Full text: Cherelle Parker’s inaugural address

Mayor Cherelle Parker was inaugurated on Tuesday as Philadelphia’s 100th mayor.

Below are the mayor’s prepared remarks, in full.

To be standing here with my family, my friends, my village, including the woman who swore me in during my very first election to the PA House and has been one of my rocks, Philadelphia Municipal Court Senior Judge Lydia Y. Kirkland.

And to have my oath of office administered today by none other than the Honorable Marcia L. Fudge, My Soror President (the 21st National President of our beloved Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., my Sorors and Fellow Divine 9 Brothers and Sisters, they know how sacred this moment is for me.

And the fact that she was the first female and 1st African American Mayor of Warrensville Heights Ohio, is the former Congresswoman from the 11th District, and is currently the 18th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development but is here today in her own right – is just SURREAL!

THANK YOU, JESUS. THANK YOU, JESUS. (WON’T HE DO IT!)
GOOD MORNING AND HAPPY NEW YEAR, PHILADELPHIA!

Council President Johnson, my friend and former Council President Clarke, Members of City Council, Faith Leaders, Row officers, former Mayors Green, Goode, Rendell, Street, Nutter, and Kenney, Senator Casey, Lt. Governor Davis, Congressmembers Evans, Boyle and Scanlon, Speaker McClinton, Members of the Pennsylvania Legislature, Members of the Judiciary, and Mayor Adams of New York City, I thank each of you for being here and look forward to working with you in the future.

To Council President Johnson, congratulations on your selection by your colleagues as our new Council President. To every Councilmember, congratulations on your victory and new term that begins today.

I want to thank Philadelphians for giving me a chance to earn their support and for believing in me and my vision for the future of our city.

When I started on this campaign, there were people and experts who tried to mold me into something that I was not. But I wouldn’t let that happen. I stayed true to who I am, my story, my life.

Standing here today as the 100th Mayor of Philadelphia – the city’s first woman mayor – that everyone in the city will see something of themselves in me, and that they will give me their confidence and grace as we set forth to lead our city.

To my young Prince, my son, my only child, Langston, I want you to know that no matter what Mommy’s career may be, my most important role is as your mother. There is no career or job that will ever take from our bond, or take me away from you. Know that I love you.

By every statistic imaginable, I am not supposed to be here.

Why? I, Cherelle Parker, was a child who most people thought would never succeed… And they really did almost have me thinking the same thing. There are no words that can explain the mix of emotions that I am feeling during this very historic moment. I can only tell you that a deep-rooted sense of gratitude is permeating in my heart and spirit since the people of our great city have given me access to this opportunity to serve them in a manner and role that many thought would be impossible – you know, out of reach – for someone like me.

I was born to a single, teenage mother without a father present in my life.

My grandparents raised me. My grandmother was a domestic worker who cleaned the homes of wealthy people, and my grandfather was a disabled Navy veteran.

They were on public assistance and food stamps, and did what they needed to.

But it was my family and my community that brought me up, they believed in me and in the power of education to change a life.

I was the first college graduate in my family – Lincoln University, and the first to get a Masters from an Ivy League – the University of Pennsylvania.

Then, on to a career as a certified secondary English teacher – NTE-passed / Praxis-passed English teacher.

It is with this personal history in mind that I begin my message to you this morning.

I would like to share two quotes that are at the heart of my life’s work in public service. They are where my passion to not just talk about getting things done – but actually achieving results – comes from. The first quote is from the legendary Sister, Dr. Maya Angelou, who was often quoted as saying that in life –

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

The second quote comes from one of my favorite civil rights activists and authors – none other than the brilliant James Baldwin – that I think truly reflects what Philadelphians think about those of us elected to public office – and government in general…especially when we make promises to them.

“I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.”

I cannot do this alone. Anymore than I got to this stage by myself. I believe that right now, at this very moment, there is a block party taking place in heaven.

My single teenage mother and my biological father, my grandparents, Mommy and Daddy are saying that, despite our imperfections, look at the woman God chose us to bring into the world. They are all are celebrating and saying, “look at the fruits of our labor!”

Before I proceed with my message, I need to acknowledge the shoulders on which I stand:

The other Women in our City blazed that a path before me, and showed me the way.

Women like Augusta Clark – our beloved “Gussie” – Joan Krajewski, Roxanne Jones, C. Delores Tucker, and Anna Verna. I am not here but for their years of effort.

And Dr. Constance Clayton, a Superintendent of Schools when I was in the Philadelphia Public Schools who taught us that we – Philadelphia’s children – were capable of anything provided they received a quality first-class education.

And the one and only Councilwoman Marian Tasco, who raised me politically and governmentally and who showed me “The Way” to reach this historic moment. I am not here but for my beloved “Tasco.”

I stand on their broad shoulders and strong hearts today.

What the great poet Sonia Sanchez called their “Love Colored with Iron and Lace.”

Because of them, and because of your faith in me, I stand here today as the 100th Mayor of Philadelphia, the first Woman, the first Black Woman, and the first little girl from the 1900 Block of Penfield Street to lead our great City.

My family and friends.

Today, I swear an oath as Philadelphia’s 100th Mayor and the first woman to hold the office in 341 years.

I do so with humility, with respect for the 99 who came before me, and with a solemn promise.

We will make Philadelphia the safest, cleanest, and greenest big city in the nation with economic opportunity for all.

Now, I know that’s a tall order, given all of the challenges that we face.

