York City Mayor Kim Bracey is up for re-election this year, and faces a primary challenge from Councilwoman Carol Hill-Evans. Both women are Democrats; there are no Republicans seeking nomination. The York Dispatch asked the candidates a series of five question. Below are Hill-Evans' answers.
Question 1: Crime is both a real and perceived problem in York City, fueled largely by gangs and the drug trade. But statistics also reveal that crime is actually down over the past decade -- 25 percent when it comes to the most serious (Part 1) crimes. As mayor, how would you address the city's crime and crime-perception problems? Would you change anything about the way the police department operates? If so, how?
Answer: We will utilize community policing and community plus policing, which encourages problem-solving from both sides, to address crime. We must recognize that police alone can't stop crime -- only communities can. Communities can only stop crime if they work with police. My efforts will include reconnecting law enforcement and citizens who want to help but are afraid or convinced that no one in City Hall will listen to them. In community plus policing, the community develops a relationship with the officer(s) assigned to their area. When the community is familiar with the officer they're more likely to help get the criminals off the streets. Police must develop relationships by showing respect through the use of good, fair and professional practices with law abiding citizens in every neighborhood.
Question 2: Financially and academically, York City's school district is in very dire straits compared to the suburban districts -- a fact that continues to push families out of the city and students into charter schools. As mayor, how would you negotiate your authoritative limitations with the need for school reforms in the city?
Answer: Join forces with the school district itself to cooperatively purchase supplies, help each other by sharing amenities and equipment to help alleviate costs. Continue to be vocal about charter school reform at the state level. Work to be sure parents have the facts about performances both for public and charter schools so they are not misinformed about children's performance. Work with school district to encourage parental involvement in the schools through use of incentives both for the parent and the child such as providing child care so a parent can attend meetings with teachers in the evening.
Question 3: When you look 10 or 20 years in the future, what do you envision for York City? As mayor, what kinds of policies would you implement to promote a healthy future for the city and its residents?
Answer: I envision a financially stable city whose downtown neighborhood contains successful businesses, restaurants and fully occupied storefronts; surrounding neighborhoods with clean, well-maintained parks and other amenities -- culturally diverse eateries, businesses and entertainment. Enforcement of current policies is critical to city-wide success. Establish joint finance committee to discover new models for budgeting. Even-handed zoning enforcement for both rental and owner-occupied properties. Work within the school system to encourage students to become more civic-minded and feel more pride in their neighborhood by helping keep their blocks clean and try to offer re-invigorated hope and empowerment to our youth.
Questions 4: Many people have concluded that York City's financial future depends on state intervention -- that local resources aren't enough to fix the fundamental problems. What do you think York City needs from the state government, and how, as mayor, would you work to get it?
Answer: Appropriate state intervention is needed. York City needs reform that addresses pensions and the ever escalating associated costs. Revenues generated by ventures like Marcellus Shale, could be used to finance unfunded obligations like pensions. Locally publicize the debt that York City carries to regularly inform citizens. Informed, educated citizens are a powerful weapon for improving government, not just locally but at the state level as well. Encourage citizens to go visit offices of local representatives and follow to Harrisburg to show support for and demand changes to help York City. Constantly reach out to other third-class city leaders and citizenry to join forces to go to Harrisburg.
Question 5: If someone donated $100,000 to the city and said you could do with it whatever you want, how would you spend that money?
Answer: I would use it to establish a low- to no-interest loan fund that would provide start-up costs to entrepreneurs who have business plans but no start up dollars. These neighborhood businesses could potentially provide employment within the neighborhood with a focus on youth.