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Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker pledges public safety focus, green initiatives at inauguration

Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker outlines plan for first 100 days at inauguration
Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker outlines plan for first 100 days at inauguration 02:10

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Tuesday marked a new day in Philadelphia as Mayor Cherelle Parker was publicly sworn in as the city's first female - and its 100th - mayor during her inauguration ceremony at The Met.

The mayor outlined some of what her administration will tackle in her first 100 days, including declaring a public safety emergency, instructing new Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel to eliminate open-air drug markets in Kensington and unveiling a new approach to address quality-of-life issues in the city.

For an hour, Parker commanded the audience, thanking those who came before her and those who helped get her here. Her ask from the city is simple: believe.

"I cannot do this alone," Parker said. "I did not get to this stage by myself."

Since winning the November election, Parker has stayed busy, putting together her cabinet and other key figures in her administration.

Parker ran on the promise to make Philadelphia the "safest, cleanest, greenest big city" in the United States. During her inaugural speech, she broke down how she plans to make that saying a reality through the administration's 100-day action plan.

"The reason why you have a copy of it is because it's a commitment to you and that means that I'm going to get it done because we gave our word," Parker said.

Mayor Cherelle Parker delivers inaugural address at The Met Philadelphia by CBS Philadelphia on YouTube

Parker signs 3 executive orders

On Tuesday, the mayor signed three executive orders: one on public safety, a second on economic opportunities and a third on government visibility.  

The public safety emergency signed by Parker will direct Bethel to develop a comprehensive plan that addresses public safety across Philadelphia. It's also something her predecessor, Jim Kenney, declined to do as mayor.

The second order hopes to expand economic opportunity for Philadelphia residents, including eliminating the college degree requirement as a prerequisite for city employment.

Cherelle Parker signs three executive orders after becoming Philadelphia's 100th mayor. 

The third order is aimed at making government more visible and effective in how it delivers service to its citizens. 

"You deserve to see your tax dollars at work in your neighborhood," Parker said. 

What will Parker's first 100 days look like?

Parker will declare a public safety emergency and unveil plans to add more police officers on city streets with a focus on community policing. She said, in prepared remarks, police officers need to be "guardians, not warriors."

The mayor will also instruct Bethel to develop a strategy to "permanently shut down open-air drug markets, including in Kensington." Additionally, Bethel will be charged with addressing property and quality-of-life crimes such as car theft, shoplifting and illegal ATV use, according to the mayor's office.

"Now, some people won't like the decisions we make, especially around public safety, Parker said. "However, I want Philadelphia to know - I am fully committed to ending this sense of lawlessness, and bringing order - and a sense of lawfulness - back to our city."

The mayor said that the Parker administration will bring a new approach to addressing quality of life issues - such as illegal dumping, litter and graffiti, potholes and abandoned cars - by targeting the hardest-hit neighborhoods.

Cherelle Parker shares her vision of Philadelphia during inauguration speech by CBS Philadelphia on YouTube

Parker added her new "Clean and Green Initiatives" will work at cleaning up streets, reducing waste and increasing recycling.

Parker said she's going to ask every department to submit a list to her administration of unnecessary permits and regulations the city can eliminate to make Philadelphia "open for business."

The mayor said she's going to create a "One Front Door" opportunity for city residents to access home improvement programs run by the city in one place, and she'll order a top-to-bottom review of Philadelphia's Land Bank to study the challenges of developing vacant, city-owned properties.

Her office promised to "increase access to housing for both renters and homeowners to ensure vibrant and equitable communities and help intergenerational wealth."

Parker also will create a strategy to develop out-of-school programs and job opportunities for Philadelphia students outside regular school hours. Additionally, the mayor said she wants to modernize city schools.

"Our children have the same right to come to school and learn in clean, modern school buildings, with state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, as any child does anywhere in our commonwealth," Parker said.

The Parker administration will also create three roundtables: intergovernmental, business and faith-based.

Parker's rise to Philadelphia mayor

Parker made history by becoming Philadelphia's 100th mayor, but how did she get to this moment? 

Parker was born to a single teenage mother and raised by her grandparents James and Dorothy Parker.

She attended Philadelphia public schools and was the first in her family to attend college. She first earned her bachelor's degree from Lincoln University and then received her master's from the University of Pennsylvania.

Called to public service, Parker served 10 years as a state representative and was then elected to Philadelphia City Council in 2016, eventually becoming the council majority leader. She stepped down as a council member before hitting the campaign trail to become the city's next mayor. 

Speaking at the Simons Recreation Center in West Oak Lane, where she was raised with CBS Philadelphia's Ukee Washington, Parker talked about her humble beginnings before the election.

"Lots of times, people hear me refer to my upbringing and those outside of my family being a part of my village. And, this was a significant part of the village," she said.

Sheryl Lee Ralph makes Philadelphia mayor emotional during poem by CBS Philadelphia on YouTube

Other officials sworn into office

Tuesday's ticketed event at The Met Philadelphia also included the swearing-in of city council members and the sheriff, among other positions. Bethel was also sworn in as police commissioner later in the afternoon at Russell Conwell Middle School in Kensington.

Bethel is no stranger to the police department. He was once a deputy commissioner.

As a native of Southwest Philadelphia and father of three daughters who sat alongside him, Bethel said his approach to policing is rooted in respect and integrity.

"You are on the front lines of the battles against chaos and lawlessness," Bethel said. "But you're also the bridgebuilders to communities that have felt neglected and unheard. Our strategy will be threefold - prevention, intervention and enforcement."

Kenyatta Johnson, a longtime member of Philadelphia City Council, will now serve as city council president nearly two years after he was acquitted in a federal bribery trial. Outgoing president Darrell Clarke handed over the gavel Tuesday after leading the council for 12 years.

"Thanks one final time to the residents of the city of Philadelphia for this awesome, privileged opportunity," Clarke said. 

In other council leadership changes, Katherine Gilmore-Richardson, an at-large city council member, was sworn in as majority leader, becoming the youngest in council history.

Kevin Bethel sworn in as Philadelphia Police Commissioner following Cherelle Parker's inauguration by CBS Philadelphia on YouTube

Reaction from Philadelphia residents

Many residents who spoke with CBS News Philadelphia ahead of Tuesday's inauguration welcomed City Hall changes.

"It's inspiring, it's amazing to see," Rashida Ingram, of Germantown, said. "I know she has amazing support and that she's going to do amazing things on behalf of our ancestors and all the Black women that are looking up to her."

Nathan Hyman said he's known Parker since she was a teenager and was proud to watch her take the oath of office. 

"It really is inspiring to see someone move through the ranks in a way that has touched a lot of people and lifted a lot of people," Hyman said.   

Aside from the history of it all, people were excited about the vision Parker plans to bring to the city.  

"She's giving all the right cues around what we really need to focus in on, which is, of course, public safety and education. I'm hopeful," Farah Jimenez, of Chestnut Hill, said.

Philadelphians inspired by Mayor Cherelle Parker after inauguration speech by CBS Philadelphia on YouTube

"She has the opportunity to perfect the name of 'Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection,' and I think she's on the trail of doing that," Saadiq Garner, of Philly, said.  

But make no mistake, supporters said they'll be watching closely to make sure Parker makes good on her promises.  

"As sisters, as women, as Philadelphians, as citizens, we're gonna hold her accountable," Ingram said. "And I know she can stand up to the plea."

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