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Council President Darrell Clarke addresses the crowd at Monday's inauguration held at the Met Philly. Photo: Nigel Thompson/AL DÍA News.
Council President Darrell Clarke addresses the crowd at Monday's inauguration held at the Met Philly. Photo: Nigel Thompson/AL DÍA News.

Mayor Jim Kenney, City Council lay out plans for 2020 and beyond at inauguration

The ceremony held at the Met Philly on North Broad street rang in the new year and council session with fresh goals, faces and leadership.

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The City of Philadelphia’s governing body rang in 2020 at the restored Met Philadelphia on Jan. 6 with a couple new faces and leaders, and a renewed energy to continue tackling the city’s most pressing challenges.

Both Mayor Jim Kenney and City Council President Darrell Clarke — who was elected by his colleagues to a third straight term as head of the 17-member council — celebrated some of the strides made over the last four years.

Kenney spoke of the success of regaining local control of the school board, the work of Rebuild to restore long, disinvested rec centers and parks, and included a brief mention of his controversial soda tax, which has provided funding for both Rebuild and Universal Pre-K programs. 

“We’ve been driven by our guiding principles of courage, compassion and collaboration,” Kenney said.

Clarke lauded both the impact of the Philly First Home program, which provides grants for first-time homebuyers in the city, and the overall growth of investment in Philadelphia over the past four years. 

That, in combination with the fresh pool of talent produced annually by Philly universities, has created a city that is seemingly on the up, Clarke noted.

But underneath that success is a poverty rate that remains the worst of any large city in the nation, at 24 %.

In response to that reality, City Council initiated the creation of a Special Committee on Poverty Reduction and Prevention, which brought stakeholders from the community, business sector and government together to brainstorm solutions.

The goal is to see 100,000 Philadelphians make their way out of poverty by 2024.

Clarke branded the effort Philly’s “moonshot”, likening it to the U.S.’s 1960s effort to reach the moon. 

“I’m calling on everyone — the business community, our top universities, nonprofit organizations, city government, and all our citizens — to work together on the goal,” said Clarke at the inauguration. “That’s an effort worthy of a world-class city.”

Kenney also echoed the call of unity to confront the city’s problems, especially gun violence.

He said the violence experienced over the past year in the city has “left deep scars on our communities and, frankly, me personally.”

The mayor said that greater collaboration started a week ago, with his appointment of  Danielle Outlaw as the new police commissioner.

“We will transform our community relations and make the reforms necessary to restore trust and accountability between the department and residents — especially in Black and Brown communities,” he said.

The Mayor also laid out a five-point plan for his next term to address more of the city’s most pressing problems. 

Beyond gun violence and police-community relations, the administration is also prioritizing further education investment, cleaner streets, poverty reduction, and a more inclusive, efficient government.

Two executive orders were issued on the first day of the new session. One established a new city Office of Children and Families, to be headed by Cynthia Figueroa, and the other mandates established racial equity training for all city departments by 2023.

Kenney also said that by 2023 there will be street sweepers in every Philadelphia neighborhood and a revamped SEPTA bus system as part of its cleaner streets effort. 

New faces

Outside of setting forth plans, City Council welcomed four new members in District 3’s Jamie Gauthier, and at-large reps Kendra Brooks, Katherine Gilmore Richardson and Isaiah Thomas.

Also sworn in were new Sheriff Rochelle Bilal and Register of Wills Tracey Gordon.

New leadership

In a move that is surprising, but not shocking, City Council voted for new leadership by naming Councilmember Cherelle Parker Majority Leader in place of embattled Councilmember Bobby Henon.

Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr. was named Majority Whip and Councilmember Mark Squilla is now the Deputy Majority Whip.

Check out some other highlights here:

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Editor's Note: A previous version of this story listed Tracey Gordon as the new City Controller. The Philadelphia City Controller is Rebecca Rhynhart, has been since 2018. Tracey Gordon is the new Register of Wills.
 
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