PHILADELPHIA – Mayor Jim Kenney today will deliver remarks at the 194th Inauguration Ceremony where he’ll be sworn in for a second term as Mayor of Philadelphia. Details on the program and live stream information are available at phlcouncil.com/inauguration2020.
*Remarks as prepared*
Good morning, and I want to begin by thanking my family for their support, especially my mother Barbara. And I want to take a moment to honor my father who is no longer with us, but is still by my side today, and every day.
I want to thank Council President Clarke and my friends in City Council for having me, as this is your Council session after all.
And I want to specifically congratulate the new members of City Council. This new generation of thoughtful, conscientious leaders will help make this City a better place for decades to come.
I congratulate our distinguished judges, our City Commissioners, Sheriff Bilal and Register of Wills Gordon on taking their oaths of office today.
I want to acknowledge former Mayors Goode and Green and Congressman Boyle.
I also want to recognize the members of our Administration who are here, and the many more who are working throughout the city right now. Whether they’re sanitation workers out in the cold making sure our streets are clean, or the police officers and firefighters racing to save someone’s life, it’s these individuals who make this City run, and we owe them all our thanks.
It has been a real honor to serve as your Mayor these last four years, and I’m very grateful to have earned another term to build on the progress that we’ve made together.
In 2016, we embarked on a mission to tackle some of Philadelphia’s biggest challenges — a struggling public education system, an inequitable criminal justice system, intergenerational poverty, record-setting public health crises, and much more.
Our goal was clear — to increase equity and opportunity so all Philadelphians, regardless of their zip code, can reach their potential and lead fulfilling lives.
We’ve been driven by our guiding principles of courage, compassion, and collaboration.
Courage to do what is hard; compassion to always put our most needy people first, and collaboration, because we know that making real impact is only possible when we work alongside residents, and have partnerships that span the public, private and non-profit sectors of our city.
Over the past four years, we have made significant progress. Philadelphia is a dynamic, diverse city with a strong economy.
Our job growth outpaces the national average, unemployment and poverty are at their lowest rates in a decade, our reputation as a Welcoming City fuels population growth, and overall, our neighborhood schools are improving.
Think for a second about how just several years ago, few could have imagined us gathered here today, in this century-old, brilliant and ornate building which was held together for years only through the valiant work of the Holy Ghost Church community.
Now, this venue serves as an anchor of the renaissance underway here on North Broad Street. And it’s symbolic of the renewed energy that is happening on many of our commercial corridors.
Yet, despite this progress, we know that huge challenges remain. These challenges are grounded in economic and racial inequality that have been building for decades.
We must continue to confront our greatest challenges, and capitalize on new opportunities, with the courage, conviction and resilience that we as Philadelphians possess.
I know it’s possible because I have seen it firsthand. I’ve seen it in the eyes of our three- and four-year-old children who are experiencing the nurturing and rigorous learning environment of our city-funded pre-K programs.
I’ve seen it in the faces of families whose lives have been changed forever because we were able to help them buy their first home.
And over the past four years, I’ve seen it at countless community meetings, rallies, marches and festivals where residents from diverse backgrounds and neighborhoods gather to voice concerns, fight for causes, enjoy our amenities, and celebrate all that makes Philadelphia unique.
Today we’ll release a report that outlines our renewed priorities for this next term.
There are five key areas where we plan to focus our energies.
First, and let me be very clear, nothing is more important to our administration than creating a safer and more just city for all of us.
It’s no secret that the hardest part of this job for me has been addressing the senseless and unspeakable violence that happens on our streets every day.
Talking to the moms and dads, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, of the young men and women cut down on the streets of Philadelphia has left deep scars on our communities, and frankly, on me personally.
These young people, like little Nikolette Rivera who was murdered in her living room this past October, as she was held in her mother’s arms, will never meet their potential — a loss that impacts all of us in this room, and every single Philadelphian.
And it will take all of us, working together, to make the progress we all know is possible. Our administration will deploy every tool and resource at our disposal to make sure more families do not suffer the same fate.
We are committed to reducing shootings and homicides and fighting for common-sense gun reform so these tragedies can end once and for all.
Along with our new Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, we will transform community relations and make the reforms necessary to restore trust and accountability between the department and residents — especially in Black and Brown communities.
While most police officers perform their duties with compassion and integrity, those who fail to meet the standards of professional conduct, or demonstrate racist or sexist behaviors, must and will be held accountable.
All the while, we will implement, with urgency, our violence prevention strategy, “The Philadelphia Roadmap to Safer Communities,” which combines proven data-driven and community-informed approaches that have successfully reduced violence in other major cities.
And we’ll continue to partner with grassroots community groups each step of the way, because those closest to the challenges, often have the best solutions.
Since 2015, we have been taking a comprehensive approach to criminal justice reform to safely reduce our prison population, and to close the House of Correction, a century-old dungeon that was a constant reminder of what mass incarceration looks like.
As a result, 3,000 fewer Philadelphians are behind bars, and we closed that prison — ahead of schedule.
We will continue this work to reduce our jail population, focusing on reducing the racial and ethnic disparities that persist in our systems.
Next, to ensure our young people reach their full potential we must follow the rest of the civilized world and make the investments necessary to improve the quality of education available to all of our kids.
This isn’t just the right thing to do, our city’s future depends on it.
For years we watched as the School District of Philadelphia was cut to the bone, with significant capital investments trimmed; nurses, counselors and librarians let go; and barely enough money to keep the lights on.
But it’s a new era and we will not fail another generation of our kids.
Together, we regained control of our schools by establishing a local Board of Education and we matched it with more than a billion dollars of City funding.
Now is the time to deliver on the promise of local control.
