It was a somewhat raucous scene. Neighborhood residents were angry that a plan that would bring massive change to their neighborhood had not been discussed with them. Officials eventually organized a town hall meeting. Yet just a few minutes into his prepared remarks, the head of the agency behind the massive plan was shouted down by the crowd.
He stopped and left under a security escort.
It was an example of what can happen when a community is “talked at” and not engaged, instead of “talked with” and engaged.
This was not Stockton.
This happened in Philadelphia as Temple University attempted to move forward with a plan to build a $130 million, 35,000-seat stadium on its campus in North Philadelphia. Richard Englert, the university president, was the one booed into silence.
Whether in small municipalities or large cities, public engagement is the key to real success when it comes to development.
That is why last week’s meeting of the Friends of Swenson group is encouraging.
At that meeting, the idea was presented to form a Swenson Oaks Recreation and Park District.
The proposal would protect Swenson Park Golf Course’s green space while allowing for commercial enterprise and improvements.
We know that the city of Stockton has to make difficult choices as to where to spend taxpayer funds. And the city has said it cannot afford to support both the Swenson and Van Buskirk golf courses.
Yet residents and Lincoln Unified School District vehemently opposed several proposals the city unveiled that would have created housing at Swenson.
Money from the sale of Swenson would have been used to develop Van Buskirk.
Instead of being nimbyists (not in my backyard) who opposed the development but demanded Swenson remain as it is, community members have taken the initiative to develop other ideas.
This is far from a done deal as plenty of questions remain, funding being just one of them.
This is just a starting point for what eventually could become productive discussions between residents and city officials.
Public officials serve the public. But public demands must be reasonable.
In this case, let’s hope a reasonable solution for all is reached..