Philly Mayor, 'Wire' producer: Crime still plaguing America's inner cities
The discussion, titled, “The Wire: Policy and Politics in America’s Urban Crisis,” was moderated by Wilson School professor Julian Zelizer. The panelists focused on issues of urban crime and public education.
Simon, the writer and producer of the television series “The Wire,” was previously a crime reporter for The Baltimore Sun for 12 years. The fictional series focused on drug dealing and law enforcement in Baltimore.
“ ‘[The] Wire’ depicted a world where there was an insistence on not acknowledging the problem and hence not working on it,” Simon said. “This is modern America.”
Though he said that he believes “the capitalist system is the only framework for creating mass wealth,” Simon acknowledged that capitalism alone can not solve all social problems.
“There are certain things we can do at the grassroots level,” he said.
Simon was critical of relying on positive statistical trends to make policy. “Statistics will betray us every time. They are the devil,” he said.
Simon explained that though former Baltimore City Mayor Martin O’Malley — now the governor of Maryland — brought down the non-murder crime rate in the city by 40 to 50 percent, conversations with city residents indicated that there was no visible reduction in crime.
Nutter, who spoke after Simon, praised the series. “ ‘The Wire’ was a learning experience for me,” Nutter said. “It’s real issues, real people, real drama.”
Nutter said that though “crime in Philadelphia may [be] down 20 percent … it’s [still] tough on the streets … I get periodic e-mails about all sorts of crazy stuff.”
Calling himself “the eternal optimist,” Nutter said that these are tough economic times and that cities must reduce their deficits. The challenge, he explained, is to close the gap while providing quality services for the people.
“There are more good people than bad people,” Nutter said. “The other side can win.”
Both Nutter and Simon agreed that the presidential election this year has not focused enough on urban issues.
“Eighty percent of people live in a city or metropolitan area,” Nutter said. “People are less worried about Al-Qaeda … when they can’t walk on the street safe[ly].”
The audience’s reaction was generally positive.
“These are the types of things you don’t hear about in the media,” David Russell GS said. “At least someone is talking about it.”
Visit the 'Prince elections calendar for more news, opinion, and multimedia coverage of the 2008 election season.