Democratic mayoral nominee Cherelle Parker hasn’t been too vocal since winning the May primary. But with just over a month until the November election, pressure has been mounting for the candidate heavily favored to win to share her stance on various issues.
In late September, Parker sat down for a wide-ranging interview with Lauren Mayk of NBC Philadelphia.
During the interview, Parker said she’d rather not discuss what she or Republican mayoral nominee David Oh would do if elected, but what they’ve done in the past. “[That’s what] I would love instead,” she told Mayk, “because I think that’s the best indicator of how someone will perform in the future. No one has said, let’s have a debate about what you’ve already done.”
But for now, we can glean some of what she’d do from her answers as she talked to Mayk about everything from the proposed Sixers arena to school vouchers to the police killing of Eddie Irizarry Jr.
You can listen to the full interview here, or scroll down for some key takeaways.
Potential police commissioner candidates
Theoretically, outgoing Mayor Jim Kenney could appoint a replacement for Danielle Outlaw, who resigned as Philly’s top cop in September and was succeeded by acting Philly Police Commissioner John Stanford, but it’s highly unlikely.
That means the job will fall to the next mayor. Stanford, a two-decade PPD veteran respected both inside and off the force, has come up in observers’ discussions about the permanent job, but Parker declined to speculate on specifics.
She doesn’t make personnel decisions while on the campaign trail, she told Mayk — but she did elaborate on what elements the next commissioner must possess, should she be making the decision.
“Knowledge of the city of Philadelphia is extremely important, along with cultural competency, and quite frankly emotional intelligence,” Parker said. “In addition to that, we’re going to need a strong leader, who is not afraid to make tough decisions, that may not be popular with some in our city.”
Asked who would be on her search team for the next commissioner, Parker again declined to give details. “I’ve had conversations with hundreds of people in various industries,” she said. “There are a number of people, and again, some here in Philadelphia and some nationally.”
What Parker did share is her timeline. If elected, she said, Philadelphia should expect to see a new commissioner announced “immediately after the general election.”
Fatal police shooting of Eddie Irizarry Jr.
Parker said that after the death of Eddie Irizarry Jr., the city must do everything it can do in order to ensure it has the best trained, managed, and resourced police department.
“I am not going to play Monday morning quarterback and second guess process, procedures, and protocols,” Parker said, declining to address details of the situation.
Under her administration, Parker added, there would be a strong leadership that is “culturally competent, understands the importance of emotional intelligence, and they will know the people, places, and spaces that they are sworn to protect.”
Parker’s response came before Municipal Judge Wendy Pew dismissed all charges, including murder, against former Philadelphia police officer Mark Dial. Irizarry’s family and supporters were outraged, and the District Attorney’s Office has vowed to appeal to refile the charges.
On Aug. 14, Dial shot Irizarry while he was seated in his parked car on a Kensington street. The police department first claimed that Irizarry lunged at officers with a knife when he was shot. Two days later, police admitted initial statements were incorrect, and that body-worn camera footage showed Irizarry seated in his vehicle when officers approached.
Bodycam footage also shows Dial shot Irizarry about seven seconds after getting out of a police SUV and walking over to the sedan, firing a total of six rounds.
Stop and frisk
Parker stood firmly on her belief that police in Philadelphia should be allowed to stop people and search them if it’s done constitutionally, such that it aligns with the court case Terry v. Ohio.
“They have a right to use that tool in efforts to make good on their commitment to ensure our public health and our public safety,” Parker said.
In Philly, the practice has been disproportionately used to stop Black men, causing concerns over discrimination and a reduction in the technique’s use.
At her first public appearance after winning the Democratic nomination, Parker said she “wholeheartedly” embraces Terry stops. Throughout her campaign, Parker has strived to differentiate between that term and “stop and frisk,” but legally there is no difference.
The term Terry stops comes from the 1968 Terry v. Ohio case, which allows police officers to stop people who have committed, are committing, or are about to commit a crime, and they can search someone if they believe the person is armed and dangerous.
Sixers arena plan
Asked directly if the plan to build the Sixers arena on Market Street should go forward, Parker declined to take a firm stance. However, she did say, “We cannot afford to immediately say no to any economic opportunity,” and added that the city must do a “cost benefit analysis.”
The 76ers proposal to build a new arena in Center City has been controversial since its announcement in July 2022.
Among others, it’s opposed by many residents and business owners in Chinatown, which is next to the proposed location in the north end of the current Fashion District mall. It’s backed by many labor unions and a cohort of the city’s economic leaders, among others.
Though the Sixers initially set a quicker timeline for passing all enabling legislation (such as zoning ordinances they’ll need to get the place built), the franchise recently pushed back their deadline to 2024, placing it directly in Parker’s term if she is elected.
Parker added that she wouldn’t care if the location was being proposed on Market Street, the river, or anywhere else if “it has the ability to help grow generational wealth and Black and brown communities.”
Has she met with anyone from the Sixers or anyone from the Chinatown community to discuss this, Mayk wanted to know?
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.
Kensington’s opioid crisis
Unlike Mayor Kenney, who vetoed a recent ban of supervised injection sites in most of the city, only to see that overturned by City Council, Parker has long made clear her opposition.
She did cite plans to “shut down the open-air drug market” that currently exists in parts of Kensington.
Parker cited the issue as an explanation as to why the city needs a mayor, a police commissioner, and a team who understands a “holistic, bottom up” approach for addressing challenges in the community.
She was unable to say what she felt the Kenney administration wasn’t doing to address the issue, but said it would not look the same way it does now. “You use every tool that is legally necessary here in the City of Philadelphia to ensure you’re not giving lip service to addressing a complex problem.”
Democrats, GOP, and Working Families Party
In November, Philadelphians will also have to choose their City Council members, judicial offices, and judges for the intermediate appellate courts.
When asked who Parker would like to see on Council alongside her — either Democrats, Republicans, or members of the Working Families Party — she simply said she is a “lifelong Democrat” and that the voters will decide.
Parker then said she is supporting all five Democrats that are on the ballot, referring to Kathy Gilmore Richardson, Isaiah Thomas, Jim Harrity, Rue Landau, and Nina Ahmad.
She isn’t against anyone, she insisted. “It’s not about me being against anyone else, I really do reject that foundation,” Parker said.
Democratic City Committee Chair Bob Brady over the summer warned party leaders against supporting third-party candidates, sending a letter to ward leaders and committee people saying “the party’s bylaws call for their ejection from those posts” if they back anyone but a Democrat in November.
The influence of labor groups
While seeking the Democratic nomination, Parker’s first endorsement was from the Building and Construction Trades Council, and she has been labeled as a “friend to labor in the city.”
Labor unions have historically played an influential role in Philly’s elections, especially through campaign funds. Multiple mayors, including Ed Rendell, John Street, and Kenney each had major support from unions throughout their campaigns.
Asked what big labor’s influence would be in her administration, Parker said unions were some of her “most important and influential allies,” calling them “partners” that will work together to ensure things like workforce development. “We’re going to do it because we have a relationship,” she said.
Access and funding for school vouchers
When Gov. Josh Shapiro signed Pennsylvania’s budget in August, averting a full shutdown, the situation unfinished because of talks surrounding a school voucher program that Republicans considered a priority.
The goal of school vouchers is to give between $2,500 and $15,000 per year word private tuition to eligible students, depending on their grade and whether they need special education services.
Asked if Philadelphia families should be allowed to receive vouchers, Parker said all children “should have access to 21st century, first class public education.”
Parker added that she would use “every tool in the toolbox” to ensure this happened, but she stopped short of endorsing or decrying voucher programs in general.