Mayor-Elect Nutter Says Israel’s in His Future

Israel Consul General Uriel Palti struggled to make himself heard over the jazz band whose sounds — brass blasts, smooth bass and crashing cymbals — enveloped the ballroom at the Radisson Plaza-Warwick Hotel Philadelphia. With victory already apparent for Democrat Michael Nutter, supporters had begun crowding — cramming, really — into the room in anticipation of the hoopla of election-night rituals.

During breaks in the music, Palti said that Nutter had personally invited him to the celebration: The two had met during the course of the campaign.

The consul general said that he, in turn, had invited the mayor to Israel.

"I hope to see him there soon," said Palti, adding that a visit by Nutter to the Jewish state — especially to Philly's sister city of Tel Aviv — would only serve to boost ties with one of America's largest urban entities.

Robin Schatz, director of government affairs for the Jewish Federation of Philadelphia, said that the organization has also invited Nutter to Israel to learn more about security and counterterrorism.

Jennifer Crandall, a Nutter spokeswoman, said that the mayor-elect does plan to go during his term as mayor, although he's not sure when.

Outgoing Mayor John F. Street traveled to the Jewish state while a candidate for the job. Pennsylvania governor and former mayor Edward G. Rendell went when he was Philadelphia District Attorney, said Schatz.

Nutter's fiery victory speech lasted about 15 minutes. He told supporters that he would "unite us across the five-county region and reach out to people, no matter who they are or where they are from or what they are about — because this city is about diversity. We celebrate diversity."

Supporters had much to celebrate: Nutter captured more than 82 percent of the vote. However, Ken Weinstein, a member of Nutter's finance committee, admitted that "it's hard to ignore the fact that in the primary, there was more an electric feeling."

The outcome of the five-way May 15 Democratic primary was far less certain.

Still, the 44-year-old real estate developer who resides in Mount Airy said that at the election-night party, there was a tangible sense that the change in leadership would mean better times for the city. Yet challenges remain plentiful — from upcoming union negotiations to the tall tasks of stemming violent crime and political corruption.

"If there were no challenges, what difference does it make who the next mayor is?" said 67-year-old attorney Robert Freedman, whose wife Diane also sat on the finance committee.

In a slightly quieter spot at the Warwick, she explained that she got involved with Nutter's campaign because "he's a visionary and pays attention to the details of how to improve the lives of the people he represents."

Both husband and wife said that they weren't fans of Street and compared Nutter to Rendell, who they say brought Philadelphia back from financial crisis.

At a press conference in Center City several days later, Rendell spoke of the difference between now and 1992, the year he entered City Hall: "The financial situation is not nearly as bad. We had the largest debt in the history of municipal government."

Rendell expected to sit down with Nutter soon to talk shop.

"He's a man of strong convictions," stated Rendell. "When he was in council and I was mayor, he would drive me crazy sometimes because I couldn't convince him that I was right — and that he should vote my way."



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