Fed up with what he called an "attitude of indifference" among elected leaders, a 32-year-old Air Force veteran has decided to run for York City mayor.
Joe Beltrante said he plans to challenge Mayor Kim Bracey for the Democratic nomination in the May 21 primary.
Beltrante appeared at a Nov. 7 York City Council meeting to ask for help in resolving a property dispute with the city. At the meeting, Beltrante told the council he'd received two citations from the fire-prevention bureau - one alleging his home was illegally tenant-occupied and a second alleging it was vacant but unlicensed.
Unhappy with the city's actions, Beltrante said he decided to run for mayor.
"I thought the best way to fix the problem was to take Bracey's job," he said. "I think that the current mayor and the city council just have this attitude of indifference. It's just unacceptable."
Career: Born in Springfield, Pa., Beltrante said he moved to York after about a decade of military service, international travel and work as a defense consultant. Beltrante said he served as an adviser to the Iraqi Special Operations Forces in 2004 and later as an instructor at Ar Rustamiyah Military University in Iraq.
Beltrante said he returned to the U.S. in 2008 to work for the intelligence community on programs related to cyber warfare and cyber security. He later founded FRP Investments LLC, a business that rehabilitates blighted properties in York County.
If elected mayor, Beltrante said, he will work to make the city more business friendly.
"I believe city residents want real jobs that offer a living wage, and the only way to make that happen is to attract investors and keep them here," Beltrante said in an email. "Any person or policy standing in the way of that goal will be purged."
In response to Beltrante's criticism and decision to enter the race, Bracey said only, "The more, the merrier."
Competition: As a policy, the Democratic Party of York County remains neutral during competitive primaries, said Bob Kefauver, the local party chairman. But, he said, competition is always a good thing for democracy.
"I think (Beltrante) has an uphill battle going against a well-liked and respected incumbent mayor," Kefauver said.
Self-described as "the most conservative Democrat you'll ever meet," Beltrante said he would work to rein in property taxes. And he has some ideas about the cash-strapped city's budget.
He said the fire-prevention bureau - which enforces the city's property-maintenance code and inspects tenant-occupied properties - may be a waste of money.
"We could take some money away from the fire department and give it to the police department," he said.
Crime in the city is "out of control," Beltrante said.
"Simply throwing money at a problem never works, so an emphasis will be placed on funding training and education programs for both officers and residents which will multiply our capabilities," Beltrante said in an email. "Those who wish to engage in criminal activity will quickly find the city of York is no longer a soft target. I will personally raise the black flag."
- Erin James may also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.