Glimmers of a fractious cobbling of elements in Mayor Michael Nutter’s coalition of dreams and reform showed through at our own doorstep last week.
As reported by The Temple News [“Law school hosts forum on city homicides,” Andrew Thompson, Feb. 20, 2008], high-level local politics played out in the background of a forum held in Klein Hall of Temple’s Beasley School of Law on Tuesday.
Nutter bailed on a panel called “Combating Gun Violence: Solutions and Responses” that was hosted by the Student Public Interest Network. He was replaced by his Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Everett A. Gillison.
To most of us, Gillison is another faceless name in the administrative monolith of city government, but not to John McNesby, president of Lodge Five of the Fraternal Order of Police, who was also scheduled to be on the panel.
Some might remember that when Gillison was appointed to his post by Nutter in early January, there was vocal opposition by law and order legislators and the FOP, including McNesby. See, in May 2006, 16-year veteran Philadelphia police officer Gary Skerski was shot and killed while responding to a robbery near the intersection of Adams Avenue and Arrott Street in Frankford. It was Nutter’s deputy mayor of public safety who defended Solomon Montgomery, Skerski’s assailant. (On Oct. 30, 2007, Montgomery received life in prison without parole). Funny how the FOP remembers the guys who defend cop killers.
So, when McNesby showed up at Klein Hall last Tuesday and found Nutter was a no-show and had been replaced with Gillison, serving in the capacity that McNesby had so vehemently lobbied he not get, the FOP lodge leader chose to make a quick exit.
Nutter has since apologized and admitted he should have let McNesby know of the switch, but the cache of all this isn’t lost on city government insiders.
When you ride into City Hall on calls for reform, the steed of political underdogs the world over, the expectations are high and the old guard is particularly uneasy. Nutter is packing calls for Philadelphia to reach triumphant heights and crime statistics to reach historic lows, all in political environs long mired in stunning indifference. Reform clip clops along slowly.
Still, he climbed the stairs to Room 215 upon his inauguration with resounding support, for bringing in new faces, bright minds and innovative ideas. Like Gillison.
These hopes, which will invariably leave political wake like the McNesby incident, will either mean bold change in Philadelphia or that the Nutter administration will fail to live up to the sizeable expectations of time, place and claim.