Philadelphia, January 6, 2014 – Mayor Michael A. Nutter delivered the following remarks at the 2014 City of Philadelphia Inaugural Ceremony. Please check against delivery.
“Good morning. I want to thank Council Majority Leader Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. for that warm welcome. I’d like to take a few moments to recognize some individuals here:
- Chief Justice Ron Castille;
- State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams;
- City Representative Desiree Peterkin-Bell;
- Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison;
- All of the elected officials here today and their families;
- Monsignor Frederico Britto;
- Reverend Marshall Mitchell;
- Reverend Terrence Griffith; and
- The Philadelphia Boys Choir.
It is an honor to be here with all of you. Today, we are swearing-in 7 judges to the Municipal Court and 21 judges to the Court of Common Pleas, District Attorney Seth Williams to his second term and City Controller Alan Butkovitz to his third term.
I think I have a good sense of what each of you are feeling right now – proud, ready to face any challenge and hopeful about the future of our great City.
And, I know that you want to make Philadelphia the best City it can be. I am looking forward to the good work each of you will do and the goals we will accomplish by working together.
At my Inauguration six years ago, I made a promise to the people of this City that Philadelphia would, in fact, be a safer city, a smarter city, a greener city, a more welcoming city, a more prosperous city, a city that people would want to live in, work in, raise their families in and visit.
Two years ago, I stood on this very stage and reaffirmed my commitment to those goals. And I’ve kept my promises, even though the job is far from finished, we have made great progress.
I will touch on education and economic development but I want to start with public safety.
In 2007, homicides in Philadelphia claimied the lives of 391 citizens. For 2013, we had 247 homicides, the lowest our city has seen since 1967. It is a decrease of 38% since 2007 and 26% lower than 2012’s total.
Our approach to fighting crime has been multi-faceted, partnering with residents, community groups, businesses, religious organizations, philanthropists and non-profits to prevent violence in our City.
We are working on partnered initiatives like The Youth Violence Reduction Partnership, which provides support to at-risk youth in targeted police districts, and Philly Rising, which empowers neighborhoods to address their crime and quality of life issues through the use of City services.
Programs like Gun Stat and Focused Deterrence in partnership with the D.A. Seth Williams’ office, the Police Dept’s text-tip line, increasing the security camera network by partnering with local businesses, various reforms in our Court system and even something as direct as re-instating targeted police foot patrols – all of that partnered with our community policing efforts – has resulted in tremendous reductions in crime.
I’d like to take a moment to thank District Attorney Seth Williams for the role that his office has played in helping to reduce crime. It is a team effort and the District Attorney’s Office is a key role of our overall public safety strategy. His commitment to justice and his leadership will continue to help us all move toward a safer Philadelphia – let’s give him a round of applause.
I’d also like to mention that civilian fire fatalities were at an all-time low in 2013 for the second year in a row. We did though, unfortunately, suffer the loss of one of Philadelphia’s finest firefighters, Battalion Chief Michael Goodwin in 2013. We pray for his family and all the families of those who may have suffered the loss of loved ones whether from violence or fire.
We should be proud of these decreasing numbers, but let me be clear, the loss of even one life is too many.
I also set two ambitious, but I believe achievable, education goals on that first Monday in January, 2008:
- To double the college attainment rate from 18% in 2007 to 36% by 2018 and
- To increase the high school graduation rate to 80% by 2015.
In 2007, the number of Philadelphians with a college degree was only 18%. Today, it is almost 25% and programs. It’s progress but not enough.
In 2007, the high school graduation rate was 55% – today, it is 64%. We have more work to do to reach our overall goal but I know we can do it.
But, I must point out that these improvements to our high school graduation rates will not continue without appropriate funding of public education by the Commonwealth of Pa.
This is something you have heard me say before – and you’ll hear me say it day after day after day after day – Pennsylvania MUST create a state-wide, student-weighted funding formula and increase the basic education subsidy for ALL of our children.
Education funding in Pennsylvania is insufficient and leaves our students, and students in dozens of school districts, at a severe disadvantage.
In the short term, young Philadelphians and Pennsylvanians will be hurt the most without the creation of a student-based funding formula.
And, as you know, we are asking the General Assembly to pass the cigarette tax, which would provide millions of dollars of annual recurring funding to the Philadelphia School District each year, and to change the distribution of the 1% sales tax extension to a 50/50 split between the School District and the City’s pension fund.
With those actions in Harrisburg, we then need City Council to do its part by passing the 1% sales tax extension to ensure that the future economic vitality of both our School District and City pension fund are protected.
Education is the key to the future success of our City – an educated population means a strong workforce, ready and prepared for the jobs of the 21st century market place, a market place that is fast-growing in Philadelphia.
