Clarke: Lift 100,000 out of Poverty

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PHILADELPHIA City Council President Darrell Clarke

Newly sworn as president of City Council for a third term, Darrell L. Clarke (5th District) said it was imperative that every City agency, business, academic and nonprofit leader join a united effort to lift 100,000 Philadelphians out of poverty over the next four years.

“I’m calling on everyone – the business community, our top universities, nonprofit organizations, City government and all our citizens to work together on the goal of lifting 100,000 Philadelphians out of poverty by 2024,” Clarke said, speaking from the stage at The Met Philadelphia, a restored opera house on North Broad Street in North Philadelphia. “That’s an effort worthy of a world-class city.”

Joined on stage by his 16 colleagues on City Council, including four new members, Mayor Jim Kenney, and members of the city judiciary, Clarke likened the city’s bold effort to reducing poverty to the United States’ campaign to place a man on the moon in the 1960s.

“In the 1960s, the country rallied together to send a man to the moon,” Clarke said. “Everyone – academics, engineers, political leaders, everyone – worked together and American achieved its moonshot. This is our city’s Moonshot moment.”

Clarke spoke as part of the Investiture and Organization of City Council, which happens every four years following the election of a new Council. This past November, four new members were elected, and they were sworn in today along with 13 returning members of the Council.

In his speech, Clarke touched on several other broader themes, including:
• A comprehensive energy campaign that has sparked $100 million in investments in energy-retrofits of buildings throughout the city, creating more than 1,000 jobs;
• An equitable growth agenda that has helped nearly 900 first-time homebuyers buy homes and stabilize Philadelphia’s middle neighborhoods – and returned $4.5 million to the City budget through real-estate transfer taxes;
• The need for a unified jobs-attraction campaign to attract Fortune 1000 companies and businesses to Philadelphia, generating jobs and opportunity for more Philadelphians; and
• The urgent need for the city to narrow a growing skills gap between technology-focused jobs in today’s city economy and the skills possessed by too many adults in Philadelphia.

“This skills gap is one of the many issues associated with income inequality in Philadelphia,” Clarke said. “We must narrow that skills gap.” He called for an increased emphasis on adult education and jobs training, using the City’s community schools as a vehicle to achieve that goal. Clarke described a recent trip to Baltimore, where a City contingent learned how Baltimore now has 75% of its public schools operating as community schools, with many offering financial literacy, job training and workforce development for adults.

Clarke also addressed the city’s wave of gun violence in the latter half of 2019, a year in which more than 100 youths under the age of 18 were shot, and the city’s homicide total reached a 12-year high. Clarke promised that Council would support the City’s newly-named police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, when she arrives next month.

Clarke concluded the speech by noting that the large issues he discussed – the city’s high poverty rate, the skills gap between adult citizens and technology jobs, and rising gun violence – were all interconnected, and that only a unified city could solve these vexing problems.

“Working together, we can lift 100,000 people out of poverty, create access to adult education that narrows the skills gap and help individuals find jobs paying a living wage, and support our new police commissioner and her efforts to reform our criminal justice system and make our neighborhoods safer for all our citizens,” Clarke said. “Let that be our Moonshot.”

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