Local change not always inspiring

Residents in some of Temple’s surrounding neighborhoods came together in a meeting to discuss the issue of students illegally living off campus.

This is not your favorite candidate’s change. This is not inspiring or easy and does not come draped in the American flag’s colors.

This is how change happens when the problem isn’t going to cost a presidential candidate any votes.
Jefferson Manor residents recently organized a town hall meeting to address the flow of Temple students into their neighborhood, despite a law that makes their tenancy illegal. An ordinance outlaws absentee landlords and multi-dwelling homes in Jefferson Manor and Yorktown.

The meeting took place on Thursday evening at Paul L. Dunbar Elementary School. Close to a hundred residents of the two neighborhoods packed into the old auditorium, fanning themselves and ready to make change happen.

The result was not pretty. With no microphone, speakers had to shout to be heard, and repeat themselves often. A wall sconce began sparking and popping early in the meeting, distracting a good fourth of the audience.

Commissioner of Licenses and Inspections Fran Burns, who has been at her post for less than a month, assured residents that their eight-year-old problem would be addressed. Residents didn’t let the fact that Burns was quite recently appointed heed their anger.

When someone from the audience asked Burns to explain the process L&I takes when it receives a complaint, a panel member stood up.

“I’ll explain for you,” she said to Burns. “When we call in, nothing gets done.” The panel member was met with thunderous applause, while Burns sat in her chair, looking very much under fire.

State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas of the 181st Legislative District, was at the meeting, as was a representative for State Rep. Darrell Clarke. Both spoke, encouraging residents to report any violations they see.

Once the speakers were finished and the question-and-answer session began, the meeting fell apart. With no microphone to control the meeting, questions and accusations flew freely. Efforts by Thomas and others to restore order simply failed.

Some of the accusations were ridiculous. One man claimed the lack of a microphone was a deliberate strategy to create disorder and disrupt the meeting. Others insisted Temple was buying up homes in Yorktown and other neighborhoods.

Other accusations were not as irrational. Burns was pressed on exactly what would be done about the violations. Burns said she would send out inspectors and accompany them the following day.
The organizers of the meeting, led by Roberta Faison, president of the Jefferson Manor Homeowners Association, held the meeting together as best they could. Even so, the auditorium emptied out steadily through the question-and-answer period.

In what may be a sign of changes, Burns kept her promise. On Friday morning, she and three inspectors walked Yorktown and Jefferson Manor with community leaders, taking note of violations.
This is hardly the end of problems between Temple students and the community. In fact, if students start waking up to eviction notices, which they probably will, things will get ugly before they get better.

But that is how change at the most basic level happens. Not with banners and celebrity performers, but with fits and starts, frustration and anger.
And one step forward.

Stephen Zook can be reached at stephen.zook@temple.edu.

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