This means working with the District and Harrisburg to prioritize investments to ensure all our kids and school staff have safe and welcoming facilities equipped with modern technology.
It means that all students are exposed to career-connected activities, so they’re actually prepared for college and career.
It means our dynamic teachers are properly supported so they can set high standards for student success.
And fulfilling the promise of local control means greater access to quality supportive services so children and families’ social, behavioral, and health needs are met.
Over the next four years, we’ll continue growing our city-led PHLpreK, Community Schools and Out-of-School Time initiatives that have become lifelines for students and their families.
We’ll drastically expand behavioral health supports across all schools.
Building on this success, we will create a new Office of Children and Families and a Children and Families Cabinet charged with working across City departments to ensure that all policies, resources and services for children and families are aligned, coordinated and developed in close partnership with the School District of Philadelphia.
In the second term, we will also tackle new education priorities like working with the Community College of Philadelphia to help more high school students transition to college and allow for more residents to attend CCP tuition-free so they can successfully graduate.
In Philadelphia and across the nation, the rising cost of higher education and childcare, as well as food insecurity and spiraling student debt, is harming too many students’ ability to graduate. And I know this keeps many parents and students awake at night.
Yet if Philadelphia is to be a talent magnet for new companies and serve the rapidly changing needs of the labor market, we must do more to help residents gain a credential or post-secondary degree.
That is why our Administration will be focused on creating a more accessible and affordable community college for Philadelphians.
Last year we asked City residents to rate our services and tell us their priorities. Overwhelmingly people were most concerned with the condition of our streets.
So, let me say that we’ve heard you loud and clear, and making our streets safer and cleaner will be another major priority.
We’ve made tremendous progress with a $200 million capital investment for repaving, and we’ve more than doubled the miles of streets paved since 2015. But we still have a long way to go.
This term, we will return our roads to a state of good repair and ensure that all users of our roadways are safer by adding 40 miles of protected bike lanes.
And we will support SEPTA’s ambitious redesign of the bus network so that Philadelphians can more quickly and efficiently get to their jobs and other places.
And for cleaner streets, we will continue to ramp up illegal dumping enforcement and build on our successful street sweeping pilot program by expanding street cleaning to every neighborhood and commercial corridor by the year 2023.
Yes, you heard that right, every neighborhood, which will even require folks to move their cars.
While we’re improving the conditions of streets, we will also remain focused on creating inclusive and resilient neighborhoods and making sure that our economic growth extends far beyond Center City.
We’ll continue our historic investments in housing affordability, homeless services, and homeownership. This will help stabilize Philadelphians struggling amid poverty and grow our middle class.
To gain quality jobs, we’ll increase entrepreneurial support for businesses owned by people of color, women, and immigrants, and implement a robust business and job growth strategy.
And we’ll continue our extensive efforts to save more lives from opioid overdose and help neighborhoods like Kensington recover from the traumatic toll the opioid crisis has inflicted on our communities.
The opioid crisis is a national epidemic but it’s clear to me that cities like ours on the frontline of this battle also must step up to solve it — as we’ve been doing the past few years.
While some in Harrisburg, and those working at the behest of the President, are more concerned about scoring political points, we are focused on saving the souls suffering from addiction. And yes, that means supporting the creation of Overdose Prevention Sites to save lives and give more people an entry point to treatment.
And that’s not the only thing our City needs to lead on. We will continue doing everything we can to address the climate crisis by delivering on the Paris Climate Agreement and meeting our own ambitious climate goals.
Finally, to restore equity in our neighborhoods, we’ll continue the phenomenal progress of Rebuild by revitalizing 72 parks, recreation centers, playgrounds, and libraries.
After decades of disinvestment, these public spaces are finally getting the attention our residents — especially our kids — deserve.
I’m extremely grateful to everyone involved in Rebuild, from the staff, nonprofit partners, diverse businesses and apprentices who are on their way to building careers in the trades.
I also want to thank the community members who participate in the design process, funders like William Penn Foundation, and City Council for enacting the Philadelphia Beverage Tax.
And our last major priority this term is grounded in our work to make a more diverse, efficient, and effective government that delivers better customer service to residents and businesses.
We plan to look at every policy and program through a racial equity lens so we can better address the racial disparities that have plagued communities of color for far too long.
For example, we’ll reform burdensome fines and fees to bring fairness to more residents, and we’ll provide more support to returning citizens so they can contribute to our society in a meaningful way.
We also plan to embed data, evaluation, and human-centered design in more City operations.
These are among the top priorities for this term, and everything we do — every policy, every program — aims to lift at least 100,000 Philadelphians out of poverty.
Our approach to reducing poverty focuses on providing support to those in need now; helping Philadelphians raise their incomes; and enacting policies and investments that will break the cycle of intergenerational poverty for good.
I want to again thank the incredibly talented and dedicated members of the Cabinet and staff who have been instrumental in pushing forward our progressive agenda these past four years.
City government would not run without the 30,000-plus public servants who work on behalf of residents every day.
No words can adequately express my appreciation for you all. Thank you for showing up and doing the work with compassion and integrity.
And thank you to the residents of our great city who continue to voice their opinions and concerns and tell us what they want to see.
We hear you.
As Mayor, I recognize that thousands of Philadelphia children are kept awake each night by difficult concerns that no child should bear — a parent losing a job, an empty stomach, overcrowded classrooms, or gunfire outside their window.
It should not be that way. I want all Philadelphia children to sleep soundly at night, and wake in the morning with the desire and the quality education to go out and conquer the world.
More than anything else, that is the goal that will drive our Administration over the next four years.
And with your help, I’m confident we can achieve it.
Thank you, God bless you, and Happy New Year.