A special election is being held during the May primary to fill the 95th House District seat vacated by Eugene DePasquale. Three candidates are running. The winner will take office immediately. Below are answers from Democrat Kevin Schreiber, Green Party candidate Bill Swartz and Republican Bryan Tate.
Question 1: Is more cooperation needed between York City and its surrounding suburban municipalities? If so, how would you work toward this goal?
Schreiber: "Absolutely. I'm uniquely sensitive to this issue having worked with the city for several years. There's absolutely natural areas where municipalities could work together to share services and possible purchases. There's less duplication. If there's more cooperation, it leads to better services and hopefully cost savings."
Schreiber said he would support legislation to create incentives for intermunicipal sharing and promote an environment in which municipalities understand what they have to gain through a common vision.
Swartz: "I understand why William Penn was interested in local control. However, in his day, it took hours to get (between municipalities)."
He said more cooperation is needed, and he thinks the county's municipalities will eventually work toward "one York."
Swartz said he would support short-term actions such as legislation that makes cooperation possible and "paves the road" for broader consolidation in the future.
It's still important for York County's individual communities to maintain their character, he said, but it also makes sense for the county to have only one police department, one school district, and one government.
Tate: Tate said the goal in local government should be consolidation, such as merging all of the school districts to dilute the concentration of poverty in city schools. But he said many officials probably won't be amenable to that course, so property tax reform and other efforts can be temporary, achievable goals for improving the city's situation. He said he supports reducing taxes for businesses, encouraging them to move to York City. Taxes will decrease for everyone in the city if there are more businesses present to field more of the burden, he said. As an elected official, he would support legislation to allow local governments to decide how to fund themselves, be that through property or sales taxes or other means, he said.
Question 2: How would you, on a state level, aid York City in its continued economic development effort?
Schreiber: As York City Economic & Community Development Director, and husband of a small business owner, I understand the opportunities and challenges in our community.
Businesses want a skilled and ready workforce and predictable expenses. Government can invest in education and can help reduce those expenditures, like taxes, permit fees, public utilities. During my tenure, I have overseen $125 million in economic development in our city.
York and cities in Pennsylvania need a level playing field where taxes, education and modern infrastructure are not at a disadvantage to surrounding areas. There are incentives and policies from a state level that can assist business development and growth.
However, the long-term economic development strategy for our community should hinge on an effective educational system that does not trigger a burdensome tax rate that drives the cost to do business up and makes our community less competitive to surrounding areas.
Swartz: There are many important state funding sources that can continue to help bring success on the economic development front. Our success rate in obtaining state funding can be improved if our delegation works together alongside the private sector.
While on the board of Central Market, I met with Sen. Bob Casey to help win $2 million in funding for the renovation of this community treasure. I've seen first hand how our community can harness state funds and use them in an efficient way to improve our downtown and attract and retain residents and businesses.
To do this effectively, job one is to support and pass sensible enabling legislation that allows property tax reform (see below). This needs to happen sooner rather than later because once this problem is resolved, York can really begin to boom.
Tate: To fuel economic development and job creation in the 95th District, I propose reducing business taxes to attract business growth and new jobs created by that growth. Pennsylvania has some of the highest business taxes in the country that discourage companies from growing and reinvesting in our communities and block new businesses from choosing places like York in spite of our formidable location, amazing culture, and premier workforce.
Our state's economic development strategy is upside down - we charge businesses the country's highest taxes and then hold those dollars hostage for communities to come begging for grants for community improvement. By lowering business taxes, we'll encourage private investors to use their capital to grow businesses here in York, and new businesses will consider relocating to York and elsewhere in Pennsylvania.
Question 3: What can be done to reduce crime in York City?
Schreiber: Neighborhood policing units have led to a reduction in overall crime in our city. As the Dispatch showed on April 8, crime is trending down in York City, though certainly more can be done. Criminals don't recognize municipal boundaries; and we should be concerned with preventing crime everywhere.
A dollar spent today in education leads to less dollars spent in future law enforcement, incarceration and probation. A successful education system is the best tool for fighting crime. Kids will be less likely to turn to criminal activity if we prioritize education, starting with Pre-K and early learning.
I believe that gun safety measures will help keep illegal guns off our streets and out of the hands of criminals and minors. Last year, there were 11 homicides in York, each was the result of an illegal gun.
We must increase resident participation in policing, to be the vigilant eyes, ears and voices against criminal behavior in our neighborhoods.
We need to give law enforcement adequate tools to conduct their jobs so they can be more effective keeping bad people off the street.
Swartz: The two primary causes of rising crime rates are economic hopelessness and the underground profits in the sale of illegal drugs. We need to shift some incentivizes away from large corporations and towards small businesses which create 85 percent of all jobs.
