Letter from the Mayor of Philadelphia

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MAYOR Jim Kenney

Fellow Philadelphians,

Being your mayor for the last four years has been the greatest honor of my life.

In 2016, we embarked on an ambitious mission to bring equity and opportunity to all neighborhoods and to make the government more accessible and accountable to the people it serves. As I reflect on this term, I’m proud of many things that we’ve accomplished together.

Among them was our ability to stay true to our guiding principles of courage, compassion, and collaboration. We knew that Philadelphia could not rely on support from Harrisburg or Washington to solve our city’s challenges. We needed to create new ways to tackle our most pressing issues head-on and take control of our destiny. And that’s just what we are doing.

Together, we took on the powerful beverage industry to raise the revenue needed to create Community Schools, provide free, quality pre-K for over 6,000 kids, and invest hundreds of millions of dollars in our aging public spaces. Helping children reach their full potential has been at the heart of everything we do.

I firmly believe that the single most-important investment we can make for future generations is quality education. That’s why we took the bold step of returning our schools to local control, and I appointed a Board of Education that has been responsive to student and parent concerns. To accelerate the School District of Philadelphia’s progress, and because we knew we couldn’t wait for the Commonwealth to fulfill its mandate to adequately fund education, we committed to investing more than $1.2 billion in our schools.

These efforts are already paying off. Today, we have twice as many high performing schools, fewer low performing schools, and an education agenda to ensure there are great schools in every Philadelphia neighborhood.

While the federal government has been gridlocked, we KNEW that we must do more to serve the quarter of Philadelphians living in poverty. We developed a multi-faceted approach to stabilize households through affordable housing and social services; increase incomes to lift people out of poverty; and invest in programs and policies that break the cycle of intergenerational poverty for good.

Early indicators show that it’s working. The poverty rate has declined, our job market is growing, and median incomes are rising. All the while, we faced the stark reality that the opioid epidemic – the worst public-health crisis of our lifetime – was ravaging communities and costing the City tens of millions of dollars in services. I’m proud of the human-centered approach we enacted to save lives, and that other cities are looking to us as a model to help people and neighborhoods recover.

We also made significant strides in safely decreasing our local jail population by over 40*, and fought back against repeated attacks by the Trump administration by strengthening our Welcoming City policies that bolster our immigrant communities.

In 2017, with the support of City Council, we announced that over $80 million from expiring tax abatements above existing revenue streams will go to the Housing Trust Fund for affordable housing and other home stabilization initiatives over the next few years. This is one way we are ensuring that more people and neighborhoods benefit from our real estate boom and growing economy.

Over the last four years, we had a bold vision of what Philadelphia can be, and we set clear priorities that allowed us to achieve these great things and much more. The work has not been easy, but nothing worth fighting for ever is. There is no denying that we have much more to accomplish.

Over the next four years we will build on the success of our ambitious first term, work to lift at least 100,000 Philadelphians out of poverty, fight the scourge of gun violence and the opioid crisis, and create an inclusive economy ripe with quality jobs, higher wages, and a workforce prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

We will continue to make City services more efficient and our government more inclusive and accountable to the people. That means improving the ways we deliver core services; maintaining clean, safe streets in every neighborhood; providing quality customer service to residents and businesses; and ensuring that every new policy is created using a racial equity lens.

You’ll hear more about our vision for the second term in the coming weeks. It will speak to our values and our mission to make our city stronger for all Philadelphians. I look forward to working with you to make this a reality.
– In service, Jim.

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