Mayor Street, in one of the last big speeches he will make before leaving elected office next January after 27 years - the last eight as mayor - both celebrated his successes and sought to shape an agenda for his successor yesterday.
For 38 minutes, he talked to regional business leaders about the opening of the city's new sports stadiums and the airport's considerable expansion. He reminded them of his administration's consistent focus on children and after-school programs. He touted the months-old smoking ban, the city's wireless program, and, most recently, the successful effort to keep Thomas Eakins' The Gross Clinic painting in Philadelphia.
And lest anyone forget, Street mentioned some things twice - such as $1.2 billion in tax cuts enacted on his watch.
"Over the last seven years, we have laid the groundwork for future progress," Street told a crowd of hundreds at the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce's annual mayor's luncheon, held at the Sheraton City Center Hotel. "We have prepared this city for tomorrow."
The chamber responded in kind to Street, with a seven-minute, Comcast-sponsored film whose title said it all: "A Valentine Tribute to Mayor John F. Street." In it, about a dozen community and business leaders looked back on the mayor's achievements.
Street's ties to the business community have been tenuous for years, with corporate leaders complaining, especially in his first term, that they largely felt ignored by him.
Even now, he has yet to deliver on old promises. Three years ago, for instance, Street vowed to deliver the chamber $1 million so it could better market the region. One $500,000 check came last year. City Commerce Director Stephanie Naidoff said yesterday the remaining $500,000 would arrive before this year's end.
Also, Street told chamber members last year he would consider more business-tax cuts in the fiscal year that begins July 1. Yesterday he would not say whether he included those additional cuts in the budget he is scheduled to unveil next Thursday.
Still, Street's relationship with area companies and their leaders has evolved since he took office in 2000, aided by the mayor's approval of pro-business actions, such as supporting tax breaks for the new Comcast headquarters.
"In John Street's final year as mayor," chamber chairman Joseph A. Frick later said, "we look forward to continuing to work shoulder-to-shoulder."
After the lunch, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah said, "The chamber's goodbye film illustrates what a lot of Philadelphians might miss [about Street's achievements] in the more sensational headlines of the day."
Fattah and former City Councilman Michael A. Nutter were the only two of the five Democratic mayoral candidates in the May 15 primary who attended.
But Street's words seemed intended for their rivals as well.
Despite the strides of his administration, "many challenges remain," Street said. "We could use serious help in the following three areas." He listed efforts to strengthen gun laws, increase diversity in the public and private sectors, and improve the quality of education.
Of the latter, Street has taken some actions to try to keep the issue on the table past his tenure. For instance, his Commission on Children has developed an agenda that includes urging continued production of the children's report card, distributed annually under Street.