Poverty and violence remained a central focus at the mayoral and city council inauguration Monday, Jan. 7, 2020 at The Met in North Philadelphia.
Council President Darrell Clarke, who was nominated and won another term as president, reiterated council’s commitment to elevating 100,000 people out of poverty. Currently, the city poverty rate is over 26%, or 400,000 people.
Clarke highlighted the work of the Special Committee on Poverty Reduction and Prevention, which is developing a report that will make recommendations to city council on measures to combat the city’s poverty epidemic.
As an example of the anti-poverty objectives council is exploring, Clarke said the City will look at helping Philadelphians avail themselves of over $450 million in state and federal benefits that are currently unused.
“Can you imagine the impact on poverty when we obtain several hundred million dollars in benefits for Philadelphians?” Clarke asked. “It will be significant.”
Invoking imagery of America’s 1960s-era space travel ambition, Clarke, who routinely describes the goal of the committee as a “moonshot,” called for renewed cooperation between the business community, colleges and universities, the nonprofit sector, and local government.
Clarke tied the poverty rate to the high level of violent crime the city experienced in 2019.
“Although violent crime declined slightly last year, shootings and homicides did not,” Clarke said. “Over 100 people under the age of 18 was shot in 2019.”
City Council passed legislation to help alleviate this horrific violence, Clarke noted, such as banning weapons from playgrounds and recreational centers.
Clarke ended his remarks by addressing those in the city who may be jaded and frustrated by a lack of change.
“There is nothing we cannot achieve if we work together,” Clarke said.
Incoming Majority Leader Cherelle Parker Parker said poverty and violence were council’s top priorities for the coming term.
“When you look back over the past four years of the body of work of city council, I think we have a great track record,” Parker said. “I’m talking about work as a collective, and so will continue to work together to be as unified as we possibly can.”
Parker was elected majority leader by her council colleagues, replacing Councilmember Bobby Henon. Councilmembers Curtis Jones and Mark Squilla were elected majority whip and deputy majority whip, respectively.
Mayor Jim Kenney’s inauguration address touched on similar themes, particularly poverty and violence. Kenney said while progress had been made in the first four years of his administration, challenges remain.
“These challenges are grounded in economic and racial inequality that have been building for decades,” Kenney said. “We must continue to confront our greatest challenges, and capitalize on new opportunities with the courage, conviction and resilience that we as Philadelphians possess.”
Kenney said his administration will create an Office of Children and Families that will work across city departments to ensure all policies and resources for children and families are aligned.
In addition, Kenney aims to focus on creating inclusive and resilient neighborhoods.
“[This makes] sure our economic growth extends far beyond Center City and continues our investments in housing affordability, homeless services, and homeownership,” Kenney said.
These investments will help stabilize Philadelphians who are struggling with poverty while growing the middle class, Kenney said.
Lawrence McGlynn is a recent graduate of Temple University’s Klein College of Media and Communication where he earned a Master’s in Journalism. For the next several months he will be reporting out of City Hall on various council and committee meetings, the city’s budget, and how these impact the daily lives of Philadelphians.
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