A quarter of our Citizens, living in Poverty.
Despite progress in lowering the number of homicides, we still have far too many senseless shootings, too much gun violence, and too many illegal guns on the streets of Philadelphia.
Neighborhoods struggling under blight, illegal trash dumps, and nuisances that degrade neighbors’ quality of life and enjoyment of their blocks and their communities.

We have no more time for what I like to call ‘Expert Articulators of Problems’ – instead, we will be laser-focused on developing and implementing solutions to address our challenges and solve them for the People of our City.

You deserve to see your tax dollars at work in your neighborhood – in tangible ways that we can all see, touch and feel.

Gone are the days where we spend time and energy focused on people, places, or things that encourage us to “wallow in our woes” – hear me on this – WE WILL NOT DO IT!

As you’ve heard me say, “Don’t throw Shade on my Philly Shine!”

In recent weeks, we have assembled a team of cabinet members for my administration, together with bright, sharp, focused staff that all share one common denominator – a “Can-Do” Spirit, a “How” spirit.

We MUST rid our city of this culture of, “NO!” in everything that we are trying to achieve.

We MUST have a mindset of, “How do we get to YES!”

We’ve assembled a team of public servants with national reputations as experts in their fields – policing and public safety and organizational management and other areas.

We’ve appointed leaders with strong ties and experience in Philadelphia, who don’t need a GPS to find 52nd Street.

There is so much work to be done, and we cannot wait to get started.

Public safety

In our first 100 days, my administration will announce specific plans to increase the number of Philadelphia police officers on our streets—with a focus on community policing citywide.

We must rebuild trust between Police and the communities they serve. Our officers must be guardians, not warriors.

We will declare a Public Safety Emergency and expeditiously get every available resource into neighborhoods struggling from the scourges of crime, gun violence, drugs, and addiction.

Police Commissioner Kevin J. Bethel will deliver plans for those crises and other crimes — like car theft, shoplifting, and the illegal use of ATVs—that diminish quality of life in our city

We’ll use a holistic approach in our efforts to address public health and safety. We’ll stay focused on prevention, intervention, and enforcement

Now, some people won’t like the decisions we make, especially around public safety

However, I want Philadelphia to know — I am fully committed to ending this sense of lawlessness, and bringing order – and a SENSE of LAWFULNESS — back to our city.

Clean and green

We will launch a new approach to addressing quality of life issues, like illegal short-dumping, cleaning up litter and graffiti, fixing potholes, and removing abandoned cars—starting by focusing on the hardest-hit neighborhoods.

Our new Clean and Green Initiatives will expand a successful neighborhood commercial corridor cleaning program, PHL Taking Care of Business (PHL TCB), organize government, community, and business collaboratively to reduce waste, increase recycling, and work towards a more sustainable future —all with an eye towards environmental justice for underserved and under-resourced communities.

Housing

We’ll create a “One Front Door” opportunity for residents to access city-run home improvement programs in one place.

We will develop a vision of “affordable luxury”—affordable homes with high-end fixtures for homeowners and renters, preserve, and build more affordable housing, and provide more support for small landlords.

We’ll order a top-to-bottom review of the city’s Land Bank to better understand the challenges of developing vacant, city-owned properties— and work to improve that process.

Economic opportunity

Within our first 100 days, our “PHL Open for Business” Initiative will eliminate the red tape that makes it hard to do business in our city by requiring every department to submit to my office a list of unnecessary permits and regulations we can eliminate.

I want to be clear here on Day 1 – PHILADELPHIA IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS!

We’ll continue to eliminate college degree requirements for many City of Philadelphia jobs where it is unnecessary, and spread the word about current job opportunities in city government—opening the door for more Philadelphians to access good-paying jobs.

And I want to thank Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who first led the way on eliminating the college degree requirement.

We want to put people on a path to Self-sufficiency.

We’ll appoint a team focused on Minority Business Success and direct our Business Roundtable to bring together local and business leaders who have a stake in the economic success of our city so we can tap into the intellectual resources of Philadelphia to truly create economic opportunities for EVERYONE.

Education

We’ll develop a comprehensive strategy to provide meaningful out-of-school programs and job opportunities for students outside regular school hours.

We’ll prepare a strategy for school building modernization and work closely with the School District on its own plan for school facilities.

Our children have the same right to come to school and learn in clean, modern school buildings, with state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, as any child does anywhere in our Commonwealth!

We’ll do outreach allowing my team and I to hear directly from teachers, counselors, and principals on how best to attract, retain, and support them.

We’ll seek out committed citizens to serve our students as members of our School Board.

Roundtables

We’ll create Roundtables with a focus on business, faith-based, and intergovernmental efforts, whose missions will be to solicit and develop better ideas for how City Hall can serve all the different constituencies and needs of our diverse city.

Let me be clear again: These Roundtables will be “active vehicles” to make and implement new policy in this city.

We want everyone’s ideas for how to improve Philadelphia, and we’re going to be a government that truly listens to people.

All this we promise Philadelphia, and more.

I believe in a city government that our citizens can see, feel, and touch—visible actions helping people at the neighborhood level.

We want a government that can scale impact—take a solid program, expand what works, tweak what doesn’t—and serve more Philadelphians.

And I want a revival at City Hall that brings out the best of Philly—a more efficient government, one that hears people, is an employer of choice, and relies on intergovernmental collaboration to bring more resources to our city.

There will no longer be a Tale of Two Cities in Philadelphia. We WILL close the gap between the haves and the have-nots!

Now I’m asking for your help again.

Will you join me and get involved to help make Philadelphia safer, cleaner, and greener, with economic opportunity for all?

Say it together with me.

One Philly, a United City.

I love you Philly!

Let’s get to work!

  • January 3, 2024
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