Fact-checking Philly’s presumptive next mayor (and the first woman on the job, ever)
Philadelphia will elect a new mayor next month — our 100th! — and while Democratic candidate Cherelle Parker is pretty much a shoo-in, we the people still deserve to know what she’s bringing to the office. And what we can expect from the next four years of her leadership.
One promising sign: she’s reversed course on her decision not to debate Republican challenger David Oh. Back in August, she took a rather Trumpian position that a public face-off wasn’t worth the investment given the Democratic party’s 70-year streak in City Hall.
Recently, though, KYW radio announced they’ll be hosting the first (and perhaps only) mayoral candidate debate on Thursday, October 26 during Philadelphia’s Morning News program, 8am – 9am. Mark your calendars! And listen via Audacy (or on 1060AM)
In the meantime, Cory Clark’s sit-down with Cherelle Parker covers poverty, policing, prison conditions – among other city issues – and provides interesting perspectives from the city’s fastest-growing demographic, Asian And Pacific Islanders (AAPI). Shout out to Dan Tsao of Metro Chinese Weekly!
CORY CLARK: You’ve said that you’ve spoken to many of the other stakeholders in the proposed 76ers arena, but you haven’t talked to the residents and business owners in Chinatown outside of people close to you. I feel like you would have gone to the people most impacted, the residents and business owners in the area, if this had been Mount Airy or Germantown, so why aren’t you prioritizing the Chinatown community in the same way?
CHERELLE PARKER: I am proud to be a convener, who brings all stakeholders to the table, and always does all of the research before making a decision. This is the same approach I will use for the proposed 76ers arena. While it is completely inaccurate and false to say that I have only met with people close to me – I have been meeting with people on all sides of the issue and have since it was first proposed when I was on City Council. That being said, there is still an economic impact study that is not yet complete and a lot of work to do and a lot of conversations to be had before any decision is made.
FACT CHECK: Parker has “communicated with different members of the Sixers,” she said, and has spoken with Comcast, which owns the team’s current home, the Wells Fargo Center, and has made efforts to keep them from leaving when the current lease expires in 2031.
The nominee has not had a meeting with direct leadership of the Chinatown community, she said, but has talked to “friends and business owners” who live in the community.
— “Cherelle Parker on the Sixers Arena etc” by Julia Merola / BillyPenn.com (October 2, 2023)
You’ve said you want to create generational wealth for Black and Brown Communities. Asian Americans in Philadelphia make up 11 percent of small business owners and are indispensable to the Philadelphia business community. How will a Parker administration further develop Asian and Chinatown businesses?
As I campaign across the city, I am always reminding people that we are “One Philly.” At the heart of my candidacy is the hope of bringing opportunity and prosperity to every resident. That means, however, that success is only achieved if we all benefit.
What that means to me in regard to the AAPI community is not so different from how I view issues our neighborhoods and people are experiencing around the city. If we are going to attain a safer, cleaner, and greener Philadelphia, then we need to think about our neighborhoods and the people within them as interconnected: Creating opportunities for people to buy a home; developing mixed-income housing; investing in our commercial corridors and workforce development programs; creating 21st Century, quality school buildings; and cleaning our streets and ensuring every Philadelphian feels safe in their neighborhood.
This is why on Council I started the PHL/TCB program that cleans commercial corridors across our city, including an investment in PCDC to help clean Chinatown. And for Philadelphia small business owners, I started PowerUp Your Business to give free small-business support for area businesses.
But none of this works if we don’t have safe communities, that is why I introduced my Neighborhood Safety and Community Policing Plan while I was in City Council and plan on implementing it if I am fortunate enough to become Philadelphia’s next mayor.
According to multiple studies, the majority of AAPI students have said they faced discrimination in Philadelphia schools and the community. What steps will you take to combat anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination in the school system and our city?
