PHILADELPHIA – Mayor Cherelle L. Parker joined the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia at its annual Mayoral Luncheon today to address important issues facing the city, and to talk about her agenda for Philadelphia – a Safer, Cleaner, Greener City, with Access to Economic Opportunity for All.

Bringing together more than 2,000 executives, elected officials, business owners, and civic leaders, the Chamber’s Mayoral Luncheon is the largest forum for the Mayor of Philadelphia to address the region’s business community. Mayor Parker shared the Administration’s key priorities and challenges facing the city, including public safety, cleaning and greening neighborhoods, economic opportunities, public education and other issues.

Chamber officials indicated this was the largest crowd at the organization’s annual event with the Philadelphia mayor in its history.

Mayor Parker’s speech as prepared; check against delivery.

To the Members of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, President and CEO Chellie Cameron, Board Chair Mike Innocenzo and the Board of Directors, Members of City Council including my friend President Kenyatta Johnson and his leadership team, Members of our Philadelphia Delegation in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, leaders of organized labor, faith leaders, and every other guest here with us today, It’s a privilege to be here with you all.

Before I begin my prepared remarks, and my vision for a more inclusive and equitable Philadelphia, I want to tell you about a conversation I had recently with a major Philadelphia entrepreneur, a philanthropist who has given back by leading an important institution in our great city. I’m not going to identify him — I want you to hear the power of his words.

This leader came to City Hall. When I asked him what he does for a living, his face lit up.

Here’s what he told me: “I have the best job in the world. I listen to people all day and hear their best ideas. And their presentations usually start with one phrase: ‘Imagine if …’”

That resonated with me. Today is Day 58 of my administration. I invite you to Imagine with us, and join our journey towards a Safer, Cleaner, Greener Philadelphia, with access to Economic Opportunity for All.

Imagine If: The business community and workers did not have to be concerned about public safety, and described it as a reason they were discouraged from coming back to work.

Imagine If: We build trust and public safety in our neighborhoods again, through Community Policing and a holistic public safety strategy, led by a Police Commissioner whom we believe is the best in the country, Kevin Bethel, and our Acting Chief Public Safety Director Adam Geer.

Imagine If: People no longer had the opportunity to call our city “Filthadelphia,” because we’ve developed a Clean and Green Initiative that is a sustainable program focused on neighborhood commercial corridors, cleaning up illegal trash sites, towing abandoned cars, cleaning vacant lots – all at the direction of communities that tell us what they need. People want to SEE their tax dollars at work in their neighborhoods.

Imagine If: We’re working together to unlock Economic Opportunity for All and position Philadelphia as an attractive and equitable place to do business.

By building a strong rapport with the business community, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, and the diverse chambers as partners.

Through our Mayor’s Business Roundtables that we are working on now, and through collaboration – from Philadelphia to Harrisburg to Washington – we speak with One Voice on behalf of Philadelphia’s most important interests.

Imagine If: We work together to take advantage of a historic opportunity to heed the Commonwealth Court’s ruling that Pennsylvania’s system of funding public education is inherently unconstitutional. Imagine if we realize several hundred million MORE dollars for public education in Philadelphia this year.

Our students deserve a full loaf – not crumbs.

You get my point: There is NOTHING we cannot do together to lift our City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection to greater heights, to a more inclusive city, a safer city, a cleaner and greener city, and a city embracing our vision of Access to Economic Opportunity for All.

Imagine If: we do all this together – the business community, the Chamber, the philanthropic community, Workers, City Council, the Philadelphia delegation in the General Assembly, our congressional delegation, our Governor – if we work collaboratively, there is no problem facing Philadelphia we cannot solve. Gun violence, poverty, trash in our streets, a lack of jobs and opportunities – we can overcome these challenges – if we work together. I cannot do this alone. I’m a teacher by profession.

