shortly after Street’s once similarly heralded and the city decided to make Point Breeze curfew centers were shuttered. It went out host to the city’s first curfew center and third of existence entirely in December. AVRP program. Critics of Nutter’s decision Residents were relieved readily acknowledge misthat a program like AVRP, takes in AVRP’s handling, which many felt was long but view the shutdown as overdue, had finally come shortsighted. I asked Cheryl to the area. Volunteers were Weiss, executive director of recruited for the curfew cenThe life and death of Diversified Community Serter, and people were engaged. a highly touted youth vices in South Philly, which “It was a pretty powerful proviolence prevention ran an AVRP program, and cess,” says Little. program. Mitch Little, who was an AVRP’s predecessor,YVRP, By Andrew Thompson administrator there, what is basically intensive proservices remain in the neighbation: An officer visits a n 2005, as the homicide rate in Phila- borhood for problem kids, now that the pro- released convict more than 25 times a month. The intention is to watch the person’s every delphia rose frighteningly, the Street gram has been shut down. Little laughed. move short of installing surveillance in his administration had an idea. It would home, and step in the moment trouble seems take the highly reputed Youth Violence Reduction Partnership, a program that Diversified Community Services is headquar- brewing. closely monitors youths age 15 to 24 at high risk of “killing or being killed,” and adapt it to a younger group. The new program would be for kids age 10 to 15 who were already showing signs of chronic delinquency, and it would aim to rehabilitate them before they wound up in the criminal justice system, or dead on the street. The motto of YVRP was “Alive at 25”; for the Adolescent Violence Reduction Partnership, it might have been “Record clean at 15.” AVRP began in two police districts — the 12th in Southwest Philly and the 25th in the northern badlands. Mayor Street called the $700,000 spent to launch it “the ounce of prevention that hopefully will keep us from having to spend a pound of cure.” Then-Councilman Michael Nutter said, “Finally, we’ll be getting the desperately needed services people have been asking for.” A MAN WITHOUT A PLAN: Mitch Little worked for the now-defunct But over the next couple of years, AVRP. When asked what’s available for kids now, he laughs. AVRP ballooned into a $16 million AVRP modified this model for younger kids, citywide program that, Nutter’s Deputy tered in Point Breeze, next to a housing projMayor Donald Schwarz says, “wasn’t get- ect and a run-down commercial corridor. The and added a second portion that included ting enough bang for its buck.” In interviews area regularly has among the highest crime counseling and conflict resolution. The way Weiss remembers it, the program now, city officials and community organiz- rates in the city. In summer 2006, tensions in the communi- made an immediate difference. In the two surers describe it as a good idea that was run aground by mismanagement and blind-faith ty reached a head when a stray bullet landed rounding police districts, between 2005 and support. The Nutter administration began in the leg of a little girl, and “no snitching” >>> continued on page 12 BUREAUCRACY NOW
The snowfall for Philadelphia is measured in Gloucester County. More white flight. Even After Michael Nutter announces his budget, former mayor John Street tells reporters he would have made different choices. Too soon, John. Minus 1 George Perrier, John Bolaris and others judge the Miss Philadelphia Pageant. From behind the tinted windows of an illegally parked minivan. Even The Philadelphia Zoo celebrates its 150th birthday. “Feels like longer,” says Galapagos Tortoise. “Why won’t I die?” Plus 5 Total Pluses: 9 Total minuses: -1 Total for the Week: 8 Last Week’s Total: 11
Too Much Too Soon
Fair describes the program’s handling as an absurdist comedy directed by Street.
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naked city | op-ed
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We Could Do Worse
A City Paper Editorial By Doron Taussig
e here at City Paper have given Michael Nutter a fair amount of grief since he took over as mayor. We didn’t love his caddying for Hillary Clinton. We gave him hell on libraries. We briefly introduced a feature — the short-lived “Reform-oMeter” — intended to monitor his commitment to structural government change. And we wondered, when he made his first round of budget cuts this fall, how the cuts imposed by the man who’d promised a “new day” were any different from what anyone else might have done. We apologize for exactly none of that. It’s our job to be annoying. Even when a likable mayor takes office and the city proceeds to collapse around him.
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couldn’t be bothered to attend public meetings. A majority of members have resisted calls to give up their city cars or cut their own salaries, and few have brought ideas to the table — it’s like they’re hoping this whole thing will just blow over without anyone paying attention to them (Bill Green has been a notable exception to this inactivity, but apparently has a lot to learn about cooperation — he’s managed to get just about everyone on Council pissed off at him).
