Mayor Kenney pledges 'efficient, effective' government for all

Mayor Jim Kenney is administered the oath of office by Judge Kevin Dougherty with Kenney's children Nora, 21, and Brendan, 26, during his inauguration at the Academy of Music on Monday, Jan. 4, 2016.

With a minimum of tears, a pledge of effective government for all, and a brisk walk up Broad Street, Jim Kenney took charge of Philadelphia on Monday as its 99th mayor.

In his inaugural address, the former city councilman promised a government that was "accessible and accountable to the people it serves."

"The vision that will guide my administration," Kenney said, "is that city government should first and foremost deliver efficient, effective services to every single Philadelphian."

His administration, he said, would press for expanded pre-K education, "stronger neighborhood commercial corridors, community schools, community policing."

In one memorable passage, he promised safer streets while noting the tension that exists between Philadelphia's minority communities and its police department.

"We will have to all put aside our differences and acknowledge two things," he said. "That black lives do matter, and that the overwhelming majority of our police are decent, hardworking public servants who risk their lives every day."

The crowd that filled the Academy of Music gave a deep-throated roar of approval.

Kenney, 57, a Democrat, took the oath of office at about 11 a.m. Monday during an elaborate swearing-in ceremony in the ornate concert hall of the 159-year-old Academy. On stage to watch were the city's living former mayors - William J. Green III, W. Wilson Goode Sr., Edward G. Rendell, John F. Street and Michael A. Nutter, the man Kenney replaced. Gov. Wolf and Lt. Gov. Mike Stack were there, as was U.S. Sen. Robert P. Casey. (D., Pa.).

Also in attendance to be sworn into office were the 17 members of City Council, the city's row officers, and dozens of state and local judges.

Called to center stage for his moment, Kenney received a standing ovation. His eyes reddened, and he flicked away a single tear before motioning the crowd to sit.

At his side were his children, Brendan, 26, and Nora, 21. His parents, James and Barbara, watched from a nearby box.

The oath of office was administered by state Supreme Court Justice-elect Kevin Dougherty, brother of John "Johnny Doc" Dougherty, the powerful head of the Electricians union. The Dougherty brothers, Kenney said, grew up "about a hundred yards" from his South Philadelphia home.

"We did pretty good, Kevin, don't you think?" Kenney kidded. "God bless America."

With that he launched into his formal remarks, which began with a nod to City Council and its president, Darrell L. Clarke.

"I look forward to working together in the years to come on many important things," the new mayor said. "We will be partners in this endeavor. And I am going to show you the respect that you have earned."

It was pointed allusion to the acrimonious relationship his predecessor, Nutter, endured with Council, whose members often felt slighted by the 98th mayor.

Kenney outlined his hope for his administration.

"When government works as it's supposed to, it can dramatically change people's lives," he said. "For the one in four people in this city living in poverty, an effective public transportation system can make the difference of whether or not they can afford to go to that job interview. For a young family, affordable pre-K can make the difference of whether or not they save for their children's college education. For an immigrant entrepreneur, a city Commerce representative who can speak their native language can make the difference between a business that succeeds and one that fails."

He promised to press "the private sector and our nonprofit partners to come together with the city to create community schools."

"Our children," Kenney said, "should not have to wake up before dawn and take three different buses to get to a good school."

The event ended about noon, and Kenney, with an entourage of aides and security, walked determinedly up Broad Street to his new second-floor office. A cocoon of well-wishers enveloped him as he did. A man on the other side of Broad shouted out, "Go get 'em, Jim!"

Kenney stopped occasionally to embrace supporters, including ROTC Cadet Kenneth Mitchell, a 17-year-old at Benjamin Franklin High School, who beamed as news cameras surrounded him for the exchange. "He asked me what branch, and I told him I'd like to be in the Navy," Mitchell said.

Outside City Hall, an immigration-rights group presented Kenney with homemade bread baked by undocumented immigrants.

Once inside the building, Kenney popped in and out of offices to greet members of his cabinet - some returning, some new.

Later, he held his formal public event as mayor, signing six executive orders - all but one creating or reestablishing City Hall posts devoted to increased diversity in contracting and hiring, oversight of planning and development, and watchdogging of government ethics.

A sixth order fulfilled a Kenney campaign pledge - to reinforce Philadelphia's status as a "sanctuary city" that won't turn undocumented immigrants over to federal authorities if arrested but freed on minor criminal charges.

That order undid a change adopted last month by Nutter that allowed local law enforcement to inform the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), about detainees who have engaged in or are suspected of terrorism or espionage.

Kenney also signed an order creating the position of chief diversity and inclusion officer. Another order made the office responsible for overseeing goals to increase participation of minority, women and disabled businesses in city contracts.

He also reestablished the office of the chief integrity officer, a post created by Nutter.

To streamline the city's myriad development and planning agencies, Kenney signed an order creating a new cabinet-level position, director of planning and development. He recently named Anne Fadullon to the office, which was created through a charter change on November's ballot.

He also created the job of chief administrative officer, which will be held by former budget director Rebecca Rhynhart.

Kenney signed the various orders at a desk in the Mayor's Reception Room. Beneath the desk's glass cover was a fabric city crest. Traditionally, the yellow-and-blue circular display would include the sitting mayor's name.

In this instance, it only said Mayor.

"He didn't want his name on it," explained Guy Mann, the City Hall upholsterer.

chepp@phillynews.com215-854-2594

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