More News:

May 22, 2023

As Philly's next mayor, Cherelle Parker says struggling communities would be her top concern

Neighborhoods experiencing gun violence, blight and educational difficulties would be 'closest to the power,' the Democratic nominee said. She also detailed her plans for sanitation collection, year-round schooling and stop and frisk policing

2023 Election Politics
Cherelle Parker Philly Mayor Source/6ABC

Cherelle Parker, the Democratic mayoral nominee in Philadelphia, details her policy proposals for stop and frisk policing, year-round schooling and trash collection Monday during her first press conference since winning the primary election.

Cherelle Parker outlined her policy goals and hopes for Philadelphia's future Monday morning as she addressed the public for the first time since winning the Democratic mayoral primary last week. 

Parker, who will face Republican David Oh in November's general election, characterized her primary victory as a testament to her focus on the communities most in need of improved conditions.

"Our message has taken hold across the city, but most importantly in the neighborhoods and the communities who are closest to the pain of gun violence, neighborhood blight, struggling schools — and quite frankly, a lack of economic opportunity," said Parker, who is poised to become Philly's first female mayor. "Now, with our win, to me, these communities, they are now closest to the power."

Before running for mayor, Parker served two terms on City Council, representing the Ninth District in West Philadelphia, and spent a decade as a state representative. Her largest pockets of support in the primary came in West Philly, Southwest Philly and North Philly — areas that have been especially hard-hit by crime and other intractable problems. Parker finished nearly 10 percentage points above the closet runner-up, Rebecca Rhynhart, in a race with a large field of candidates.

"We can literally restore hope and pride back to our city again," Parker said.

Parker had a busy schedule Monday morning, in part because she was hospitalized on Election Night with pain stemming from root canal surgery. She met with Gov. Josh Shapiro, also a Democrat, to discuss her vision for the city and to lay the groundwork for bipartisan cooperation at the state level.

"I have been a coalition builder and an organizer all of my life, and I know the power of delivering tangible results at all levels of government directly to the people of our great city," Parker said. "And I also know how important it is to have a strong relationship with our Harrisburg leaders."

Parker highlighted the city's problem with sanitation, which she said has led to a tolerance of the "Filthadelphia" moniker used to describe the city's streets.

"We need to be picking up trash on sidewalks and our streets, and we need to do that around the clock," Parker said. "When you think about sanitation workers and their (pick ups), that will have to increase dramatically in order for us to allow Philadelphians to see a culture of trash be changed in our city."

Parker also shared her proposals to combat violent crime, including the addition of 300 foot and bike patrol offices to increase community policing. During her campaign, Parker also advocated for police to resume stop and frisk interactions.

While on City Council, Parker introduced the 2020 ballot measure that voters approved to ban police from using illegal stop and frisk tactics that have been tied to a history of racial bias. In her bid for mayor, Parker has touted expanding the use of Terry stops, which allow police to briefly detain and pat down people for weapons if officers have reasonable suspicion that people are armed and likely to be engaged in criminal conduct. Terry stops have been deemed Constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, but remain controversial because of how they have been justified and used by police departments.

"Terry stops are what I wholeheartedly embrace as a tool that law enforcement needs to make the public safety of our city their No. 1 priority," Parker said Monday. "It is a legal tool. A crime must be committed, or (police) must know that it is going to be committed, in order for them to have the just cause and reasonable suspicion to stop someone."

Parker acknowledged the "painful" history of stop and frisk tactics, particularly in Black communities. She said she would never condone the use of Terry stops as a means for police to target Black residents.

"I've seen what it's like, particularly when I've had Black men who I've loved and cared about stopped for no apparent reason other than the fact that they were Black," Parker said. "Again, (if) we get through the general election, under no circumstances will that kind of behavior be allowed to exist in a Parker administration. I just won't tolerate it. But I'm also going to make sure that Terry stops and every other legal tool that is needed — and paired with great training and zero tolerance for any misuse or abuse of authority — is available for our police department."

Parker also addressed her vision for year-round schooling and revised daily schedules, another campaign position that has generated debate about how realistic such changes are in Philadelphia. Under an adjusted school calendar, summers potentially would be shortened, but students would have more frequent, lengthier breaks throughout the year. Schools also would open earlier and close later each day, with more programming available for students to learn skills in technology and building trades.

School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Tony B. Watlington plans to propose an experimental program for year-round schooling later this week as part of a five-year strategic plan. Parker said she supports pilot programs at elementary schools, middle schools and high schools to see how it would work. She claimed public discussion about her proposal for year-round schooling has been misinformed.

"The one thing that it doesn't mean – that I thought I made clear on the campaign trail – is that our children would be sitting at a traditional school desk, in a traditional classroom from 7:30 in the morning to 6 at night, with a traditional instructor," Parker said. "If that is how you interpreted my recommendation that this be something that we explore and potentially use here in the city of Philadelphia, you've gotten it all wrong."

Parker said opening schools earlier would be intended to help parents.

"These are also economic development issues," Parker said. "Schools open as early as 7:30 in the morning because parents need to get to work. We forget. We tell parents we want them on a path to self-sufficiency and we want to connect you to an employment opportunity that will pay you a living wage, health care, retirement and security, but oh, by the way, school doesn't open up until 9. Give me a break here."

Parker said her top priority is sharpening her various proposals ahead of the general election, which she is heavily favored to win in a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 7-to-1. A Republican hasn't won a mayoral election since 1947, when Bernard Samuel was reelected.

"This is the unifying moment here in our city," Parker said. "I don't care who you voted for. I don't care what section of the city you live in, your ZIP code, what your political philosophy or ideology is. Our democratic process, you know, we work through it. We now have the results and we need all of Philadelphia to unify in order to move our city forward."

Voter turnout was about 27% in last week's primary. Parker noted that was higher than the city's last open mayoral primary, but called the lack of political engagement a symptom of hopelessness.

"Low turnout, to me, translates into, equates to apathy, frustration, lack of hope believing in government," Parker said.

With the mayor's office within reach, Parker said she's only in this position because of the support she has received and the examples that she had before her.

"I didn't get here alone. I'm not Superwoman," Parker said. "You know, I stand on the shoulders of some women who, generations ago, they could have been standing up as the Democratic nominee for mayor, were it not for their inability to raise the funds needed to compete with — most of the time — men who had much more of a leg up as it related to fundraising, or people who were born wealthier than they were."