Cherelle Parker, a former City Councilmember, told The Daily Pennsylvanian that she is committed to engaging with Penn to help eliminate city-wide poverty and create a safer and cleaner city.
The mayoral candidate, who received her master’s degree in public administration from the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania in 2016, said she views Penn as an “essential service provider in the Philadelphia area.”
“I think students at the University of Pennsylvania understand that they have a very unique opportunity to impact Philadelphia in a way that will put others on a path to self-sufficiency and give them access to opportunity,” Parker said, adding that such an understanding “seems to come natural” for many Penn students.
Parker said she views education as “the great equalizer” and something that can make Philadelphia more equitable in terms of access to opportunity.
“I think [Penn students] get that their tool is their education, which is also a tool that they can use to help make our city more equitable,” Parker said, urging Penn community members to do everything they can to participate in the mayoral primary election.
As a first-generation college graduate and a master’s degree holder, Parker said she will be “saddled” with paying student loan debt back for the rest of her life. She recognizes that some Philadelphians don’t want that level of debt but would still benefit from learning skills that would put them on a path to self-sufficiency.
“That’s the difference between my candidacy and that of others who are in this race because I’ve literally had to live through the most pressing problems facing our city,” Parker said. “The solutions you hear me proffer are all focused on putting people on the path to self-sufficiency and getting them off of the poverty hamster wheel.”
Under her mayoral administration, Parker said she would want Penn to commit to Payments in Lieu of Taxes, contributions that property tax-exempt organizations voluntarily make to local governments. Penn has a history of failing to pay PILOTs, which student groups and faculty and staff members have criticized in the past.
“I don’t care if we’re talking about the Penn School of Law, Medicine, or Dentistry — all of those entities should be able to quantify for us the value of services that they provide in the city because we’re going to have to constantly push the envelope because the needs here in Philadelphia are so, so great,” Parker said.