Meet the Candidates: Cherelle Parker


Parker served as the 9th district City Council member from 2016 until 2022, when she resigned to run for mayor. From 2005 to 2015 she served as the state representative for the 200th district.

On protecting trees and natural spaces

You will find I am passionate about quality of life issues. During my time on City Council, I established PHL-TCB: Philadelphia Taking Care of Business, putting local residents to work maintaining clean streets and ensuring a sense of pride in one’s own community. As the mayor of Philadelphia, I will fight to make our city safer, cleaner and greener, with economic opportunity available to all, regardless of what area of the city you come from.

It is my fervent belief that neighborhood access to green space that is clean and safe for our residents to enjoy is a critical component of quality of life issues that affect the people living in communities all across the city.

I am disheartened about the 6% loss of the city’s tree canopy between 2008 and 2018. In 2022, I was proud to vote for Councilperson Gilmore Richardson’s bill which prioritizes tree protection and replacement during development projects. Hopefully this legislation will reverse the negative trend of loss of tree canopy.

Numerous studies have shown that tree cover is not distributed equally across the city. As a result, more affluent areas of the city often have green neighborhoods with abundant trees. On the other hand, areas of the city with the least amount of trees also tend to be neighborhoods that are largely Black and Brown. This all contributes to the urban heat island effect.

I believe we can enact a balanced approach to protecting our tree canopy. While there may be some loss of trees due to an increase in development, this can be offset through implementing an aggressive plan for urban tree planting. We’ve seen cities like L.A. and New York use urban tree planting to cut down on air pollutants, lower energy costs and even improve mental health. I would work with some of the brightest minds in our universities who are studying urban forestry, along with state experts in DCNR and federal partners at the Department of the Interior to leverage resources available to municipalities to plant more trees and promote greener spaces that cool our neighborhoods that have become small heat islands.

On flooding in Eastwick

What’s going on in Eastwick reminds me of the first time I was on a picket line, advocating for the Logan Sinking Homes in the 1990s. At a minimum, we need to have better zoning procedures in areas designated as floodplains. But we need to bring in our partners at the state and federal level — like the Army Corps of Engineers — to help us assess the problem and bring greater resources to bear to save this neighborhood.

Finally, I will use some portion of the funding available to the city as part of the federal infrastructure bill passed in 2021 to improve the local infrastructure, including improved sewers, to handle any rainfall.

On improving bicycling in Philadelphia

Enabling bicycling as a means of transportation helps cut down on traffic congestion, promotes an active lifestyle and helps reduce the city’s overall carbon emissions — which helps improve our air quality and do our part to tackle climate change. As mayor, I would finish the necessary protections for established bike routes and support bike share programs across the city. Ideally, everyone should only be a few blocks away from a protected lane. We can also explore how to support the bike share services so that the price point is more accessible to all residents of Philadelphia who want to take advantage of easier, cleaner modes of transportation.

On sustainable development and the understaffed L&I

L&I is the victim of “mission creep,” having had its core responsibilities diluted by regularly being tasked with duties that do not fall under the primary function of ensuring that buildings are safe for the residents who work, live or worship in them. I would return some functions that have been asked of L&I to a City agency more suited for the task.

That being said, proper enforcement cannot happen when our enforcing departments — Streets, L&I, Health, etc. — are facing staffing and resource challenges. Many of these departments have effectively been flat-funded for at least the past 15 years (adjusting for inflation), and yet at the same time, they have been tasked with more and more responsibilities. In order to ensure proper enforcement, I would be steadfast in ensuring these departments would have the necessary funding and staffing to do what they are tasked to do.

Consequently, I would increase funding for the department and seek out the best and brightest subject-matter expert to serve as deputy mayor for labor, who would oversee a task force on misclassification and enforcement.

On addressing the city’s backslide on waste management

As previously discussed, I am a firm believer in maintaining neighborhood streets that are free of debris. As such, I would look to restore the Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet, and give it the funding and resources it actually needs to be effective.

In an ideal, modern-day, 15-minute city, a green space where kids can play, and adults could walk through, jog, or relax while reading a book is an essential part of any thriving community.”

Photography by Chris Baker Evens.

On using vacant lots to improve the community

I am a self-described data nerd, and I have closely followed the research put forward by Dr. Eugenia South and her colleagues. In 2021, after reading her fantastic JAMA research regarding the city’s Basic Systems Repair Program and block-level crime, I had my team reach out to her for a meeting. Dr. South’s approach is exactly what I would employ as mayor — using data by trusted researchers to advance policies.

Additionally, as councilperson, I held hearings to examine the decision to permanently move sheriff sales online, and further investigate the ramifications of any unintended consequences that may arise from this decision. During the hearing, we heard extensively from concerned individuals about how online sheriff sales could lead to the loss of beloved neighborhood community gardens and community access to vacant lots. I would explore using American Rescue Plan dollars in order to buy back $10 million in liens to protect community gardens and lots from sheriff sales.

I support increased access to green spaces for everyone in our city, regardless of zip code. In an ideal, modern-day, 15-minute city, a green space where kids can play, and adults could walk through, jog, or relax while reading a book is an essential part of any thriving community. I wholeheartedly support tasking a City department with assessing where the need for such spaces is greatest and comparing that data to areas where there are a number of vacant lots that could be better served as either community gardens or other green spaces.


Grid Magazine’s Mayoral Voters Guide is a part of Every Voice, Every Vote, a collaborative project managed by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism. Lead support is provided by the William Penn Foundation with additional funding from The Lenfest Institute, Peter and Judy Leone, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Harriet and Larry Weiss, and the Wyncote Foundation, among others. To learn more about the project and view a full list of supporters, visit www.everyvoice-everyvote.org. Editorial content is created independently of the project’s donors.

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