It is also time we end the failed 95-year-old war on drugs. One out of every 100 Americans is in jail and 40 percent of those are there due to soft drug crimes. Addiction is a problem for doctors and health care professionals to handle, not policemen and prison wardens.
If we invest in schools instead of prisons, we can create a much safer community and develop a superior education system. Let us invest in our children now instead of locking them up when they grow older.
We should continue funding York County's current drug court program for nonviolent first time offenders.
Tate: York can reduce crime by creating a comprehensive strategy for success that requires the collaboration of police, public works and community and economic development.
York must focus its efforts on creating an attractive, welcoming and safe environment so that merchants, cultural organizations and consumers want to invest more. Economic development must be prioritized as the number one tool to drive people into York for entertainment and commerce, thereby deterring crime.
Economic development can only produce limited success if other aspects of government do not adopt the same goal. York desperately needs zoning and codes inspectors and enforcement officers to cite violations and fine offenders. Rundown neighborhoods invite criminal activity. Real plans for trash disposal and street sweeping must be enacted to provide curb appeal throughout York. Excellent lighting and police foot patrols instill a feeling of safety and encourage a walk-able community, which deters crime.
Question 4: What's the top issue facing the 95th District, and what plan do you have in place to address it?
Schreiber: It is no secret that good schools lead to safer communities and better jobs. School districts are the primary determinant of where people buy homes, leading to strong communities where businesses develop and thrive.
I believe the state's reduction in education funding has only weakened our schools and it has driven property taxes up locally, which reduces home values and weakens our community and disproportionately impacts our seniors and those on fixed incomes.
We need to reform school district funding so it is not as dependent on property taxes. Property taxes are regressive and can stymie or hold down the market. Education funding should be drawn more from statewide progressive taxes, like sales or income, that grow as the market grows or from a modest natural gas extraction fee.
We are the only natural gas producing state in the nation that does not tax its extraction. Natural gas is a Pennsylvanian resource and its extraction and sale should benefit all Pennsylvanians and can do so through increased education funding.
Swartz: Property taxes are out of control in our county. This problem is most acute in the city at the moment, but the problem is quickly already across York County.
Inelastic borders and declining tax bases are a widespread challenge.
I advocate cutting property taxes in half across the county and making up the difference by instituting a countywide flat income tax. This would help keep many people in their homes, would increase property values and would encourage more investment in York County.
Tate: Local tax reform is the number one issue facing the 95th District, affecting all municipalities and school districts. Pennsylvania's antiquated system of raising dollars for local government services relies on the most regressive form of taxation - property taxes.
Pennsylvania needs to create a structure that allows school districts, third-class cities and other municipalities to raise revenue to provide core services without relying on a system that forces senior citizens out of their homes because of escalating taxes. Cash-strapped school districts and municipalities like York City are forced to raise property taxes on a shrinking population, thereby forcing more citizens to flee to avoid further property tax increases.
State government must create new taxing options so that a county or region's municipalities and school districts can pay for services in the best way for their area rather than by property taxes. I will lead the fight for local tax reform.
Question 5: Why are you the most qualified to be a representative?
Schreiber: I know the issues facing this community in detail and to the minutia. It has been my job to know them and my work to solve them.
I have been tested with difficult decisions, with policy development and managing a budget that required an annual reduction of expenditures. I have worked alongside business leaders, I know what businesses need to get going and stay going. I work for our constituents and with groups from all political stripes to get things done. I recognize the challenges to move Pennsylvania and York County forward.
Significant hurdles in education funding, public safety, government reform and economic development are real and pressing. I ask voters to support me for the same reason Eugene DePasquale supports me. I have been in the trenches fighting for the good of our community. I am a strong advocate for our citizens and will continue to be as state representative.
Swartz: live in Spring Garden Township. I founded a small business in the city 15 years ago that now employees 17 people. I know what it's like to have a payroll. The issues of rising health care costs, increased crime and ever-increasing taxes are not just theoretical to me. I have lived them.
As a third-party candidate, I am not beholden to Democratic or Republican ideology. I am beholden to common sense.
I care about this community and will work hard to make sure that our rising tide raises all boats. I know that together we are greater than the sum of our parts. Unity brings strength. Together we are one York.
Tate: I am a recognized civic leader and active partner in the development and promotion of York. I possess the necessary legislative experience, community leadership and public trust to serve the residents of the 95th District.
As chief of staff to Congressman Todd Platts, I have served Yorkers by providing leadership, legislative support and constituent service. At the York County Community Foundation, I have raised millions of dollars to support York's greatest and changing needs. I've analyzed community programs and budgets and made tough funding choices. As a life-long Yorker and 95th District resident for 23 years, I've dedicated my life to making York a vibrant and successful center of arts and culture, business and commerce, history and future.
I have built solid relationships and trust with our entire legislative delegation and will work as an important member of the team to advocate for positive and meaningful change for all of York.