A spokesperson for City Council President Darrell Clarke said on Monday that Clarke will not currently support “any City approvals for the stadium.”
Jane Roh, Clarke’s communications director, said in a statement to The Temple News that Clarke feels Temple “missed a great opportunity to repair its relationship with residents” while forming its stadium proposal.
She added that Clarke will reconsider his position if the university and residents can come to an agreement about the stadium, but it “really seems unlikely that they will, at this point.”
As early as 2015, Clarke stated he would not allow the stadium unless the North Philadelphia community’s concerns were appropriately considered by the university.
Clarke represents the City Council’s 5th District, which is home to several neighborhoods in North Philadelphia and the area surrounding Main Campus. The proposed on-campus stadium would also be built in the 5th District.
“This was always about the university’s relationship with students and near residents and businesses, and given historic tensions there, the Council President had expected university officials to seek community approval with sensitivity and care,” Roh wrote.
To build the stadium, the proposal will need to be approved by City Council, in addition to several other city departments including the Streets Department. City Council would need to pass legislation to close 15th Street, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission told The Temple News in January. It is the only uninterrupted street running southbound toward Center City between Broad and 26th streets, and the proposed stadium would block 15th Street between Norris and Montgomery Avenue.
In Philadelphia, City Council uses an unwritten legislative practice called the “councilmanic prerogative,” which gives individual council members jurisdiction of “nearly all” of the land use decisions within their district, according to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Council members can exercise their councilmanic prerogative “simply by refusing” to introduce legislation that the council member does not favor, according to the report. If Clarke used his councilmanic prerogative in this instance, he could potentially prevent legislation related to the stadium from being presented to the City Council.
In an email obtained by The Temple News in January from a City Planning Commission representative to various community organization leaders, the representative said closing 15th Street would require a bill that the Streets Department and City Planning Commission have “veto power over” that City Council could not override. But legislation would need to be introduced for this to occur.
According to the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter that outlines the city’s procedures, Mayor Jim Kenney has veto power over any legislation passed by City Council. The council can overrule the mayor’s decision with a two-thirds vote.
One of the main suggestions by critics of the stadium is that Temple officials should put pressure on the Eagles for increasing its rental costs at Lincoln Financial Field. The university began its $1.25 million feasibility study for a 35,000-seat, on-campus football stadium in October 2015 in response to the rising rental cost at the Linc for home football games.
Clarke would have helped further the negotiations between the Eagles and the university, Roh said.
Both a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Eagles and Temple declined to comment on negotiations for a future lease.
“If the university asked for his help with the Eagles lease, he would try to do whatever he could,” she said. “They have not, to date.”
University spokesperson Brandon Lausch said Temple’s goal is to continue to “engage our neighbors on this and other substantial issues that are important” to North Philadelphia residents.
On Monday, Clarke said he “personally” did not agree with Temple’s current proposal on the Praise 107.9 radio show.
Clarke, like many Temple administrators, has been quiet during the heated stadium debate for the past year as the university finalized its feasibility studies and full stadium proposal. Clarke did not attend any of the recent anti-stadium and university town halls this month, despite invitations from community organizations against the stadium.
After the university released its stadium proposal in January, Clarke released a statement to The Temple News that said he was in “open communication” with university leaders, and they’re aware of his and his constituents’ concerns.
“The announcement made today does not alter my or affected residents’ expectation that there be an inclusive and honest community engagement process as the stadium proposal moves forward,” he said in his January statement.
At an anti-stadium town hall hosted by the Stadium Stompers earlier this month, organizers saved a chair for Clarke on the panel. He did not attend.
“After more than two years of struggle and this month’s mass meeting against the stadium, we are glad that Council President Clarke has finally been moved to speak against Temple’s disastrous plan,” said Jared Dobkin, a Stadium Stompers leader and a 2017 political science and geography and urban studies alumnus. “Stadium Stompers and our allies will continue our resistance to the stadium. … Clarke must shut down any City Council legislation that would support Temple’s bid for legal approval to build the stadium.”
UDPDATE: This story has been updated to include more information about processes if legislation is passed by Philadelphia City Council.