‘God Bless You & Let's Go to Work:' Philadelphia's New Mayor, Jim Kenney, Takes Office

Philadelphia inaugurates Jim Kenney as 99th mayor

Philadelphia inaugurated native son Jim Kenney as its 99th mayor on Monday, ushering in new leadership for a city experiencing a development boom downtown but still struggling with entrenched poverty in many neighborhoods.

Kenney, 57, succeeds outgoing Mayor Michael Nutter, who leaves office after two terms. Kenney served on City Council for more than two decades before he was elected in November.

He was joined on the stage of the Academy of Music by his daughter and son, and was sworn in by newly elected state Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty.

Kenney said he was humbled that Dougherty, a neighborhood friend from South Philadelphia, was part of the ceremony.

"We did good, right?" he said to Dougherty.

In a brief speech, Kenney highlighted his top priorities, including poverty, universal pre-K, gentrification and quality schools for all neighborhoods.

"Our children shouldn't have to take three buses to attend a good school," he said.

He also touched on neighborhood safety and relations between police and the community.

"Black lives do matter," he said to enthusiastic applause, adding that at the same time, police officers work hard and risk their lives every day.

He said he hopes Philadelphians can work together to make the city fairer for all.

"Government simply cannot do it alone," he said. "We need our businesses, our nonprofits, our universities and everyday Philadelphians to come together and row in the same direction."

Later Monday, Kenney tweeted that he had signed an executive order prohibiting the city from cooperating with federal immigration agents.

In 2014, his predecessor signed a similar order that barred police from holding immigrants solely on immigration detainers without an additional warrant. But the city had considered a policy change late last year that would have allowed greater cooperation with immigration officials, outraging immigrant-rights groups.

Kenney said at the time he wanted Philadelphia to retain its status as a "sanctuary city."

Kenney assumes office after several years of progress for a city that had endured decades of decline. The murder rate dropped sharply from when Nutter took office, more students are graduating from high school, unemployment is down and Nutter declared that veteran homelessness is "effectively over."

The city of 1.5 million also grew by about 70,000 since 2006, thanks in large part to millennials attracted to a rejuvenated downtown. More than a quarter of residents are between 20 and 35 years old, many who moved to the city for work or stayed after college.

But Philadelphia remains the nation's poorest big city, and Kenney has pledged to create more jobs, including for former felons.

Kenney's election is credited, in part, to strong support from the black community — something Irish-American Kenney has said he considers a huge responsibility as he takes office.

In his time as a city councilman, Kenney worked on inequality, as well as immigration, gay rights and criminal justice reform. Kenney has pointed to his Irish roots and Jesuit upbringing as the influences that make him sensitive to these issues.


Copyright AP - Associated Press
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