Discrimination, hate, and prejudice have no place in our city. Every child deserves to feel safe in school, and for the students who are making others feel unsafe, we need to have policies and programs that can proactively focus on prevention, intervention, and enforcement. As Mayor, I would be eager to provide the School District with resources to combat discrimination and would look to expert opinions on how to effectively allocate those funds. Additionally, I would work hand-in-glove with both the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations and the Mayor’s Commission on Asian-Pacific American Affairs to take proactive measures to ensure AAPI students are experiencing a safe and equitable educational environment.
Asian students, like other minority groups, often face unique challenges in our public education system. What specific policies and reforms do you plan to implement to address disparities in the education system, ensuring that Asian students and students from all backgrounds have equal access to quality education, resources, and opportunities?
At the heart of my campaign for mayor has been a vision for Philadelphia that reimagines how we educate our children and provide opportunities for adults. This is the idea behind my proposal for year-round schooling, which would introduce students to opportunities they would not have otherwise been exposed to. They are not going to be simply sitting in a traditional classroom setting, but rather split their time between their studies and programming that includes athletics, workforce development, technology, trades, and other recreational activities.
As it relates specifically to AAPI students, it begins with ensuring a strong ESL program – as a former ESL teacher, this is near and dear to my heart. Additionally, I know from experience that you need to see yourself in your schoolwork, which is why I will be a proponent of incorporating the history of underrepresented communities in America into the School District’s curriculum. AAPI students are missing an opportunity to have an experience of learning and seeing themselves in their lessons, and students from other backgrounds are missing an opportunity to learn from the rich culture of their classmates., We can foster that by integrating the history of how Asian Americans have played an important role in building our country.
When you were on City Council, you stood against what is commonly referred to as Stop and Frisk (Terry Stops). At that time, you seemed to understand that the policy was ineffective and disproportionately negatively affected minority communities. That position was in line with the majority of the data on the policy, so what changed your mind?
Your framing of this question is inaccurate. I have been consistent throughout my career. What I believe that you are referencing is the charter change resolution that I introduced to eliminate unconstitutional stop and frisk. This resolution had the support of the top criminal justice attorneys in the city, attorneys who have dedicated their careers to defending private citizens from police misuse and abuse.
However, I have never said anything against Terry Stops: Constitutionally protected tools that only allow stops by law enforcement when a crime has been committed, will be committed, or is actively being committed and when there is just cause and reasonable suspicion. In fact, “Terry Stops” is the shorthand term for the 1968 Supreme Court decision on Terry v. Ohio which affirmed that these types of stops are constitutionally allowed.
Since Terry Stops have been allowed since 1968 as a constitutional way for officers to do their jobs, it is important that our police officers to know that this is a tool at their disposal as long as it is done constitutionally and they have the ability to use all of the tools in their toolbox.
But along with allowing Terry Stops, the Parker administration will have zero tolerance for any misuse or abuse of authority by police officers. As the mother of a Black son, officers found abusing their authority will be gone under a Parker administration.
“It is my hope that Philadelphia residents will clearly make their voices heard in calling on the Police Department to eliminate unconstitutional Stop and Frisk, and that our Police Department will use the outcome to bolster and further strengthen their resolve in continuing to root out this harmful practice,” said Parker at the time of her introduction of the above legislation.
Nearly all of the data on the use of Stop and Friskk shows that the policy disproportionally affects people of color and judges up and down the federal system have agreed. What Parker does is try to make a distinction that lacks a difference, the reality is that the ways in which the original Terry v Ohio decision has been used on the ground is both racist and unconstitutional.
In her 2020 statement also referenced above, Parker goes further to note: “Research also indicates there is no correlation between the elimination of Stops and Frisks and an increase in violent crime. In fact, when New York City radically cut back their use of Stop and Frisk policies in 2016 and 2017, decreases in crime continued.”
