In front of an energized crowd of more than 300 friends, family, and supporters, incumbent 9th District City Councilwoman Cherelle Parker launched her re-election campaign on Feb. 24, 2019 at the Finley Recreation Center in the heart of Philadelphia’s West Oak Lane neighborhood.
“Let’s go out and win in May,” Parker said to a chorus of cheers.
Vying for a second term as councilwoman, Parker previously worked as the 200th Legislative District representative in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for 10 years.
The nearly 4-hour event featured speeches by powerful politicians, friends and family on behalf of her character and what they feel makes her a great person and candidate.
Mayor Jim Kenney, District Attorney Larry Krasner and Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Mike Turzai, have all endorsed Parker, who won the 9th District election in 2015 with 91.1 percent of the vote.
“I am very thankful that Cherelle is running for re-election,” Kenney told the crowd. “Because we need her and I need her. I need her faith and I need her courage.”
After Kenney urged the crowd to get out and support Parker, he then said she may be up next for mayor, resulting in a loud cheer from her supporters.
Other past and current politicians from around the state of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia spoke on Parker’s legislative accomplishments as well as her current work.
Mike Gerber, a former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from the 148th District, spoke on his experience working with Parker to secure funding for education, health care and transportation, despite representing two different parties.
“We worked hand-in-hand to fight for this region and fight for this city,” said Gerber, who is now retired from politics.
Republican Speaker of the House Mike Turzai praised Parker for her ability to work across the aisle.
“We did property tax reform measures for the city of Philadelphia and that was Cherelle leading that effort,” Turzai said.
Parker’s own 40-minute speech drew attention to her areas of policy focus, her accomplishments in both the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and her first term as 9th District City Councilwoman, as well as affirming her commitment to her constituents.
“I am not Superwoman,” said Parker. “I am a woman with a 6-year-old son who wants to love a city, a district, and take care of them. And I cannot do it alone.”
Parker said her agenda is pro-growth, pro-jobs and is focused on neighborhood stabilization and enhancement. She brought up the statistic that Philadelphia is the most impoverished big city in the United States. Her solution is growing small businesses and creating jobs so that people can become more independent and self-sufficient.
She pointed to her roots in Northwest Philadelphia — her grandparents lived in West Oak Lane — as a foundation for her beliefs and policy focus.
“When they moved from North Philadelphia to West Oak Lane, they were moving up like the Jeffersons,” said Parker. “Our commercial corridors were all occupied. We had a bakery, we had a fish store, we had a shoe shop, we had everything that we wanted.”
Parker said because of modern capitalism, and the way consumers buy online now, these changed and commercial corridors that were once a vibrant part of the neighborhood had become vacant buildings. She promoted her commitment to directing resources to not only the commercial corridors in West Oak Lane, but to all of the 9th District.
Most recently, Vernon Road received upgrades in and attempt to revive the area and bring consumers to the small businesses located there.
“How many of you have noticed the lights on the businesses and the new LED lights when you drive down the street?” Parker asked the crowd. “Did you notice the lights on the trees? We have trees and guess what? The trees are lit and it’s not Christmastime.”
She said that because of the investments that were made in the area, there is a bidding war to find out who will occupy two vacant properties there.
“We are incentivizing small businesses to come to the area because we are making it aesthetically appealing,” she said. “We have to find a way to stimulate the economy.”
Her support for the local businesses has been met with enthusiasm from others in the community.
Richard Brown, owner of Brown’s Linens on Wadsworth Avenue, said that as a small-business owner, he likes the idea of helping the retail corridors.
“She’s done a nice job for the area,” said Brown. “Small businesses can use any help they can get. I know that they planted some trees to make the area nicer.”
Veronica Bell-Hewitt recently moved to West Oak Lane area from Spring Garden and said that Parker’s vision for bringing life back to the commercial parts of the neighborhood is the right thing to do.
“I haven’t been living here long, but I’ve learned that people support their local businesses here,” Bell-Hewitt said. “I think it is a good way to show the people and the business owners that you care about them by putting money into the areas where these businesses are.”
Parker then turned her focus to education.
“If I had to vote for parks, recs, libraries and to increase the number of pre-K seats in Philadelphia and the 9th Councilmanic District, I would do it all over again,” she said.
In the United States the average life span of school buildings is 44 years, but in the city of Philadelphia the average is 66 years, Parker said. Many of these schools are unsafe, so the city must invest in making safer schools for students, she said.
Parker’s main message was her devotion to listening to people of the 9th District, something that residents like Bell-Hewitt appreciate.
“It’s so important for those elected to listen to the people who vote for them because without those people, the person wouldn’t be in office,” she said.
On March 14, city council passed legislation introduced by Parker to put a question on the ballot of the upcoming election on May 21 regarding increasing Philadelphia’s minimum wage to $15 by 2025. Voters will be asked to urge state government to increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 or allow the city of Philadelphia to raise the minimum wage in Philadelphia. Currently, the city cannot increase the minimum wage because of PA State Act 112 which requires minimum wage changes to occur at the state level.
“In essence, it’ll send a message to Harrisburg about how the residents of Philadelphia feel about raising the minimum wage,” she said.
Ryan Hughes, Parker’s campaign manager, elaborated on why the ballot question is an important running point for Parker, saying it shows her commitment to listening to the people.
“It’s something you’re seeing all over the country,” said Hughes. “It’s direct democracy.”
The event concluded with Parker and the crowd joined in unison chanting, “The power of the people is greater than the people in power.”
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