Meet Cherelle Parker: a politician whose campaign promises come with a rare accessory – an action plan.

Parker’s recent strides in restoring order across the city – from Kensington’s drug encampments to the anti-Israel protests in University City – are not acts of conservative betrayal as some whisper, but are refreshingly actionable policy initiatives, a rarity from the stale halls of Philadelphia City Hall.

If her critics are rattled, it’s because they’ve become unaccustomed to pragmatic leadership in a city now too long marooned by dangerously unqualified, overly dogmatic “progressives” at its helm with lawlessness and societal decay in their wake.

Kensington’s open-air drug markets have long outstayed any unwelcomeness from nearby families who have endured years of ceaseless drug-fueled chaos, violence, and tragedy at their doorsteps.

Mere months after taking office, Parker has taken meaningful action where her predecessor demurred. The recent clearing operation seemed to end as quickly as it started, with both social services and law enforcement working systematically and quickly to clear out the drug encampments lining Kensington Avenue.

In a similar fashion, when anti-Israel protests on the University of Pennsylvania campus grew excessively disruptive and dangerously antisemitic, drawing national media attention, Parker’s actions sent a message all too clear: protest all you want, but block an artery of the city, make fellow Philadelphians feel unsafe, and the cleanup crew comes out. 

Sure, Governor Josh Shapiro deserves some credit for his public remarks the evening before the encampment was cleared, “All students should feel safe when they’re on campus”. He continued, “All students have a legal right to feel safe on campus, and the University of Pennsylvania has an obligation to their safety. It is past time for the university to act, to address this, to disband the encampment, and to restore order and safety on campus.”

But let’s be clear about two things. First, Shapiro is a weathervane even by contemporary political standards. There’s no way he would have made those remarks the night before unless he knew the encampment was going to be cleared and he would be rewarded politically for it. He had the better part of two weeks to make similar comments. When unabashed leadership was required. He was silent. 

Second, the men and women who actually put themselves in harm’s way wore uniforms that read “Philadelphia Police Department” (as well as UPenn, of course). Those officers are not there unless Mayor Parker gives the order to do so. When the merry band of misfits showed up again this past weekend, so did Philadelphia’s finest. Unlike Shapiro, Parker takes action with minimal grandstanding, likely because she recognizes she doesn’t get (or need) extra credit for simply doing her job.

Parker’s new era is transforming both city streets and City Hall’s notoriously ineffectual City Council chambers, where her proposed budget slashes nearly a million dollars from Prevention Point Philadelphia, a non-profit which provides sterile syringes to drug users.

Swatting away critics, Parker defended the cut as a measure of both fiscal and moral prudence. Simply put, Parker supports the program’s merits, wishes the organization well, but makes clear that the city – and its taxpayers – are not picking up the tab.

More recently, Mayor Parker announced that her administration would begin a thirteen week process on June 3rd to clean every street in the city. According to the Inquirer, the city’s director of clean and green initiatives will coordinate a multi-agency effort to collect trash, sweep streets, fill potholes, tow abandoned cars, remove illegal dumping, and fix abandoned properties.

Pick up trash! Fill potholes! Go figure. 

At Broad + Liberty, I admit we’ve been slow to throw our hats in the ring for Parker — not because we have our differences on other issues, but because we knew that praise from a center-right editorial page would embolden her critics on the far left. But the truth is, Cherelle Parker isn’t a closet conservative; she’s what happens when a Democrat listens more to the common drumbeat than the Marxist bongo circle.

She is now equal among Pennsylvania’s triumvirate of Democrats like Shapiro and Senator John Fetterman, who seem to be reading from a different playbook – one that probably has more than a few pages torn from the Republican manuscript on crime, national defense, and social order, albeit with liberal footnotes. If the trio continues on, there may emerge a coherent orthodoxy with broad appeal that will make it tough for Pennsylvania Republicans to monopolize the mantle of pragmatism​​​​.

In this light, Parker and her cohorts are crafting a narrative that’s both a lifeline and a challenge to the Democratic Party: stick to your ideological guns where you must, but remember the endgame is to govern effectively, efficiently, and equitably. Even a cursory review of Philadelphia-area progressives’ tenure in leadership reveals their policy priorities whiff on all three accounts. 

And to Pennsylvania Republicans, they pose a perplexing dilemma – how do you outflank a party whose rising stars use their prominent bully pulpits to effectively patrol the center ground on such key issues in a critical election year?

Politics aside, as Mayor Parker continues to crack down on the nonsense she inherited from her predecessor – and that other guy still squatting in the city’s chief prosecutor’s office across Penn Square – let’s give credit where it’s due. More often than not, good governance in big cities is not a function of being either a rock-ribbed conservative or a starry-eyed liberal – it’s about being sensible.

No, Cherelle Parker is not a closet conservative – she’s just normal. Bravo, Madam Mayor. 

Terry Tracy is President & CEO of Broad + Liberty.

8 thoughts on “Terry Tracy: Cherelle Parker is unapologetically normal – much to her critics’ dismay”

  1. It must be noted, however, that Philadelphia mayors get high praise for simply returning to doing things actually in the direct purview of municipal government, such as the sorts of things Parker emphasizes in her programming and budget. Yes, it is good to see attention to some basic services, but that’s the actual job. We lose sight of the tougher long-term issues well-established as entrenched systemic issues like wage and business taxes and growth of significant for-profit employment in the city. As the years go on, Parker will deserve bigger questions about the changes long needed, such as tax reform, but on which so few have acted.

  2. Very good editorial with a positive message about a Mayor moving the City in a positive direction. But what’s with the cartoon graphic? Would you have published a cartoon of a White man in a suit with his foot on the face of a Black woman? Of course not because people would have gotten fired if the publisher even survived the protests of outrage. Couldn’t the message have been conveyed simply by depicting Mayor Parker standing proudly while former-Mayor Kenney sits on the curb unhappy?

    1. You called it on that one. If this was reversed either this cartoon would have never have been published or someone would have blamed this on an intern. Even when Broad and Liberty tries to be complimentary of someone from a political party they do not approve of. They still manage to insult the person they are recognizing.

  3. If Mayor Parker’s mission of being normal starts to trickle up to the national stage, we just might have people clamoring for a candidate with priorities of border protection, a strong military presence, and a demand that our leaders recognize that we live in a dangerous world where freedom is always at risk.

  4. What the media say is that there are plenty of “normal” Democrats like Parker. Question is – are there any normal republicans left or have the last ones been purged for not showing appropriate veneration for dear leader? If only the mayor of DC had had the authority to crack down on the violent cop killing thugs and criminals who wreaked havoc in his city on 1/6 the way Parker cracked down on these college kids. At least the current POTUS has condemned the recent college protests on the occasions where they turned violent instead of embracing their lawlessness by promising them pardons and declaring his “love” for them.

  5. Btw, props to this media outlet for admitting, at least ONCE, that there are normal Democrats. Won’t hold my breath for corporate msm like fox news or any of the many Murdoch owned companies.

  6. It is good to give credit where credit is due. The mayor is a breath of fresh air for being a pragmatic problem-solver on the issues that are fundamental to city government. Well-done by her and I hope she keeps her focus on these quality-of-life issues for the citizenry.

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