More and more companies are choosing to start here, stay here and grow here.
Our City’s population has begun to grow again and has in every year since 2008, and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more jobs in Philadelphia now, than at any point in the last five years – a fact even more impressive when you consider the economic reality of the Great Recession.
While we’re focused on areas already growing like energy, sustainability, healthcare and our innovation and technology, we are developing strategies for growth in manufacturing.
In January of 2013, I created by Executive Order the Manufacturing Task Force, and just last month, I received their final report – an effort co-chaired by Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger, Councilman Bobby Henon, Dan Fitzpatrick of Citizens Bank, and Bill Hunt of AgustaWestland – laying out a growth strategy for manufacturing in Philadelphia.
This is the kind of pro-active, business-friendly approach that we have invested in over the last few years, resulting in more job growth and prosperity for our City, increasing jobs and doing our best to reduce unemployment in our City.
Because that is our goal – to create prosperity that is shared by every Philadelphian, to increase opportunities for all of our citizens.
For decades, Philadelphia has suffered under long-term, intergenerational poverty, leading to a cycle of crime, poor educational outcomes, decreased potential of our citizens and economy.
Over the last year, we have seen a small decrease in the City’s poverty rate from 28% to 26% today. This change is a step in the right direction but it isn’t enough. So, in July 2013, I charged the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity to draft a comprehensive strategy to address the fundamental problem of poverty.
The result is the Shared Prosperity plan. Over the next few years, we will address poverty through collective action and it is my expectation that fewer Philadelphians will find themselves living below the poverty line.
I’ve found through my years of public service, as a Councilperson and certainly now as Mayor, that collaboration and building relationships are two important keys to any successful effort.
Whether working with other Mayors as President of the US Conference of Mayors, Chairing the Board of the National League of Cities new “University”, serving now as Vice-President of the Pa Municipal League, developing partnerships with the members of our regional Metro Caucus or working internationally through the C40, I know that our City has so much to share and learn about public safety and sensible gun policies, investing in education for our children, maintaining high ethical standards in government, committing resources for infrastructure improvements to create jobs, expanding access to affordable healthcare to those most in need and taking important actions to deal with climate change.
Being Mayor of any major city is a tough and challenging job, but it is also so rewarding and promising because you can often see the results of your work in virtual “real time.” This is a job that requires a great deal of critical decision making. And I have lived and governed by the idea that “what’s right is not always popular, and what’s popular is not always right.” But every day, I try my best to make the right decisions and to do the right thing.
To keep Philadelphia moving forward, we as a City – residents, community groups, religious leaders, businesses, our huge non-profit community, and all of our elected officials – need to pull together, in the same direction, toward the same goals.
In that context, let me mention City Controller Alan Butkovitz: The Mayor and the City Controller share the same goal of improving and reforming local government. We’re not adversaries – we are advocates for the public – we function under a system of checks and balances established by our City Charter. The Controller’s Office functions as a fiscal watchdog and in the future, as I do now, I will continue to acknowledge when he has a good idea to save tax dollars or improve government efficiency or effectiveness, and then figure out how to implement it. Let’s give our Controller a round of applause.
As a life-long Philadelphian, I know we all want a safer, smarter, greener, more prosperous City, and working together, we can continue on the path of progress.
I want to thank all of you for your commitment to our City and its citizens and congratulate you on your new or re-elected offices.
In a few minutes, each of you will take your Oath of Office. You will agree to uphold the United States Constitution, the Pennsylvania State Constitution and the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter.
There is that last part of the Oath though, that I’ve always found to be the most personal and significant. That last part is where you commit to “discharge the duties of my office with fidelity.” I think that’s the tough part – because that’s about leadership and honesty and commitment to doing what is right for the entire City – even in the face of criticism and opposition – that’s what elected positions – Mayor, District Attorney, City Controller, the Judiciary and City Council are all about.
As we do our jobs, the question is always the same, are we acting on behalf of the public’s interest or some other private, undisclosed interest? Remember, it is the public that will hold us accountable – not just for what we say, but also for what we DO.
During my Administration, we have taken on some issues like reducing crime, reforming the property assessment system for the entire City, public education, sustainability and more – and yes, sometimes what we have done has upset some people, I mean this IS Philadelphia.
BUT, every day, I ask myself: What is in the best interest of all the citizens of Philadelphia? How does this particular decision better position our collective future, and the futures of our children and grandchildren? That’s the great challenge of leadership, each and every day.
I am honored to be on stage today with so many public servants who will serve well the people of Philadelphia. This past year has been a great turn-around year for our City. Let’s keep moving in the right direction together. Let us all discharge our duties with fidelity on behalf of all of Philadelphia’s great citizens.
Thank you and God Bless Philadelphia.”