Presiding over Temple isn’t President Ann Weaver Hart’s only job. Recently, she added fixing the city of Philadelphia’s budget to her résumé.
Hart is one of the seven private sector leaders chosen to aid Mayor Michael Nutter in identifying resolutions to make city government more efficient while reducing costs that have constrained the city’s budget.
On Jan. 15, Nutter announced the formation of a Private Sector Outreach Board, a joint effort of the city and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, to develop recommendations to improve city services.
In addition to serving as president of the university, Hart will now also serve on the board pro bono.
“The board is comprised of individuals who are willing to donate their time and expertise,” said Mary Horstmann, director of the Mayor’s Office of Private Sector Initiatives. “Hart was chosen because she’s made a real community effort. She has a great network of people, and education is a huge part of the city’s landscape.”
In a recent budget update, Nutter said the board is made up of distinguished leaders from the private sector throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding region. The board’s mission is to identify opportunities to make city government more effective, cost efficient and increase the quality of services provided.
“Ann Hart is actually a very good choice for such a purpose,” said Michael Leeds, economics professor and current assistant dean of Temple University’s Japan campus. “She is not tied to any local political group, nor can she be tarred with any of the shenanigans that have given much of the private sector such a bad image of late. She provides just the sort of high-mindedness that the board will need if its recommendations are to be credible.”
The board also includes Judee von Seldeneck, chairman and CEO of Diversified Search; Rosemary Turner, vice president and COO of UPS Metro Philadelphia District; Daniel Fitzpatrick, president and CEO of Citizens Bank Eastern Pa., N.J., Del.; Michael Pearson, president of Union Packaging; J. William Mills III, president of PNC; and Harold L. Yoh III, chairman and CEO of Day & Zimmerman.
“While it will look for efficiencies that can possibly be introduced in the fiscal 2010 budget, the board’s long-term mission is to examine some of the major structural issues that have constrained city budgets for many years, if not decades,” Nutter said in the budget update. “Issues including the tax structure, the criminal justice system, employee pension and health care costs and court funding.”
“I strongly suspect that [the board] will be able to tell Mayor Nutter little that he does not already know,” Leeds said. “I think that the main reason for such a board is to give him political cover. He is in an extremely difficult position. He will have to make a number of very painful decisions that will hurt a large number of people.”
Leed said taxes will probably go up in the near future, and some services will have to be eliminated.
“Such decisions are absolutely necessary but are bound to stir up a firestorm of opposition. At its worst, such a firestorm could induce paralysis that will only delay the decisions and make them still more painful,” he said. “Having a council of wise men and women come up with such a plan could help defuse the opposition that is bound to arise.”
Kathryn A. López can be reached at email@example.com.