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 Bracey's 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: When I took office as mayor my goal was and remains to strengthen the relationship between our police and residents. In three short years, we have changed how the police department operates. I am a firm believer in community policing. Our police chief now leads our department and its mission to bring the community and the police officers closer together to identify and address crime and quality of life issues. Our city now has six neighborhood enforcement units assigned throughout our city, with more to come. Our officers are proactively policing, not merely responding to emergencies and arresting criminals. They are engaged in the neighborhoods developing trust and communication. It is working and the crime reduction data reinforces our efforts. Officers attend neighborhood meetings, walk the neighborhoods, and explore ways to better work with residents to prevent and solve crime. I believe this is true community policing working for York.
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: City government has a vested interest in the success of our school district, and is why I have not sat idly by without speaking up, partnering with our district and visiting our schools. I have a working agreement between the city and school district, in security, anti-truancy initiatives, after-school programs, crossing guards and sanitation. Dr. Deborah Wortham, our superintendent, has cabinet level to my administration. Her leadership is just the beginning of what's needed to turn around a district that has been neglected for decades. We as a community must embrace meaningful reform, providing resources and incentives toovercome disadvantages. Quality education for all is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty and unlocking our county's full potential. There is a need for magnet schools, need for an international-focused academy, need for a regional arts-infused education, and, yes, charter schools too. All of the above and regional consolidation must be on the table.
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: Our city will have continued its comeback. I want a city with tax fairness to the surrounding municipalities, with an attractive and competitive education system and where businesses want to locate and grow. York will continue to be the commercial, cultural, recreational and historic center of our county. Our city's future viability depends heavily on intervention from our state government to reform how we do government in Pennsylvania. If that occurs, we can rebuild our middle class in York City, we can have a thriving educational system that retains our working families. A thriving city with a strong school system, a healthy middle class and a level and predictable tax rate will attract more businesses to our core.
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: Pennsylvania cities and smaller municipalities have the cards stacked against them and require state government intervention. The way government is structure in Pennsylvania is broken and antiquated. The state needs to equip cities with the tools to succeed. We are too dependent on property tax, which is our primary revenue option. We need more statewide revenue-generating taxes, such as sales and income, if they reduce the local share of property tax. Otherwise, we will continue to be the largest municipality, with the highest density of people, with the lowest per capita income and the greatest concentration of poverty, blight and tax-exempt real estate. I will continue my involvement in the Pennsylvania Municipal League, where we have joined with chambers of commerce to promote financial solutions that make sense for cities. I am working with the business community to promote solutions that will work. Finally, our state government needs to hear from our residents. We need to take the issue straight to Harrisburg and on the steps of our governor's mansion. Too long our cities have been under-represented, neglected and as a result our residents suffer.
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: Putting it in perspective in a $98 million dollar budget, $100,000 unfortunately won't go too far. That said I will take every dollar I can get for our residents. I would use $100,000 towards a capital expense such as trash receptacles and the monthly fees associated with hauling the trash. We don't have enough trash receptacles and I look at them as a gift that keeps on giving. I would place these near and around our schools, and use it as a teaching moment.We need to teach our kids about city beautification and respect of property. An average receptacle costs $900. The cost for the collection of added receptacles would be $14.30 per month per receptacle. I would also purchase two litter vacs for the approximate cost of $18,000 each to keep our streets litter free and improve our curb appeal.