February 12, 2009


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Love to spare

Maybe it’s Valentine’s Day. Maybe it’s the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Whatever the case, it seems that there’s plenty of love to spare this week in the city that loves you back.

No one should be feeling the love more than Mayor Michael Nutter who, despite angering nearly every activist in the city when he directed the Free Library system to shutter 11 branches, learned that he is still seen favorably by the city that elected him last year.

That assessment comes from a just-published study by the Pew Charitable Trust’s Public Research Initiative. According to the study, 29 percent of Philadelphians have a “very favorable” impression of the mayor. Another 42 percent have a “somewhat favorable” impression of the man, giving him a whopping 71 percent approval rating.

Here in Northwest Philadelphia, as noted by the news item on our front page by staff writer Joel Hoffmann, Nutter earned a 67 percent favorable rating.

I’m sure the news must be reassuring to a mayor who has been handed a pretty formidable array of obstacles — from a deepening recession to looming budget crisis.

I, for one, am surprised he’s doing so well. I always thought Nutter was an odd fit for Philadelphia — a bright, wonkish idealist in one of the least educated and most cynical big cities in the country. He was a steadfast opponent of corruption in a city renowned for political, um, expediency.

And despite long odds, he won a Democratic primary against a bunch of opponents with much longer political careers and deeper party roots. It was a victory for forward thinking that Philadelphia hadn’t seen in some time.

But it didn’t take long for the wellspring of civic optimism that ushered him in to office to fade quickly into the morass of financial doom and gloom in which we are currently stuck.

It’s good to see that there is still quite a lot of faith in the man who has the hard job of cleaning up the mess.

And finally, another group that must be feeling a little love this week is the Woodmere Art Museum, which just won a key decision in its nearly decade-long zoning and legal battle with neighbors over its plans to build an edition designed by the famous architecture partnership of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.

The court decision, handed down last week by the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas found that the museum’s plans were in keeping with the museum’s needs and provided adequate parking and lighting, despite neighbor assertions to the contrary.

But neighbors have told us that they want to file yet another appeal and prolong the fight. This is potentially bad news for Chestnut Hill, too, which stands to be home to two buildings associated with Robert Venturi — the other being the famous “Mother’s House” on Millman Street near Pastorius Park.

It’s too bad. The expansion could be a win for the museum and the Hill. Looks like we’ll have to wait for yet another court decision.

Pete Mazzaccaro