Who are the city workers helping to keep Philadelphians clean, cool and safe during this hot summer of Covid? Nominate them for Integrity Icon. By Sara Hoenes.
The coronavirus has changed nearly every aspect of our lives. As we adjust to our new normal, we’ve also had the opportunity to see just how important an ethical and well-functioning local government is.
Most of our attention has been focused on elected, high-level positions, like mayors and governors. Their daily briefings and enforcement of regulations at state and city levels have made—or not made—all the difference in keeping the virus under control.
But what about the government workers who have everyday jobs behind the scenes—in areas like administration, parks and recreation, and sanitation?
In Philadelphia, these city employees have been working tirelessly to keep the city moving despite the current health crisis and budget cuts. Let’s take the opportunity to celebrate those among them who have worked with and pushed for integrity along the way.
Philadelphia’s municipal sanitation workers have kept working, despite conditions that have left over 100 sick with coronavirus.
Durrell Rothwell, who recovered from Covid-19, made his voice heard at a recent protest in LOVE Park where he and his peers rallied for better personal protection equipment, hazard pay and free coronavirus testing. At the same rally, other sanitation workers argued that they are the most unappreciated and underpaid government workers.
Then there are those that work in administration. We don’t necessarily see them everyday, but these heroes are providing critical services during this crisis.
For example, administrative judge Gary Glazer issued a court order creating a small business aid program that allows struggling enterprises and nonprofits to negotiate with creditors for more time to repay their debts. Officials within the Philadelphia Commerce Department are also raising funds for businesses that have experienced damage or loss from protests and coronavirus closures.
And what about those public servants keeping public parks clean and safe so that Philadelphians can spend time outside? The Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department recently deployed social-distancing ambassadors to kindly remind park-goers to wear masks and keep six feet away from one another.
Kathryn Ott Lowell, Parks and Recreation commissioner, raised $600,000 from private donations to provide Philadelphia’s hottest 100 blocks with patio umbrellas, inflatable pools, misting fans, super soakers, water jugs, water balloons and neck cooling rags.
Some blocks will have mural-making, learning and literacy programs from the Free Library of Philadelphia and other activities offered. These blocks are in some of the lowest-income areas of Philly and don’t have direct access to the city’s 91 spraygrounds.
Now is our chance to recognize these public servants and others like them who are working to make Philly a safer and more equitable city.
In March, The Philadelphia Citizen, along with Accountability Lab and WURD launched Integrity Icon Philadelphia—a contest to “name and fame” honest civil servants.
Until July 31, we’ll accept nominations for non-elected government officials from any sector who are high-integrity employees working to help their customers—the citizens of Philadelphia.
We’re looking for people who put the city and the people of Philadelphia first and act with integrity at all times. Our efforts are not just to praise them, but to change the way we think and talk about city government, and to create role models for the next generation of city workers.
Sara Hoenes is a fellow at Accountability Lab. The article was originally published in The Philadelphia Citizen.