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Councilmember Jamie Gauthier “strongly opposes” Grid’s call for Commissioner Ott Lovell’s resignation

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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

4 Comments

  1. While I agree with Councilmember Gauthier’s point that the commissioner is tirelessly dedicated to her job, it is evident that she prioritizes recreation over parks. These used to be two separate departments, but were controversially joined into one, with severe budgetary and management imbalances to match. It’s clear from Katherine’s actions and management decisions that she will not hesitate to use the parks as bargaining chips to benefit her own priorities. Watch what she does next at FDR.

  2. What I have not seen is a response by the Commissioner explaining: how this decision was made, what part she played, did she see any of the negative impacts critics of the project have and how she reconciled these problems with her decision to proceed. The whole situation appears from the outside like a sweetheart deal, made between a wealthy, influential family and pliable civil servants. She needs to explain why this widely held impression is wrong.

  3. Not a convincing defense. Resignation would not be enough. Fix it.

    Perhaps Ott Lovell could stay on to right this wrong. Work to stop this golf course, and the environmental and social justice travesty it represents. Perhaps we can see an opportunity to replant more climate resilient trees, and foster an ecosystem on these 100 acres that is geared towards our warming world. Gauthier’s comments here are a pathetic redirection from the real sins: deforestation in an urban environment that needs trees, and the disregard for the neighborhoods most directly affected, which are apparently majority Black, Of course.

    We don’t need resignations, unless the facilitators here are resigned to the status quo, and have no shame and no intent to rectify the situation.

  4. The Commissioner absolutely needs to resign. Regardless of the limitations of budget, the Parks and Recreation dept as a whole is not run with the strategy and wisdom to properly steward the land, as is its duty to the city. The Park side of the dept has been decimated and forgotten because it isnt “sexy” enough to the majority of know-nothing politicians elected here. Let someone who has the ability to care for both parks and people take the reins.

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