I know how to ask for help. Will you work with me to make our city shine? I am asking for your collaboration and support. I need you. You, you and YOU! We’re partners. We cannot have economic opportunity for all without growing the economic pie, creating jobs, more entrepreneurship, more homeowners, everyone together, that is how we grow the economic pie. If you want to help slow the rise in gun violence, if you want to help reduce poverty, I need you to get involved and partner with my Administration.

I’m not afraid to make the tough decisions to restore order to our city, but I need you to step up and help this Administration. Let me tell you what we’re doing – and how you can help Philadelphia thrive. Together, we can make our city one that you don’t have to imagine anymore.

I’ll announce a “PHL Open for Business” initiative to increase ease of doing business.

That includes addressing the barriers that often make it difficult for small, diverse businesses to access opportunities – historically an elusive goal for minority-owned businesses.

On day one of my Administration, I signed an Executive Order eliminating the college degree requirement for City jobs that don’t need it — an important part giving more people opportunity to work. Valuing real-life experiences for City jobs rather than a degree in philosophy, for example.

I’m convening Faith Based and Intergovernmental Roundtables to serve as interfaces between my administration and the communities on the ground and in government that we will need to be successful.

And I’m creating a Business Roundtable – with all of the Chambers having a seat at the table. The Business Roundtable isn’t meant to replace any of the many superb organizations in our city performing a wide array of functions to develop our local economy.

It’s going to be proactive. I need a vehicle that I can use to develop policy, draft legislation, and develop support in the broader business and governmental communities to implement my agenda for a more equitable economy in Philadelphia. There will be working groups and an executive committee under Director Donavan West, all led by people who understand business in our city: Ryan Boyer as Chair with Della Clark and Greg Segall serving as Vice Chairs. I expect many of you to play a role.

I am creating an Office of Minority Business Success headed by Rachel Branson, to move away from slogans about equity, instead focusing on delivering real results for small, medium, and large businesses’ growth and advancement – including providing access to the capital that they need.

I am building meaningful workforce development to provide a path to self-sufficiency where people earn while they learn at the beginning of their careers or looking to upskill for more opportunity. Building on the great work that is being done by Pat Clancy of Philadelphia Works, the West Philly Skills Initiative, the Building Trades, and so many others. But also looking at organizations like Wistar who are focused on the biotech and life sciences jobs of the future.

Because Philadelphia is on the cusp of leading the nation in Biotech and Life Sciences and we are going to help this industry grow and become number one in the country.

Investors like Richard Vague and companies like Spark Therapeutics based right here are creating cutting-edge technology to allow blind people to see, curing cancer, and creating working-class, family sustaining careers for Philadelphians that include the benefits of a union job and even EQUITY for workers in the industry that is changing the world.

Changing the world also means cleaning and greening our neighborhoods.

Last week, I took a walking tour along the 29th Street Corridor in Strawberry Mansion. Under the direction of Carlton Williams, our Clean and Green Director, we saw illegal trash dumps, abandoned cars – we saw neglect and an attitude of, ‘Does the City care about neighborhoods anymore?’

Before the tour ended, City workers from Streets, L&I, the Parking Authority and others were cleaning up 29th Street, towing abandoned vehicles and our Department of Commerce Director Alba Martinez was talking to businesses about what they needed to thrive – giving people who live and work there something they haven’t felt in too long: a sense of hope again.

Now, Imagine with me: We take the same organized approach we brought to 29th Street and apply it to ALL of Philadelphia.

Because that’s what Clean and Green is going to do.

We are going to make Philadelphia clean, green and resilient – and encourage our residents to partner with Clean and Green in improving their communities.

“I want Philadelphians to believe in their government again.”

Another example of how we’re Cleaning and Greening Philadelphia is a program I’m extraordinarily proud of, since it got its start in the Ninth Council District in Northwest Philadelphia under my leadership. PHL Taking Care of Business, otherwise known as PHL TCB.

On the surface, PHL TCB is a Neighborhood Commercial Corridor Cleaning Program.

