Councilman Darrell Clarke’s weak proposal to ban student-housing near Temple demonstrates another of his unfounded claims and sends an unfortunate message to both current and prospective students.
There is no doubt that hostility remains between students and permanent residents, but instead of working to unite commonality, Clarke instead focuses to eliminate young people who wish to learn to better their future and peacefully coexist with residents. Running away from the problem is not solving it. Meanwhile, Clarke disregards the obvious good that the Temple community has brought his district.
His residents would still be living in a food desert if it wasn’t for Temple students who demanded a supermarket, an achievement even First Lady Michelle Obama has praised. There would be no Fresh Grocer in North Philadelphia if it wasn’t for Temple and the shops around Broad Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue would never exist.
Clarke discounts Temple students’ academic excellence, mischaracterizing a moderate college environment by comparing it to the wild immaturity of a fictional movie. But he neglects the social good of Temple’s 20/20 plan, which aims to include the community it surrounds. For example, Temple is awarding 250 four-year scholarships during a 10 year period to students in the North Philadelphia neighborhoods surrounding Main Campus, a generous contribution that’s unheard of in other cities.
Perhaps Clarke has mistaken the poor state of his constituents’ neighborhoods by the fact that thousands of them refuse to pay property taxes. It shows, however, it’s not the fault of students.
In fact, Temple officials introduced a Good Neighbor Policy last semester aimed at uniting the Temple community and the residents of North Philadelphia.
Dean of Student Stephanie Ives said the policy’s effectiveness is imperative to curbing social hostility around Temple’s neighborhoods.
“Temple has gone through an enormous transformation from going to a largely commuter campus to students living off-campus,” she said. “It’s good to have a productive, friendly communicative relationship with your neighbors.”
Finally, in regards to the recent shooting of a Temple student that “put him over the top,” Clarke seems misinformed. It was the 15-year-old boy who shot first. Should the Temple student have been defenseless and left to die?
Clarke should make himself significantly more present in the community and encourage residents to give up their guns to police or help curb the extreme violence that makes his community feel like a war-zone.
The community has, no doubt, been helped by Temple Police, Temple University Hospital and the dozens of other services Temple offers that he and the city cannot.
But this isn’t the first time Clarke has shown that he has no clue what he’s talking about. For instance, while it’s typical for constituents to not know who represents them in Council, it’s just embarassing for a representative to not know the constituents they represent.
Forty-second Wardleader Elaine Tomlin told me that approximately eight years ago, a constituent went to Councilman Darrell Clarke’s office a number of times to complain about his trash pickup. Clarke told the man his ward wasn’t in his district, Tomlin recalls, when it actually was.
It’s unfortunate that North Philadelphia struggles to pull itself out of a blighted state of obvious municipal neglect, but it’s Clarke’s job to fix it, not the sole responsibility of the university. We can work together, but by stripping students of housing would be a blow not just to students, but to its surrounding neighborhoods. North Philly cannot afford to lose Temple, and its students can’t afford to lose their off-campus housing.
Matthew Petrillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.