MAYOR NUTTER said yesterday that he wants to get presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to Philadelphia for a public discussion of urban issues before the April 22 Democratic primary.
"You could call it a debate, a conversation, a forum," said Nutter, a Clinton supporter.
Asked later if she would participate, Clinton said, "Sure, absolutely.
"We've talked several times about doing something that highlights urban issues here in Philadelphia," Clinton said. "I know how important that is to Mayor Nutter, and I said that I will work to try and make that happen."
Obama campaign spokesman Sean Smith said he wasn't in a position to say if Obama would participate in such a forum.
"We welcome a conversation about urban issues," he said. "We'll see what develops with his schedule."
Nutter said that issues affecting American cities haven't gotten enough attention in the campaign.
"Health care is very important," Nutter said. "The war is very, very important. But if you live at 56th and Master, you're not as focused on what al Qaeda is doing. What you're focused on is what 'Al Gangster' is doing. Because Osama bin Laden wouldn't last five minutes at 56th and Master."
Clinton and Obama have agreed to a debate at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on April 16, but Nutter said he hopes for an event that will be more meaningful for city residents than the debate.
"I want people to talk about, 'What are your views on public safety in cities and metropolitan regions?' " Nutter said. " 'What's the federal government going to do about that issue?'
" 'What are you going to do about public education . . . jobs and economic development, re-entry programs? How do we finally start to lift people out of poverty?' " Nutter said. "That's what candidates should be talking about.
"I'd like to have that discussion right here in Philadelphia," Nutter said. "Two candidates up [on stage], an hour, hour-and-a-half, just a discussion."
Nutter said that he didn't have a date or place worked out, and that he'd just begun working on the idea. He said he hopes to cohost the event with a local supporter of Obama.
"I'm going to try to engage in a very serious discussion with the campaigns," he said. "I think this is critical, [and] should get wide coverage. This is how you make a campaign relevant to people."
Obama, meanwhile, yesterday announced plans for a west-to-east bus tour of Pennsylvania from Friday to April 2. *