Here Are the Full Inaugural Speeches Given by Mayor Jim Kenney and Council President Darrell Clarke
Today is inauguration day in Philadelphia. Here are the complete speeches — as prepared for delivery — by Mayor Jim Kenney and Council President Darrell Clarke.
“First, thank you to my parents and my children for their support today and on all days.
Thank you also to the Council President and City Council for having me — and a special congratulations to our new members. I look forward to working together in the years to come.
And, finally, thank you to Governor Rendell, Mayor Street, Mayor Green, Mayor Goode, Mayor Nutter, Justice Dougherty and all our tremendous city workers. The collective decades of service to Philadelphia in this room today is truly awesome. So, please, everyone, join me in giving our city’s leaders and workers a round of applause
I asked some of my predecessors for advice on the address I’m about to deliver. And above all else, they asked that I keep it brief. Admittedly, that’s never really been a big problem for me. Back in February, I believe I sped-read what was supposed to be a fifteen-minute announcement speech in about 60 seconds
We actually held that first campaign speech in the Mayor’s Reception Room. I wanted to launch our campaign there because the first time I was ever in City Hall was when my mother took me to that very room to see my father promoted in the Fire Department.
From a pretty early age, I understood that Dad didn’t just work to support our family…he worked for all of Philadelphia’s families. And that meant that, sometimes, he was even going to be required to put other families’ before our own.
When you’re a child, that kind of sacrifice just seems normal. It’s your reality. But looking back, I see how extraordinary the sacrifice was that both my parents made. During my Dad’s long hours at the firehouse, my mother raised all four of us, while also working outside the home, so that we could attend parochial school.
When I went to the Prep, the Jesuit Brothers articulated my parents’ sacrifices as “magis,” which loosely translated means “doing more”.
At the end of the day, it was the Jesuits’ teaching and my parents’ selflessness that led me to this stage. Together, they taught me that you can never truly be happy unless you’re serving others
Over the last year, I articulated a lot of different ways that I believe our administration can serve the city: expanded pre-k, stronger neighborhood commercial corridors, community schools, community policing. And while those policies cover a wide range of issues, they all come from one fundamental truth: government functions properly when it’s accessible and accountable to the people.
I learned that truth in my earliest days working for the government. I started my political career working in constituent services. It was my job to help folks get their water turned back on, to change the alley lights, and to replace the basketball net at the rec center. And when you spend all day on the phone with people, you realize that when government just works as it’s supposed to, it can dramatically change people’s lives
For the one in four people in this city living in poverty, an effective public transportation system can make the difference of whether or not they can afford to go to a job interview. For a young family, affordable pre-k can make the difference of whether or not they save for college. For an immigrant entrepreneur, a City Commerce representative who can speak their native language can make the difference between a business that succeeds or fails.
Accordingly, the vision that will guide my administration is that City government should first and foremost deliver efficient, effective services to all Philadelphians; regardless if they live in the Northeast or Southwest; if they’re a new transplant or if their family has lived here for generations
That may sound like a “back to basics” approach. But, in reality, it is as large and as difficult a goal as has ever been announced on this stage.
Providing efficient and effective services means that our government has to be ethical and open with taxpayers about the work they pay us to do.
Providing efficient and effective services means educating all our children where they live. Our kids should not have to wake up before dawn and take three different buses to get to a good school. But in order to make quality schools in every neighborhood a reality, we will need the private sector and our non-profit partners to come together with the city to create community schools.
Providing efficient and effective services also means that everyone feels that they can walk the streets safely and with dignity. But in order to make that a reality in Philadelphia, we will have to all put aside our differences and acknowledge both: that black lives do matter, and that the overwhelming majority of our police are decent, hard working public servants who risk their lives every day. We just need to give them the tools to establish strong relationships with the communities they are sworn to protect and serve.
Furthermore, providing efficient and effective services means that parents working two or three jobs will not live in poverty. But in order to create a living wage economy: our large, corporate banks will have to invest in our small, neighborhood businesses, our C-suite executives will have to hire our returning citizens, and we will have to stop pitting the growth of blue collar jobs at the Port against white collar jobs in our hospitals and tech firms – we have to do both.
To achieve this vision, we will all have to work together. Government simply cannot do it alone – we need our businesses, our non-profits, our universities and everyday Philadelphians to come together and row in the same direction.
That kind of unity may seem impossible to some, but there are so many Philadelphians who are already doing it. There are volunteer mentors who go to South Philly High School every day to keep our kids in school and off the streets. There are corporations that fund scholarships for our parochial students, like the Neumann Goretti’s Women Basketball Team, so that those young women could become not only national champions on the court, but also the first in their families to go to college. There are police officers who volunteer with PAL programs, so that more children’s first interaction with police officers are positive and fun. There are community activists who organize so that we are all forced to acknowledge and do something about injustice in our society. There are community development corporations that work with neighbors and developers to make sure that our city grows but doesn’t lose our oldest residents in the process.
So, to those Philadelphians and all the rest who have entrusted me with this great responsibility, thank you. I promise to serve you, to be accountable to you and, most importantly, to work with you. So we can make every Philadelphia neighborhood the best that it can be.”
And from Clarke:
Good morning, everyone. I would like to thank you for taking the time to be here today to watch your democracy in action. I hope it is a memorable, enlightening, and enjoyable experience. Thank you.
To my colleagues – some old friends and some new friends – it is my honor to continue serving the people of Philadelphia as president of City Council. Thank you for trusting me with this privilege.
