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How would Democratic mayoral candidate Cherelle Parker support startup growth, digital equity and workforce development?

Ahead of Philadelphia's 2023 general election, Technical.ly sent both candidates constituent-submitted questions asking about their policies related to five technology and business topics. Here's what Parker told us.

Cherelle Parker. (Courtesy Cherelle Parker's campaign)

This content 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 everyvoice-everyvote.org. Editorial content is created independently of the project’s donors.

In just a few weeks, Philadelphians will vote for their 100th mayor.

Voters will choose between Democrat Cherelle Parker and Republican David Oh on Nov. 7. Parker won the primary election for the Democratic nomination against eight other candidates in the spring.

Parker, a Philadelphia native, spent 10 years as a state representative in Harrisburg and about seven years as the Philadelphia councilperson representing the Ninth Council District.

As part of Technical.ly’s involvement in the Every Voice, Every Vote project, a coalition of Philadelphia community and media organizations focused on spreading information about the election, we reached out to both candidates to share constituent-submitted questions about their policies related to entrepreneurship, technology and innovation. Technical.ly published a similar survey with the primary candidates in April.

We reached out to members of the Philly tech community and asked them to submit questions for the mayoral candidates. The five selected questions address diversity and inclusion, workforce development, the tax code, digital equity and support for entrepreneurs. We sent the questionnaires to each candidate. See Parker’s responses below; read Oh’s here.

1. As mayor, would you direct that the characteristics of sexual orientation and gender identity be included in the City’s disparity study? As you may know, the legal requirements for diversity contracting programs require specific documentation of both social and economic disadvantage. If the results of the study support inclusion of LGBTQ people in the city’s diverse contracting programs, will you move to include us?

Yes, I would be supportive of including sexual orientation and gender identity in the disparity study.

2. What does a comprehensive strategy look like to ensure that more Philadelphians are prepared for and entering this industry? What does comprehensive, coordinated funding for workforce development mean?

  • Asked by Nicole Pumphrey, Philadelphia senior managing director, Per Scholas

I love this question — at the heart of my campaign for mayor has been a vision for a Philadelphia that reimagines how we educate our children and provide opportunities for adults. This is the idea behind my proposal for year-round schooling, which would introduce students to opportunities they would not have otherwise been exposed to. They are not going to be simply sitting in a traditional classroom setting, but rather split their time between their studies and programming that includes athletics, workforce development, technology, trades, and other recreational activities. Additionally, I would like to see a stronger relationship between our public schools and Philadelphia Community College (CCP) to offer college-level courses to students. That coordination between our Public Schools and CCP would also benefit adults in the community who want to pursue a degree or classwork that could achieve career-advancing certifications. We need to look at our educational institutions as a cohesive unit with the purpose of supporting workforce development across our city.

3. The tax code in Philadelphia creates an incentive for businesses and their employees to leave the city. What would you do to make the tax code more competitive regionally and in the northeast?

  • Asked by Nyron Burke, CEO of Lithero

We must reform how hard it is to do business with the city. For a new business, or an existing business that wants to make changes or grow, they have to deal with city agencies that are not at all geared toward customer service and accustomed to doing business in an antiquated way in an online and app based world. It is not an incentive to leave the city given all of the amenities that the city offers. But we need to do better by expanding the tax base to allow for a reduction in taxes. As we look at tax reform, one of the things that previous Mayors, specifically Rendell and Street, did well was tying big policies to neighborhoods and the people who live there. Tax reform is something that will require true collaboration between the Mayor’s office, Council, business and civic leaders, and with input from the community. My commitment as Mayor is that Philadelphia will be as fiscally competitive as possible.

4. With a historic federal investment in digital equity on the horizon, what are some specific ways that your administration would advance digital equity in Philadelphia, including ensuring long-term sustainable funding for effective initiatives?

I am committed to a safer, cleaner, greener Philadelphia with more opportunities for more residents. Digital equity is an essential component of these top priorities, especially for safety and for full opportunity in our society, democracy, and economy. With efforts like PHLConnectEd, a collaboration with the federal government, the City has made great and intentional progress in recent years. The digital divide is gradually closing with our home connectivity now above 84%. A Parker Administration will continue this progress by collaborating with advocates and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to ensure the coming federal investments are distributed to counties throughout PA, both rural and urban. But, let’s be clear: Digital equity begins in K-12 schools. A Parker Administration will work with the School District of Philadelphia, a national leader in Education Technology, to ensure more children each year access not only a device but also a high-quality digital literacy curriculum. More children need to learn about computers’ impact on society, the foundations of computer science, and media literacy in an age of increasing misinformation online. The knowledge and skills learned early are essential for developing our future tech talent pool. Currently, every child cannot access let alone master digital literacy. Our team will work with all relevant partners to improve this reality.

5. What would your administration do to retain early-stage tech entrepreneurs and make sure we have the resources we need to grow our businesses in this city?

I am excited for the opportunity to lead Philadelphia, one of the Top 100 Emerging Ecosystems for start-ups in the world. First and foremost, I will be a champion of our strong regional assets and will use my power as a convener to enhance existing collaborations between our universities, the private sector, and the government. I will also advocate for Black, Brown, and female founders so they are able to access more opportunities in this space.

As Mayor, I will consult with businesses directly and focus on making it easier for every business to interface with the City for registration, licensing, taxes, and more. Most businesses start with one person willing to work a good idea into a sustainable job and career for themselves. I will work to open doors to a community of support and existing programs for all kinds of entrepreneurs. For example, I have secured funds for Power Up Your Business at Community College of Philadelphia. It has had a great impact since then.

6. Are there any related comments, perspectives or issues related to Philadelphia’s tech, entrepreneurship and innovation communities that you would like to discuss here?

  • Asked by Technical.ly

N/A

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: City of Philadelphia
Series: Every Voice, Every Vote

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