Nutter addresses aftermath of Pope visit
Lower-than expected turnout, media backlash, and economic impact.
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Addressing the lower-than-expected turnout for the Pope's visit, Mayor Michael Nutter used an expletive to lay blame on the media for their reports on security measures.
"I think the reporting on any number of aspects of this was detrimental to the mindset of many Philadelphians and others. I think that, in some instances, you all scared the s*** out of people with some of the stories," Nutter said.
The mayor's office did not have an official number of attendees this weekend. In 10 press conferences leading up to the papal weekend, the city had released estimates between 1 and 1.5 million visitors. The actual turnout is estimated to fall well below the 1 million mark.
"It is not our responsibility to be crowd-builders," Nutter said. "[We] do not evaluate success based on the score."
City officials and Secret Service representatives also addressed the security measures over the weekend, which many called excessive.
"Unfortunately, it's one of those necessary evils when you're planning big events," said Andrew Beach, the Secret Service agent in charge of security last weekend. "We were not only responsible for the Pope's safety, but also the safety of all those attendees."
Another event organizer noted that if security had been too light, there would be an equal amount of backlash from the public.
"They couldn't win no matter which way they went," said Donna Farrell, executive director of the World Meeting of Families.
The Secret Service added that there were no security threats. Three non-security-related arrests were made during the papal events: one for a DUI, one for a probation violation, and one for a man -- a "complete idiot" Nutter said -- who tried to take a large quantity of illegal drugs with him through a security checkpoint.
Regarding the economic impact of the weekend, Nutter addressed reports that local businesses suffered in sales. There is no data available, but local restauranteurs reported exceptionally low business.
"This was never billed as a huge economic impact event or a big moneymaker," Nutter said.
It will take weeks, perhaps months, to calculate the total cost and benefit for the city.