Residents, Temple officials formally announce new special services district

Two protesters interrupted the kick-off event on Friday, criticizing the newly created SSD Board and the university’s community relations efforts.

Members of ODAAT speak at the launch event for the North Central Special Services District at Hillel at Temple University on Friday. | DYLAN LONG / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The university formally kicked-off its partnership with community residents to create a special services district for the community near Main Campus on Friday.

The North Central Special Services District, which will take a shot at mitigating the quality of life issues in the surrounding neighborhood, is comprised of five community residents and four Temple employees. The Board held an event at Hillel at Temple University on Norris Street near 15th.

Read more about the North Central Special Services District

Almost immediately, after the introduction of President Richard Englert, two community residents began shouting from the back of the room. It became difficult to hear the president as he talked over the shouts.

The two protesters criticized the SSD Board members and the university for its proposed on-campus stadium plans, which have been at a standstill for several months.

The SSD Board’s executive director Tara Miller addressed the room, along with Carlton Williams, the city’s Streets Department commissioner, and Mel Wells, the president of One Day At A Time, a nonprofit organization the SSD Board contracted to clean the area within the district.

“Today, we started something we’ve all been discussing for a long time,” Englert said to the crowd. “We’ve all talked about the daily neighborhood problems that need solutions, including too much trash, too much noise and too much public safety concern.”

SSD Board President Joan Briley, who lives on Norris Street near 15th, told The Temple News last month that she expected “backlash” from other community residents about the new district.

Jennifer Bennetch, a community resident who lives at 19th Street and Diamond, protested during the launch event of the North Central Special Services District on Friday. | DYLAN LONG / THE TEMPLE NEWS

On Friday, Briley spoke directly to the critics in the room.

“It’s about getting our neighborhood back,” she told the crowd.

Following the event, Briley said the disruption made her “angry,” but that she was ready for it.

“I’m glad we finally got [the district] started,” she said. “We’ll start having more meetings and bringing in more people from the community and take it from there.”

Englert called a special services district a “linchpin” for a stadium in March 2018, but following Friday’s event, he told The Temple News that this district has nothing to do with plans for a stadium.

“Let me just say this special services district is not connected to the stadium,” Englert said. “At one time, there was a thought that it might be.”

“Without a doubt, the vast majority of people know that it is not connected,” he added. “The purpose here is a long-term, sustainable relationship. Whether or not there’s a stadium, Temple University needs to have excellent relations with our immediate neighbors.”

Jennifer Bennetch, who lives on 19th Street near Diamond, took over the press conference at one point, criticizing the university for conducting closed-door meetings about the community and called the members of the board “sell-outs.”

“Our community could help ourselves if you would stop encroaching upon it,” Bennetch shouted.

“I am a community member, taxpayer, activist and parent, and I was not invited to any conversations about this special services district,” she added.

Jackie Wiggins, a prominent member of the anti-stadium group Stadium Stompers, also disrupted the SSD Board’s remarks on Friday.

“This is an absolute outrage,” Wiggins yelled. “You select people to sit there and go to these meetings. What is that about, President Englert?”

Milton Pollard, an SSD Board member who lives on Bouvier Street near Berks, told the group of critics to “grow up.” He then lead the room in a brief prayer, as the two protesters continued yelling.

“People are going to hear ideas they don’t like,” Englert told The Temple News. “That’s what a university should do…Let everybody speak.”

1 Comment

  1. The fact that Temple’s community outreach and those community members involved did not think, or care enough to do real community outreach to me, is part of a more sinister plan of attack since it is the university’s responsibility to control, enforce and clean up after their students. It they did their job from the door, and truly participated with the community, an SSD would not be needed.

    The way this SSD was convened is just one of the many problems and issues this community has with Temple. Having small community meetings without representation from the various neighborhoods in the area you are TRYING to represent is wrong. It’s disrespectful to think that there are no other organizations or individuals in this community that have been doing the work that this SSD is being set up to do, but without the funding Temple is now offering.

    Temple University is an institution that has constantly and repeatedly shown this community, that they are untrustworthy on so many levels. The total disregard to terms of the Charrette Agreements of the past and probably any other agreements the university had with this community were just ignored while they went on with their campus expansion projects that are still going on to this day with.

    Temple is not and has never been impartial enough to bring resources to this community, that are available to them, without strings attached, so what is this SSD really being set up for and what is it being set up to do?

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