Ferrick: First up, Kenney needs to bond with Council

Mayor-elect Jim Kenney arrives to his victory party at the National Museum of Jewish American History, Nov. 3, 2015.
Mayor-elect Jim Kenney arrives to his victory party at the National Museum of Jewish American History, Nov. 3, 2015. Stephanie Aaronson/Philly.com

Now that the election results are in we can confidently predict that as mayor Jim Kenney will have a better relationship with City Council than Michael Nutter.

Mayor-elect Jim Kenney arrives to his victory party at the National Museum of Jewish American History, Nov. 3, 2015. Graphic: Kenney's Historic Victory Margin

That's because Nutter had such a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad relationship with Council that almost anyone could do better. Maybe even Mussolini.

Nutter and Council have had a mutual hatred pact in effect for some time now.  The rules of engagement are simple: If he wants it, Council is against it.

The nadir came last year when Nutter could not get anyone to even introduce a bill for the sale of the Philadelphia Gas Works, let along hold a hearing on the sale.

Already, we have entered what one lobbyist called the "Kumbaya Phase" of Council-Mayor relations, with Kenney making soothing noises about Council President Darrell Clarke and vice versa.

Both men cite the Ed Rendell-John Street model as their ideal, where Rendell as mayor made Street, then Council President, a comrade in arms, with frequent meetings and daily communication.  Rarely was heard a discouraging word during those eight years, which is a testament to Street's practicality and Rendell's ability as a schmoozer.

Of course, Kenney is not Rendell.  He is not a Happy Warrior; he has a harder edge.  That said, he spent more than 20 years in Council.  He has friends there. He understands the psyche of your average Council member.  Nutter was more of a loner, a politician who disdained politics.

Clarke is not John Street.  Though a protégé of the former mayor, Clarke doesn't have Street's drive and his willingness to use the hammer to get Council members in line.

Clarke is also — how to say this nicely? — indecisive and unwilling to commit until the last minute — and sometimes beyond that.

The executives of the Connecticut utility who wanted to buy PGW haven't been the only ones in the past who left meetings in the Council President's office thinking he was on their side -- only to discover late in the game that he was not.

It's easy to say that Clarke has a habit of reneging on deals — a cardinal sin in politics — but what maybe on display is pathological caution.

All curbstone psychoanalysis aside, it comes down to a question of math.

It takes nine votes to pass a bill in Council. Who is best able to round up most of those votes? The answer today is simple: Clarke, because no one supports Nutter.

The answer a few months from now may not be so simple.  As a former Street aide noted, even at the end of his second term, the mayor could rely on six votes in Council. The challenge was to get the other three.

Kenney probably begins with the same number. And he also may be more willing to use the traditional carrot-and-stick approach to get support, unlike Nutter who failed to engage. (Street, as someone who knows him well said, had more of a stick-and-stick approach.)

Every council person wants something for his or her district. Let's say it is a $1 million repair program for the local recreation center. No responsible elected public official would refuse to spend the money, especially if the repairs were essential.

But, there are many worthy projects in the city. And there is a difference between being the first on the list and 35th.

Would Kenney be willing to use the discretionary powers at the disposal of the mayor to get the votes he needs for his agenda? It pays to recall that he was a protégé of Sen. Vincent Fumo. He learned at the feet of a master.

It's tawdry to talk about the practice of politics during this Era of Good Feeling.  So, let us all link arms and sing "Kubaya" until that day — maybe sometime next year — when the mayor wants something Council doesn't want or angers one of its favored groups.

Then we'll see who had the votes.