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Cherelle Parker says she has a plan to address Philly’s litter problem. Here’s how she’d focus on business corridors.

Democratic mayoral nominee Cherelle Parker sponsored PHL Taking Care of Business, a neighborhood commercial corridor cleaning program, as a City Council member. She said she'd like to expand it.

Cherelle Parker, Democratic nominee for Philadelphia mayor, holds a news conference in Center City on Monday. She said she'd expand her commercial corridor cleanup program if she is elected mayor.
Cherelle Parker, Democratic nominee for Philadelphia mayor, holds a news conference in Center City on Monday. She said she'd expand her commercial corridor cleanup program if she is elected mayor.Read moreAlejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer

Democratic mayoral nominee Cherelle Parker has vowed to expand a trash clean-up program she launched while on City Council.

The program “will be the tool that we will use to eliminate the ‘Filthadelphia’ moniker that has had such a strong grip on our city,” she said Monday, at her first news conference since winning the primary last week.

Called PHL Taking Care of Business, Parker first created a hyperlocal version of the commercial corridor cleaning program in her 9th Council District. In 2020, the initiative expanded across the city. It now has 200 part-time employees who clean about 85 of the city’s commercial corridors.

Litter and trash have long been stubborn issues in Philadelphia that mayoral candidates have promised to address. Parker, who is favored to win the general election over Republican David Oh given Democrats’ voter registration edge in the city, said it would be a priority for her administration.

Here’s what you need to know about PHL Taking Care of Business:

What is PHL Taking Care of Business?

PHL Taking Care of Business aims to keep some of the city’s neighborhood business corridors clean by employing people called cleaning ambassadors to pick up trash. It’s designed to encourage business owners to keep their local storefronts, and to encourage new business to move to Philadelphia corridors.

Parker, when introducing a City Council bill to expand the program in 2019, also touted it as a job creation tool, citing the number of workers who would be hired to clean.

A Department of Commerce analysis of the program found that workers collected more than 170,000 bags of trash in 2021. That number dropped to about 153,000 by 2022, equivalent to 12,750 dumpsters full of garbage.

When did it launch?

Council passed Parker’s bill to expand the initiative beyond the 9th District in 2019. The program kicked off citywide in the fall of 2020 and is ongoing.

How many people were hired and how much were they paid?

As of 2022, there were 200 employees cleaning business corridors as part of the program. They were paid at least $15 an hour, and supervisors can make more, according to the city. One individual highlighted in the Commerce Department report made $19 an hour as a program supervisor.

Which corridors were cleaned?

As of 2022, 85 commercial corridors were part of the program. They span each region of the city, from Bustleton Avenue in the Northeast, to Woodland Avenue in Southwest Philadelphia, and from Chinatown to Olney.

There are nearly 280 commercial corridors in Philadelphia, so the corridor cleaning initiative currently serves just under one-third of them.

How much did the program cost?

For fiscal year 2021, Parker said the program was expected to cost $10 million and to be funded out of the city’s $200 million fund balance.

The initiative actually cost Philadelphia $5.7 million in is first year and $6.5 million in 2022, according to Commerce Department spokesperson Nagiarry Porcena-Meneus. In 2023, the program is projected to cost $7 million, Porcena-Meneus said. That money comes from the city’s general fund.

The city funded 34 community-based nonprofit organizations and four cleaning companies owned by people of color to help run the program in 2022, according to data from the Commerce Department.

Nonprofit partners include the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association Coalition in South Philadelphia, the Oxford Circle Christian Community Development Association, and the West Philadelphia-based Centennial Parkside CDC.

Does it work?

Based on data from the Commerce Department, corridors involved in the cleaning program rank slightly better on the city’s litter index than areas without the initiative.

Litter index rankings range from one to four, with one representing little to no litter and four representing litter that would require heavy machinery to remove. The average Taking Care of Business corridor earned a 2.0 litter index score, while the average score for areas that aren’t cleaned by the program was 2.3.