But PHL TCB is more than that. It’s also a workforce development program. The Commerce Department works with non-profit organizations to hire “Cleaning Ambassadors” who get paid a Living Wage – and who get training in the soft skills necessary to continue advancing in the workforce, towards better paying jobs. I have BIG plans to expand PHL TCB even more.

I’ve got some exciting news to share: We’ve lined up our first private sector contribution to PHL TCB! Amazon agreed to donate $100,000 to the program. (And if anyone else in the room is wondering, YES, we can accept more!) Imagine If another business in this room – or ten businesses – follow Amazon’s example – all the way from Seattle — and make a substantial contribution to making Philadelphia the safest, cleanest and greenest city, with economic opportunity for all! My Big Three – Tiffany Thurman, Sincere Harris, and Aren Platt – are in the room now. Go see them.

Invest in TCB – or any number of other programs that will help us make Philadelphia better. If you want to see order return, contribute to PHL TCB – help us hire MORE Cleaning Ambassadors to good jobs and put them on a path to self-sufficiency.

Everyone wants to know what the Parker administration is going to do about Public Safety.

Commissioner Bethel, Acting Public Safety Director Geer, and Managing Director Adam Thiel are hard at work, developing a Comprehensive plan to address both Public Safety and Public Health for Philadelphia.

We already declared a public safety emergency on day one – the first Executive Order I signed, to get every available resource into neighborhoods struggling with gun violence, drug dealing and addiction, including in Kensington.

I won’t ignore quality-of-life crimes either – like retail theft and shoplifting and illegal use of ATVs. We need to enforce the laws on the books — no ifs, ands or buts.

Managing Director Thiel is developing options and funding sources for providing long-term housing, care and treatment for our most vulnerable citizens. Working with leaders in public health like Kevin Mahoney from Penn, Joe Cacchione from Jefferson and Michael Young from Temple Health.

The status quo in Kensington is unacceptable. Help is on the way. And we’ll do it with the voices and hopes of the 14 people who actually live in Kensington squarely in our minds.

Now zoom out with me for a second. We have an urgent need for more housing in our city.

My administration is going to produce 30,000 more units of housing in Philadelphia.

Affordable housing will be “affordable luxury” – housing for renters and homeowners with high-end finishes for lower moderate-income families because having less doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have access to quality.

I am supporting programs like Turn the Key, an affordable home ownership program started with the vision of former Council President Darrell Clarke and now continuing under Council President Johnson and our Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation.

I want every resident of Philadelphia to have the chance to buy their own home and build intergenerational wealth for themselves and their families. That is Equitable Economic Growth.

On public education, our children and students have struggled far too long, with far too little.

We have a historic opportunity. Because of the court ruling last year in Commonwealth Court, the state Basic Education Funding Commission has recommended an infusion of $1.4 billion for Philadelphia schools over the next seven years, and Governor Shapiro in his budget last month proposed $242 million more in education funds for Philadelphia this year.

We need every dollar. I’m calling on the Chamber, its board and every member to join with us in fighting for a “full loaf” of education funding for our students.

“Imagine If” we accomplish that goal together.

My vision for public education includes a plan for full day and year-round schooling, so that students can get the educational enrichment they need through the year, in schedules that work for working families.

We need to modernize our schools so students can learn in safe, healthy, modern environments. I’ll work closely with the School District of Philadelphia under Superintendent Dr. Tony Watlington and allies on City Council like Education Chairman Isaiah Thomas, as well as the General Assembly.

Let’s talk about tax reform…

The changes made to the city’s tax structure in recent years have improved our competitive position and made Philadelphia a more attractive place to live, work and play. Our tax structure looks very different from how it did years ago.

The wage tax has dropped more than a full percent, closing the gap between Philadelphia and the suburbs. The number of businesses that pay the BIRT has dropped by about two-thirds and those that do pay, pay a lower amount.

