News & Politics

Cherelle Parker touts public safety efforts and her first city budget during press club speech

The Philadelphia mayor was this month’s featured speaker at the PA Press Club luncheon

Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker holds a press conference to sign the city budget on June 14, 2024

Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker holds a press conference to sign the city budget on June 14, 2024 Chris Mansfield | PHL City Council

Speaking in Harrisburg for the first time as the Mayor of Philadelphia, Cherelle Parker said her ride to the state capital along the turnpike felt like a “homecoming” trip. 

“So much of the work that I have been able to do in the City of Philadelphia – as a member of City Council and now as mayor  – so much of it started during my tenure here as a member of the Pennsylvania House,” Parker said at the Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon Monday afternoon. 

Parker, who spent 10 years as a state legislator in the House of Representatives, brought her oft-repeated mayoral message of creating the “safest, cleanest and greenest” big city to the monthly event and touted her recently signed $6.37 billion “One Philly” budget throughout her speech. 

Kicking off her remarks, Parker addressed the Philadelphia police officer who was shot in the Kensington area Saturday night and is “fighting for his life,” holding a moment of silence before continuing her speech. 

Parker spoke on her public safety priorities and the decline in violent crime that Philadelphia – like many major American cities – has experienced through the first half of this year. She noted her administration’s focus on prevention, intervention, and enforcement and ongoing efforts to get more police officers on the street. 

“There is steady progress in our efforts to combat gun violence and we are finally, finally addressing and taking seriously quality-of-life issues in the City of Philadelphia,” Parker said. “I’m happy to hear that data reflects that we have a 38% reduction in homicides and a 40% reduction in shootings. It is encouraging, but I will dare say to you, it’s not time to have a party. It’s not time to relax.”

She added that there must be a “zero tolerance” policy for graffiti and littering in Philadelphia – touching on another one of her ambitious goals to clean up commercial corridors and every block throughout the city during a 13-week period. 

“If we reach for the moon and we get the stars, the people of Philadelphia will at least see that we’ve used every power and tool that we have in order to address the issues that we communicated to them,” Parker said. “Our job is to come up with solutions to address seemingly intractable problems so that we can give people access to a government that they can see, touch and feel.”

Parker also boasted about her plan to create a city college pipeline to help fill municipal and city government positions. She called the plan her “baby,” stating that government jobs can offer Philadelphia residents opportunities to earn a living wage and receive a pension and healthcare benefits. 

On the topic of education, Parker said she’s “unapologetic” about her support for public education and the need for equitable funding. The city’s $6.37 billion budget, signed on June 14, includes nearly $140 million in additional city funds for education over five years, with $129 million going directly to the school district. 

Parker said her administration will do everything it can to support the School District of Philadelphia but that lawmakers in Harrisburg must do their part following the Commonwealth Court decision that declared the state’s school funding system unconstitutional. 

“Our General Assembly needs to act,” Parker said, mentioning the $242 million funding boost Philadelphia schools would receive from legislation passed by the Democrat-led state House. “We’ve enhanced our local share and Philadelphia has already gotten it done. We need the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to act.” 

She added that despite advocates on both sides of the school choice debate in Harrisburg calling for her to pick a side, her legislative experience leads her to believe that the stakeholders will work together and that she will let her voice be heard when there are “smoke signals” that a deal is close. 

During the Q&A portion following her remarks, Parker spoke directly on her working relationship with Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and her efforts to address substance use and addiction in the city. 

She said she remains committed to enforcing the laws around retail theft and that while she and Krasner may not agree on everything, he’s been a “willing stakeholder” when the administration has convened public safety leaders in the city. 

“My job is to implement that plan and that vision that I laid out very succinctly – you won’t do whatever you want to do in the City of Philadelphia and think that there won’t be any repercussions,” Parker said. 

Near the conclusion of the Q&A portion, Parker echoed that message for those concerned about her approach to combating the open-air drug market in Kensington and supporting those facing addiction. 

“I am trying to do something in Philadelphia that has never been done and build an ecosystem for something that doesn’t exist,” Parker said, keeping in mind Kensington residents “who don’t have the luxury of picking up and moving and going somewhere else” and children in the area who “can’t have a straight walk to school, without doing hopscotch over needles.”

“Is it tough? Absolutely. Are we perfect? Absolutely not,” Parker said in her final comments. “But I will do the best I can with what I have to change the course of the quality of life in Kensington because the people who live there and the people in the City of Philadelphia, we deserve better.”