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Philadelphia is set to make history when it inaugurates its new mayor

A MARTÍNEZ, BYLINE: Philadelphia is set to make history today at the inauguration of its new mayor. Cherelle Parker will be the city's first female mayor and the fourth Black woman to run one of America's largest cities. WHYY reporter Carmen Russell-Sluchansky joins us now from Philadelphia. Carmen, tell us more about Cherelle Parker.

CARMEN RUSSELL-SLUCHANSKY, BYLINE: Well, Parker came from a modest background, a fact that she made a central part of her campaign. In fact, here she is in her victory speech in November.


CHERELLE PARKER: I didn't hide from it because I wouldn't allow anybody else to attempt to weaponize my humble beginnings against me.


PARKER: So before they could do it, I made sure that I told you that I was born to a single teenage mother, that I was raised by my grandparents, that my grandmother collected welfare and subsidize food to take care of me.

RUSSELL-SLUCHANSKY: At 17, Parker won a speech contest, which caught the attention of a Philadelphia councilmember, who took her on as an intern. After that, she briefly taught high school in New Jersey and returned to Philadelphia politics, going back to work for the city council. Ten years later, she became the youngest Black woman ever elected to the state legislature. Then in 2015, Parker ran for the city council and won.

MARTÍNEZ: How is Philadelphia reacting to having its first female mayor?

RUSSELL-SLUCHANSKY: Well, there's certainly a lot of excitement. Philadelphia is a majority Black city, and the voter turnout was high in November. And the new administration is expecting about 3,500 people at the inauguration today, which will fill up the Metropolitan Opera House where it's being held.

MARTÍNEZ: You know, I spoke to Parker back in May after she won the Democratic primary. And I asked her about going against the more progressive wing of her party by pledging to hire hundreds of police officers and also bringing back so-called constitutional stop and frisk. Is she still committed to that as some of her top priorities?

RUSSELL-SLUCHANSKY: You know, at the top of the list is gun violence, the top of the list of her priorities. Philadelphia is one of America's biggest cities, and it has growing rates of gun violence, homicides and other violent crimes. So to counter this, Parker promised to add 300 police officers to a force of 6,000. And while she did call for an end to stop and frisk, she's also looking to replace them with stops that require police to have more evidence of a crime.


PARKER: It is a legal tool. A crime must be committed or they must know that it is going to be committed in order for them to have the just cause and reasonable suspicion to stop someone. They are called Terry stops.

RUSSELL-SLUCHANSKY: So critics have said that this proposal isn't really that far from what police do now with stop and frisk. It really all comes down to how the police force implements the new policy. Parker will also need to weigh in on a controversial $1.5 billion proposal to build a new basketball stadium for the 76ers currently slated to go in Chinatown, where residents are worried that their neighborhood is going to change a lot if that happens. Parker has yet to endorse or reject the project.

MARTÍNEZ: That's WHYY's Carmen Russell-Sluchansky. Carmen, thanks.

RUSSELL-SLUCHANSKY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Carmen Munir Russell-Sluchansky

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