New Philly Mayor Cherelle Parker sworn in, immediately declares public safety emergency

Cherelle Parker formally took the oath of office and delivered a passionate inaugural address, vowing to address the city's challenges.

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Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker addresses the public for the first time after being sworn into office on Jan. 2, 2024.

Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker addresses the public for the first time after being sworn into office on Jan. 2, 2024. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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The new leader of Philadelphia gave a rousing inaugural address Tuesday to a large crowd at The Met Philadelphia. She challenged politicians and residents alike to join together as her administration works to improve the city.

While Mayor Cherelle Parker is the first woman and first Black woman to hold the mayor’s office, she wants to be known as a leader who changed the city for the better.

“I’m talking about bold transformative steps, that when people walk outside their houses they can touch, see, and feel the results of our labor, and if they don’t see it, it’s on us.”

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Parker also said the city is open for business, and she’d work to grow new businesses with diverse ownership. She said her administration will work with a new group of people ready to improve the life of residents and visitors.

“To help us solicit and develop better ideas for how City Hall can serve all the different constituencies and needs of our diverse city,” she said.

Parker told naysayers she doesn’t want to hear the word “not,” only how can they make it to “yes,” adding, “don’t throw shade on my Philly shine.”

She also talked about ongoing problems the city has to deal with, including quality of life issues like the open air drug market in Kensington, which she said is a major priority.

“We are going to be laser-focused on developing and implementing solutions to the challenges and we are going to solve them for the city,” she said.

She spoke of improving transparency, to give taxpayers a better understanding of where their money is spent.

“This is going to sound like a novel idea, you deserve to see your tax dollars at work in your neighborhoods in a way that you can all see, touch, and feel.”

Public safety emergency issued

As the more than three-hour-long ceremony wrapped up, Parker traveled to Kensington to swear in her Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel in the shadow of one of the worst drug market corners in the city. She then came back to City Hall and signed the first three executive orders of her term.

She said the first order went right to the issue of quality of life.

“The executive order declares the current levels of crimes against persons and property in Philadelphia constitutes a public safety emergency, which the city must abate immediately.”

Former Mayor Jim Kenney consistently rejected calls from City Council and others to declare such an emergency during his time in office.

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The order calls for a report from the police commissioner in 30 days with a plan of how to reduce violent crime within the first 100 days of the administration.

The second executive order is designed to make city government more visibly responsive. Parker said it would reduce the time people suffer dealing with city government.

The third order calls for easing barriers to city employment such as college degree requirements and in some cases standardized tests.

The new mayor settled into her office late Tuesday afternoon and said she was happy to relax for a minute between events, but said once she took the oath of office it reminded her of something she was told at Harvard’s New Mayor’s school.

“One of our presenters talked about how after you’ve been sworn in you feel like you’ve put on a metal jacket and you feel the weight, the additional weight…  I will tell you, you do.”

Parker said the numb feeling will wear off with the sense of urgency.

“I feel like well you’re here now, you better get it right and get it done because if you just get here and you don’t fix and you don’t operationalize and you don’t implement the things that you talked about, what message are you sending?” she said.

Parker said she hopes she can be a role model for women and young children showing them that you can achieve anything you want.

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