In 1992, Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time” topped radio charts in Philadelphia while the city elected a new Mayor, Ed Rendell, and also a new councilwoman, Jannie Blackwell. In the nearly thirty years that followed, Jackson’s music became iconic, the city is on it’s third Mayor since Ed and Jannie “is a legend around here”, according to a West Philadelphia neighbor.
While many residents of the 3rd Council District that encompasses all of Parkside and most of West Philadelphia enjoy having a tenured Councilperson with deep connections to their neighborhoods, a new challenger to Blackwell, Jamie Gauthier, is urging residents to consider their options this election day and to “reject the status
quo.” saying that she has “the experience, the fresh ideas, and the drive to deliver for our communities.” In an exclusive conversation with the Parkside Journal, Gauthier shares why she believes she is the agent of change our neighborhoods need.
“I want to take all that I’ve learned and done to City Council for the benefit of the 3rd District.” says an introductory headline on Gauthier’s website that shares her long resume of service including serving as a Board Member of the Garden Court Community Association, the University City District, and the Philadelphia Crosstown Coalition, a collection of civic organizations that advocate for quality-of-life issues around the city. “That’s why I have my eye on City Council. Being a council member is the biggest way to have an impact on the community and positive impact on people.”, she proclaims.
Many neighbors in Parkside have already gotten to know Gauthier through her leadership of the Fairmount Park Conservancy, a non-profit aimed at raising funds to support the park through partially through for-profit ventures like “The Glow”, the ticketed Halloween experience that’s been hosted just off of Belmont Avenue for the
past two years. It has partially helped to fund Centennial Commons, a multi-million dollar project aimed at remaking the park around Memorial Hall.
But big investments into new park amenities and street construction feel similar to gentrification for some residents. But it’s not, says Gauthier, who says she’s proud of how she and her staff executed Phase One of the projects. “We made sure that we listened to neighbors and ensured that the swings and traffic calming improvements along Parkside Avenue that residents wanted were part of the things that got done first.”. Its experience with projects like these she says makes her a good choice for council. “A lot of my work has been helping neighbors bring their visions for their
communities to life”.
As a single mom of two sons, Education is atop the list of priorities she plans to campaign on. “People in West Philadelphia really value and stand up for public schools.” The Penn graduate says she’s part of a local education tradition. “I went to public schools, my kids go to public schools, and I see first-hand how volunteerism and fundraising in my neighborhood have helped to bolster programs in their schools. Those efforts can help make up those areas where public resources fall short. This starts in neighborhoods, but in council, I can look for and connect organizations that want to support our schools.”
Beyond schools, she also wants to focus on training residents for jobs in the “green economy, look for new ways to protect the significant number of renters in West Philadelphia “who are particularly vulnerable to price hikes”, while also finding
ways to help longtime homeowners. “I know that there are a lot of homeowners interested in low-cost resources to fix up, improve, and keep their homes in good shape. That’s a need throughout the 3rd District”.
Being a resident of West Philadelphia herself, she understands residents’ support of Jannie Blackwell and their initial hesitation around her campaign. But she says it’s time for residents to consider their options on election day. “The Blackwells have served the community and have been in this council seat for almost 50 years if you count Lucien. Now it’s time for us to look to the future. Our communities are changing and we have all of the assets here to build a successful future for them. We can leverage the economic power of the institutions to the neighborhoods’ benefit. I believe I can do that as a councilwoman and I have the track record to do that. To
look forward to what’s next for the 3rd District..”
Gauthier’s next steps. Garnering the 750 required signatures required by city election rules to get onto the official ballots due in March. She knows these initial introductions will be an uphill climb, but she’s positive about her odds. “I feel that people are excited, we’re getting a lot of messages and calls. People are excited to
have a choice, and that’s good because it’s important to have competitive elections.” She hopes that this excitement is enough to carry her through election day.