he was so emotionally committed to seeing these types of social services work. If he used AVRP the way it was initially designed, it would have targeted a much smaller group of kids who we knew were at very high risk of violence and smother them with attention, like with YVRP. That’s what he wanted to do, but he couldn’t figure out a way to make it happen and wouldn’t listen to anyone else to make it try to happen.” The program got big, fast. “It was like anyone who wanted to send a kid to AVRP could send a kid,” he adds. Asked about AVRP by e-mail, Street says he believes that “setting up the program was absolutely the right thing to do.” “It has great potential to help families and schools who are having trouble with students who need an intervention but do not belong in the juvenile system,” he writes. “I believe the program was fundamentally sound and well thought-out. As always, this program, like most others, would benefit from regular review and appropriate adjustments as our experience suggested.” Because AVRP was administered by numerous small groups with varying levels of experience, one natural question to ask is whether some of those groups got better results than others. Unfortunately, no such information exists. Only one study was done on the program, a short process analysis ordered by the Nutter administration in 2008, long after the expansion. James Moore,
the city’s director of Policy and Evaluation, oversaw the study; he says that group-bygroup comparisons were made, but that he no longer has those numbers. In any case, when it looked at the aggregate numbers, the Nutter administration saw an initiative that was broken. Less than half of the kids served by AVRP were completing the program, and it had grown into a larger beast than the highly focused YVRP:YVRP works with 900 people; AVRP had grown to 2,000. YVRP works in five police districts, AVRP spanned the city. YVRP costs $8.5 million, AVRP cost nearly double that. The budget shortfall convinced the city to shut it down entirely. “The story of AVRP was not that it was a bad program,” says Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Everett Gillison. “I don’t think it was bad at all. I just think it was ramped up in a way that was not sustainable because you need an opportunity to grow the program into areas that you can sustain it.” He says the city might revisit the program when finances return to normal, but “in a way that’s sustainable.” Asked why the city shut down the program across the board instead of continuing it on a much smaller scale, in districts where it was needed most and with groups that had proven their efficacy, Gillison says that the situation was complicated.
Imagine, if you dare, one of Nutter’s primary opponents sitting in City Hall right now.
Too Much Too Soon
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But last week, as the mayor introduced his budget and then sat down in his office to answer a slew of nit-picky questions, something occurred to us: ThankGod it’s Nutter. Given the scope of this shitstorm and the political talent in this city, we could be doing a lot worse. After an inauspicious start to this budget crisis, lowlighted by closed-door meetings with City Council, an attempt to ram permanent library closures through as emergency cuts, and all sorts of shifting, after-the-fact rationalizations of same, the mayor seems to have gotten his act together. He initiated a sophisticated public feedback process. He decided to take on the political class, calling for the closure of row offices but not, crucially, alienating Council, which is not that expensive in the grand scheme of things and which he needs to help him save the city. And while it’s too early to pass final judgment on the budget Nutter’s proposed, the mayor does seem to have done an honest job of trying to balance citizen preferences with his responsibility as an executive. Contrast this to the conduct of other elected officials in this city. Much of Council
2008, juvenile arrests fell nearly by half. “The reality was that this place no longer looked like the shooting at the OK Corral,” she says of Point Breeze. But, says David Fair, problems were starting for AVRP. Fair was, at the time, the director of Community Based Prevention for the Department of Human Services. He oversaw all the money going to AVRP. Fair describes the program’s handling as an absurdist comedy directed by Street, who Fair says was convinced that if AVRP could work in some districts, it would work everywhere else. Street increased city funding for AVRP dramatically and got a big matching grant from the state to expand the program citywide. Street also outsourced the program’s administration to the nonprofit Safe and Sound, which was led by his wife, Naomi, from its 1998 founding to 2002, which closed in June 2008 after the Nutter administration reduced its funding. Safe and Sound in turn hired small community service agencies like DCS, some of which, Fair believes, lacked the experience to run the program. For a while, Fair says, Street actually considered transferring all of the funding for schoolbased prevention programs over to AVRP. “He was making decisions that he was not really competent to make,” says Fair, who’s now a vice president at the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania. “On some level,
If you dare, you might also contrast Nutter to what might have been, had the mayor lost the election. Bob Brady could be sitting in the mayor’s office right now, threatening to bang people’s heads together until they figure something out. Tom Knox could be leasing out City Hall, running the government from inside his Two Liberty Place apartment. Chaka Fattah could be in his second year of trying to lease the airport. We will all be rich when we lease the airport. Look, we remain wary of Nutter’s tax plans.We worry about how things will go between him and the municipal unions, which, people should remember, are filled with middle-class Philadelphians like most of us. And we really don’t like where he’s come down on casinos. We think he’s betrayed a campaign promise in giving up the fight against them, and that he’s endorsed the trade of a shortterm revenue solution for a long-term social problem. But as the city digests the mayor’s budget proposal, and Council prepares to interrogate it, it seems like a good time to point out that we have a mayor who’s been taking the problem seriously, searching for intelligent, sustainable solutions, respecting the desires of the citizenry, and improving as he goes along. That’s not nothing. OK then. Back to complaining. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
“It’s not just black and white; there are a lot of shades of gray,” he says. “You can write what you write, but my point is that it’s not always one or the other.” One of Mayor Nutter’s commitments upon taking office was to create a government based on efficiency and the reliability of numbers. If programs could be empirically shown to work, they would continue. If they didn’t, they would be chopped or changed. In AVRP’s case, the numbers clearly weren’t there. AVRP’s champions worry that this reliance on numbers is shortsighted — that studies didn’t take into consideration the time necessary to get a program off the ground, or that AVRP might have been working in some districts but not others. “If you’re talking about a study, we don’t have a study,” says Weiss. “But what we had was a program to trust.” Perhaps the bigger problem, though, is the vacuum left in its wake. Whether through AVRP or something else, there’s a whole population of potentially delinquent kids now not being served. Weiss doesn’t see that ending well. “I’m going to suggest,” she says, “that in due time we’re going to see crime rates start to climb.” (email@example.com)
AVRP quickly grew to twice the size of its model, YVRP.