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.
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.
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.”