— “Councilwoman Parker Introduced Historic Charter Change Giving Voters a Voice in Eliminating Unconstitutional Stop and Frisk” by Cherelle Parker / Council News (January 30, 2020)
A lot of the data attributes the rise in crime to the effects of the pandemic exasperating already existing systemic poverty. Sixty-nine percent of respondents in a recent AAPI PA Power Caucus survey say that the government should shift resources currently allocated for police departments to health and human services, including mental health responders, workforce development, and nonviolent alternatives. Community safety must include mental health and wellness. Is tough on crime the best solution to a poverty and resources issue?
For the issues around crime our city is facing, we are not going to police our way out of this. I have been an advocate for a holistic approach to addressing crime, which is why I am the only candidate to have authored a comprehensive Neighborhood Safety and Community Policing Plan. Among other reforms, the plan would have officers walking a beat, establishing relationships within the community, and providing more resources to first responders in addition to adequately and safely addressing mental and emotional health crises.
The Philadelphia police department has struggled with the way it deals with citizens. I’ve personally seen the disrespect and abuse they deal out in some of the most vulnerable neighborhoods. Mayors before you haven’t been able to reign these officers in; what will you do that they haven’t?
The culture and discipline at the Police Department starts at the top. That means that I will select a Police Commissioner who shares my holistic vision for policing and understands that there will be zero tolerance for misuse or abuse of authority.
The Philadelphia Police Department has, for a long time, had an abysmal closure rate for violent crimes. What needs to happen to turn that around? Is it more detectives, better-trained detectives, or better forensics?
This is an issue that needs a two-pronged approach. For one, we have a shortage in the ranks at our Police Department, which I plan to address, in addition to hiring 300 more foot and bike patrol officers to walk a beat in every neighborhood of the city, getting to know the community they’re sworn to protect and serve. Secondly, we need a Mayor who works closely with the District Attorney’s Office to ensure we are working collaboratively on getting violent offenders off our streets. We need to be smart on crime if we are going to curb this trend: Implementing modern technology at the Police Department, including an expanded network of cameras around the city, drone coverage, and body cameras.
Mayor Kenney tried to push unhoused folks out of the K and A area without real success. Recently, the number of unhoused folks is growing in Chinatown. It’s pretty clear sweeps aren’t working; many of the same unhoused folks return to the area or move to another location like Chinatown. Those most impacted feel they are being criminalized for their mental health, addiction, or mere housing status; what will you do differently?
Like I said before, we will not police our way out of the issues we are seeing across the city. In regards to homelessness, simply relocating people is not a solution. I am a proponent of connecting those who are struggling with homelessness, mental health, and addiction with long-term care and long-term housing options. We have seen similar approaches work here in Philadelphia–just look at Project HOME. They have been able to reimagine how we connect those struggling with homelessness with the housing and resources they need to become self-sufficient. I want to use my convening power as mayor to expand upon that work through an effective public/private partnership.
The pandemic exposed the human rights crisis in Philadelphia prisons, but many of the issues incarcerated people are still facing have been going on for years before the pandemic if not decades. Most of those in these jails haven’t been convicted of the crime they are being held for. How would you hold Philadelphia Department of Prisons leadership accountable for making the conditions in the jails humane and safe for those incarcerated, the corrections officers, and, given the recent rash of escapes across PA, including the recent escape here, the general public?
Similar to my approach to public safety at the Police Department, my stance will not change in regard to our prison system: A Parker Administration will not tolerate any misuse or abuse of authority. That said, the issues we face in our prisons are systemic and require significant attention in order to be remediated – there are severe staffing shortages in our prisons that are making the functionality of our prisons suffer. As Mayor, I would work with our state, federal, and local partners to ensure we can correct our staffing shortages and ensure that our prisons are meeting the highest standards.
Agree? Disagree? Please leave your comments below or email email@example.com.
👍PRO TIP: compare Parker’s answers here with David Oh’s in his sit-down with Cory last month.
🗳️🐘 Let’s All Vote this November 7th! ✊✊✊
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