A new mayor and new hope for innovation and equity in Philadelphia

todayJanuary 30, 2024

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By Kiara Santos

Change and innovation are prominent themes for newly-elected 100th mayor Cherelle Parker. In January, a civic-focused panel convened on Reality Check with Tonya Pendleton to discuss the implications and potential of this new era, shedding light on the city’s trajectory regarding the role of technology, entrepreneurship, and community engagement.

Julie Zegler, managing editor at Technically, kicked off the conversation by introducing key members of Mayor Parker’s transition team including Jeff Hornstein, Executive Director of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, and Kenyatta James, program director for the Philadelphia Anchors for Growth Initiative. They both spoke about the city’s ripe potential for change.

“Philadelphia is an amazing city. It is on the precipice of greatness,” Hornstein said. “All the fundamentals are moving in the right direction… but we have huge equity challenges. There really are vast disparities between folks who live in really nice, stable neighborhoods and a huge swath of the city. “

James supported Hornstein’s statement, emphasizing the importance of supporting minority businesses, fortifying the fiscal integrity of the city, and diversifying supply chains to create equitable development.

“I think that that is going to be something that shows up in the lives of entrepreneurs as well as in the lives of people that are going through workforce development systems, educational systems,” James said. “I think that you’re going to see a more coordinated and empowered city, just given the structure. And even with that being true, I’ve never seen public-private civic engagement at this scale kind of all happening in a moment.” James explained.

Reflecting on their roles within the transition team, Hornstein emphasized the administration’s commitment to diversifying supply chains: “There is a really clear desire to diversify supply chains…This is a way that we can grow minority businesses and obviously create a lot of jobs.”

James concurred, expressing optimism about the administration’s focus on inclusive growth and its potential impact on the local economy.

When questioned about the administration’s overarching direction, Hornstein emphasized the need for multifaceted progress. “We need to be able to walk and chew gum,” he said. “It can’t just be one thing.” He stressed the importance of both Center City development and investment in historically marginalized neighborhoods.

“Cherelle Parker will be a neighborhood mayor, but also remain cognizant of the need to continue Center City’s growth as a place to grow the tax base so that we can invest in those neighborhoods that have been disinvested,” Hornstein added.

The Economy League of Greater Philadelphia published a study that homeowners in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods in Philadelphia collectively would have accumulated $57 billion in property wealth if their homes were appreciated at the same rate as homes in majority-white neighborhoods, after an analysis of seven decades of property value.

James believes that highlighting the need for coordinated efforts to connect resources with communities is essential for a more effective and interconnected city. “The opportunity here is amazing,” Jones remarked. “But the biggest challenge…is how we coordinate, is how we work together.”

This article and interview were made possible with support from the Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund. 



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Written by: Kiara Santos

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