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Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said during a speech Friday before the Pennsylvania Bar Association Minority Attorney Conference that the city wants the law firms hired to represent the city to prioritize diversity. It’s essential in a city as diverse as Philadelphia to provide access to people traditionally unwelcome in many walks of life, Nutter said, to move up from the ranks of associate to the ranks of partner in law firms and to get positions on private sector boards. The city’s hiring criteria for the law firms representing the city on legal matters will include the question, “What’s your diversity plan at your firm?” Nutter said in his remarks to the group gathered for the 20th anniversary minority attorney conference. The mayor said the city not only wants competitive legal bids in terms of “great legal services, how much the cost is . . . the question has to be, ‘How are you moving people up the ranks?’” [ More conference coverage here.] Nutter said that the issue of diversity is also being addressed in the city of Philadelphia Law Department, the size of a law firm in its own right. “We have to get more comfortable in a multiracial, multicultural world,” Nutter said. “Unless you’re a Native American, everyone is an immigrant to this part of the world.” Nutter echoed themes and promises he has already put forward in prior public appearances: reorganizing government to make it more transparent and efficient; reducing business taxes to help the city’s business climate prosper; and increasing the number of police officers on the streets of nine police districts with the highest concentration of the city’s crime rates. “I know crime and public safety . . . whether above ground or below ground seems to capture the eyes of the media from time to time,” but the ultimate focus in the city must be on public education considering the city’s high public school dropout rates and low population of college graduates considering all the colleges in the region, Nutter said. “Education is not only the path to the future of young people but for those young at heart,” he said. Nutter asked for employers to help their employees complete college educations by paying for tuition reimbursement upfront and to increase their institutional support for such programs. Nutter noted that he had signed five city laws regarding illegal weapons and then had that legislation challenged by the National Rifle Association and other litigants on his 100th day in office. “I look forward to the fight, and I’m going to continue to do what I think is best for our community,” Nutter said. Jettie D. Newkirk, a Philadelphia solo practitioner honored during the conference with the A. Leon Higginbotham Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award, introduced Nutter, calling him “Philadelphia’s Obama.” Newkirk noted that Nutter – like Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama – was young, “some have said handsome” and ran a “perfect media campaign” with a platform of transparency, change and “people-based reform.” And then Newkirk said, “in spite of his having selected the wrong presidential campaign, I am proud to call the mayor my friend.” Nutter took in stride the friendly tweak of his support for Sen. Hillary Clinton over Obama in the Democratic presidential nomination contest. “I always thought that Sen. Obama is the country’s Mike Nutter,” the mayor retorted with a big grin. Newkirk, he said, in all seriousness, deserved her lifetime achievement award for her true commitment to public service and because she gets things done right. Newkirk practices in real estate, probate and other transactional matters. She has worked as a junior high school teacher, high school counselor and director of the Urban Career Education Center. She co-founded the Benjamin Banneker Urban Center school. Her work in the community has included representing the city on the board of Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, the Carroll Park Community Council in West Philadelphia and the Penn-West Philadelphia Community Partnership Celebration Day.

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