Four years ago, I stood on this stage as a newly minted Council President and was a little nervous, but extremely optimistic and determined. I am so proud of what City Council was able to accomplish. Together, we modernized property assessments, streamlined planning and development functions in an historic reinvention of municipal government, created the nation’s largest land bank, authorized an independent water and sewer rate board to protect consumers, and strengthened regulations to make building demolition and construction safer. We adopted strategies to build an affordable future, solicited citizen input on the Community Sustainability Initiative at town halls throughout the city, and began working with stakeholders on community schools.
The last four years were extremely productive. One of the reporters here recently told me we might work together a little too well — that we’ve become a little boring. No one got into a fist fight, no one tried to throw a colleague out a window, and no one made a movie about us. I think we did a pretty good job, regardless.
But we still have so much more work to do.
In spite of the significant problems we tackled and milestones we reached, far too many issues remain unresolved. None of us here, especially in this beautiful amphitheater, can feel good about being the most impoverished of the major U.S. cities. Nor can we feel good about unemployment in our neighborhoods, which can be as high as 40 to 50 percent. We cannot feel good about vacant lots and abandoned, blighted buildings.
This previous term, City Council made a proposal: To ensure equitable growth throughout Philadelphia, to make sure that every neighborhood is a Community of Choice. I want to thank my colleagues for working so diligently toward the goal of equitable communities that are inclusive of everyone, regardless of who they are or how much they earn.
Here in Philadelphia, with our proud working class communities, that conversation begins and end s with affordability. For those of us who got knocked down during the recession, whether by job loss or lost savings, getting back to where we were has been tough. Young people are delaying homeownership, and some former homeowners are now renters. Market rate housing is booming, yet most of it is priced out of the reach of average working Philadelphians.
Last term, City Council set out a goal of building 2,000 new affordable and workforce units on vacant land in gentrifying neighborhoods. We are already bucking a trend that is making other major cities less affordable, less inclusive, and less desirable places to live.
We will also soon be rolling out a comprehensive energy strategy to help homeowners, businesses, and our own city government increase efficiencies, reduce costs, and create more than ten thousand new jobs along the way. Stay tuned for more on that.
We know that a good quality of life is not just about having a place to live. Economic opportunity — giving people the ability to sustain themselves and their families, and to have real pride in earning a living — is critical to creating healthy communities. I’m talking about jobs, jobs, jobs.
To create new jobs, we propose this: One, a targeted and coordinated effort among the private, public and nonprofit sectors to secure an amendment to the uniformity clause in the state constitution, which will allow our city — for the first time in decades — to truly reform our tax structure. This isn’t just about delivering tax relief for homeowners, although that is the goal. This is about making targeted investments to spur economic growth and prosperity.
Two, we need to ensure that young people graduating from Philadelphia public schools are prepared to join the workforce. For some, that might mean moving on to college and maybe even grad school. But college, particularly with the insane costs and debt associated with it, is not for everyone.
Our city is very blessed to have world-class higher education institutions and teaching hospitals. Few cities can beat us on eds and meds. So, how can we get more young Philadelphians on a path to those good-paying jobs?
We have had productive conversations with our major universities – including Penn, Drexel, and my personal favorite, Temple – about increasing partnerships with Philadelphia public schools. I want to thank all of the college and university officials who have looked me in the eye and told me they are committed to doing more for our young people. Together, we must find a way to get more Philadelphia public schools students on a path to tech, health, and science jobs right here in our city. That, by the way, is how you really address economic inequality: Education plus opportunity.
Now, about our schools. It is beyond unconscionable that in this economic recovery the big banks, corporations, and CEOs are doing better than ever, while public schools across the country starve. This is not just morally wrong, it is also extremely counterproductive as it relates to our long-term economic health. We are competing with countries around the globe that don’t think twice about investing heavily in education. Yet here in Philadelphia, the birthplace of American democracy, we don’t have enough teachers, nurses, counselors, or books to give our kids the quality public education they need to become successful adults.
We continue to struggle to secure adequate funding for the School District. But today, we have more reasons to be hopeful. We have a governor in Tom Wolf, who is here with us today. I want to thank you, Governor, for insisting on a responsible spending plan that funds Pennsylvania schools in a responsible way. And we will, in just a few minutes, have a mayor in Jim Kenney, a South Philly guy who knows the importance of a well-rounded education not just for all kids, but especially for the most vulnerable kids. Kids who are born into less than stable households, in less than perfectly safe communities. Kids who might not be native English speakers. Kids who are equally as deserving of a quality education as our own kids.
Last November, our new Mayor, our new Chief Education Officer – Principal Otis Hackney of South Philly High – and I took a trip to Cincinnati to learn about their community schools. This school we visited, Oyler, was more than just a school – it was a gathering place for the neighborhood.
This wasn’t some new innovation. Back in my day, schools were the heart of a neighborhood. By focusing on the whole child – meaning, not just his educational opportunities, but job training for mom and dad, and health care for the entire family – we can make our neighborhood public schools central to communities once again.
City Council has already begun working with our new Mayor to increase the number of community schools. We will also be making an announcement very shortly of significant reforms of our criminal justice system. No Philadelphian should live in fear of those sworn to protect and serve them. Nor should any Philadelphian who has made a mistake, is remorseful, and wants to turn their life around to become a productive citizen be denied opportunities to do so.
We are extremely optimistic about working with this new Administration, and with all of you, to effectively increase opportunities for all Philadelphians to succeed.
Thank you, again, for the great privilege of serving you. God bless you all.