I have long been a reader and admirer of Grid Magazine, and I consider Alex Mulcahy a good friend. But I write today compelled to respond to an editorial calling for Parks Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell’s dismissal—to say that I unequivocally disagree with this sentiment and think that it is unfair to the Commissioner’s body of work and service to our city.
First, I want to be very clear that I understand and deeply appreciate people’s concern for Cobbs Creek Park. I wish that recent decisions regarding the golf course and the destruction of many mature trees had been handled differently—namely, in partnership with the community, and with minimal impact to our precious tree canopy.
This having been said, I believe Commissioner Ott Lovell’s track record defies this publication’s call for her resignation. Having worked with the Commissioner over the course of many years, I know the care that she has for Philadelphia’s parks and the communities where they’re situated.
Commissioner Ott Lovell is one of the Kenney Administration officials who regularly does the most with the least resources. Despite Parks & Rec suffering a massive $11.6 million budget cut during the COVID-19 pandemic, Commissioner Ott Lovell and her team nimbly pivoted to become essential service providers, filling critical voids.
As we all know, Philly’s parks and many of its rec centers stayed open all through the pandemic, while virtually every other institution and resource in our city closed its doors. Rec centers became food pantries and virtual learning centers. Kids in some of the highest-need areas of the city got a summer camp experience right on their doorstep through enhanced Playstreets.
I also know how personally Commissioner Ott Lovell takes her job. Last Spring, I was at Christy Rec at nearly midnight just after a young man, Kahree Simmons, was tragically killed on the basketball court. The Commissioner was there with me—and we joined together that very evening to find new ways to support the Christy community, which has been traumatized by repeated incidents of gun violence. She has been back countless times in the months since to follow through on that commitment.
I hope that this begins to paint a picture of the full civil servant that Commissioner Ott Lovell is. As I said, the community’s concerns in relation to Cobbs Creek Park are legitimate, and our city government must strive to do things more transparently and equitably. But I feel that it is important to lift up the many positive and important facets of the Commissioner and her work that go beyond this moment in time. I strongly oppose any call for the Commissioner’s resignation.
– Councilmember Jamie R. Gauthier, 3rd District