As we move forward, a key factor of how we approach tax policy will be the findings of the Tax Reform Commission that Council President Johnson just reconvened. We thank the Council President for taking that important step, and we look forward to a lively discussion on these issues this year. But let me say this about tax reform as we look to next steps: I have been at this a long time, and I see two big things we need to address:

Raising Pennsylvania’s unconscionably low minimum wage to $15 an hour to grow the economic pie and increase our tax base. Not just for those making minimum wage, but for everyone working who is at or near the poverty line.

And the uniformity clause that prevents us from taking action on tax reform measures, including taxing 17 commercial real estate differently from residential (I know my friends Jerry Sweeney and Paul Levy are ready for this fight!) One more item about the Minimum Wage. Lest anyone think a $15 minimum wage for Pennsylvania is too high, MIT just published a study, with fresh data, that found a person living and working in Philadelphia today, with no children, needs to earn $22.29 an hour to earn a Living Wage. Let’s all agree – the minimum wage in Pennsylvania MUST be raised – let’s achieve this TOGETHER. It’s the RIGHT and equitable thing to do. Philadelphia needs to lead the way on this issue, and I’m willing to lead.

That’s why several days ago, I sent out a memo to Senior City Managers – Cabinet Members, Commissioners, Directors, direct reports to the Mayor.

The subject: The Parker administration’s plans to return to in-office work.

Some of the private sector is doing this – I want to commend IBX and Comcast for the actions they’ve already taken.

Our Legislative branch – City Council – has returned fully to in-person hearings, meetings and Caucus. I commend Council President Johnson and his leadership team – Majority Leader Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Majority Whip Thomas, and Deputy Whip Cindy Bass.

The people of Philadelphia deserve a government they can “see, touch and feel” – and it’s impossible to do this if our unparalleled city workforce is working virtually.

80 percent of the City workforce is already back in person — we will be calling back the rest. And we know our employees are people, with families and lives; they’re not assets and will be treated with respect.

For the business owners – the major employers – in this room who are still hybrid or remote, I hope you see this as the opportunity you need to follow our lead and the lead of Comcast and IBX to bring your employees back to work.

If you want to get my attention, tell me your plan for bringing your workforce back to in-person work.

Know that the employees you bring back will not just be affecting your business, but surrounding businesses, the safety of our streets, efficiency of SEPTA and the nearly 10,000 janitorial and security staff who have some of the few living-wage jobs that are truly open to everyone in our city.

We will be doing everything in our power to make sure that when your employees come back, they will be coming back 19 to a safe, clean, and green Center City, but it is only sustainable if they come back.

A few days ago, I joined our hotel and tourism sector here at the Convention Center for its 2024 Economic Outlook, and you could feel the energy pulsating in the room.

And why not?

Nearly 43 million guests visited our five-county Philadelphia region last year. They spent $7.6 billion in our regional economy, and generated an overall economic impact of $12.4 billion.

All this spending helped pay for 192,700 JOBS in the hospitality and tourism industries in our city and region. The numbers for Philadelphia only? Just as bullish.

26 million visitors, $4.4 billion in spending, and an overall economic impact of $6.6 billion in Philadelphia.

Now ‘Imagine with Me’ a Moment Longer…

It’s 2026, and the FIFA World Cup is HERE in Philadelphia for some of its biggest matches.

The 250th Anniversary of this grand experiment in Democracy, is celebrated here, in the city where it all began.

Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, at Citizens Bank Park.

And scores of events in every corner of the city for people who live here to celebrate.

Visitors from across the globe, as they arrive, are all welcomed at our world-class Philadelphia International Airport. Celebrations of democracy being watched the world over, and by then – because of all of you, working collaboratively with the Parker Administration – we can hold THIS truth to be self-evident,  Philadelphia truly is a Safer, Cleaner, Greener City, with Access to Economic Opportunity for All.

That is what I imagine for Philadelphia, and I invite you to join me in making that happen in our city. I cannot do it without every one of you.

Put your Ones in the air with me, please.

Say it with me:

“One Philly … A United City!”

Thank you.