State Rep. Keith Gillespie's long wait for a committee chairmanship is almost over.

After 10 years in the House, the Springettsbury Township Republican will receive his first gavel when the new session begins next month -- and his assignment is an interesting one.

Gillespie will chair the House Urban Affairs Committee, which covers urban issues such as housing affordability, building codes and enforcement, redevelopment, economic development and growth management.

The committee will review proposed bills falling under those areas, deciding which should go to the full House for a vote and conducting public hearings to gather public input.

That kind of clout would certainly be of help to urban areas like York and other struggling third-class cities, which for years have been calling for legislative action to help save Pennsylvania's "core communities."

These 54 cities are often county seats and home to a disproportionate number of nonprofits. In York City's case, about 38 percent of the property is tax-exempt, meaning they aren't required to contribute to costs of the safety services and infrastructure they use.

The cities are old and built out; their property tax bases -- for the most part their only sources of revenue -- are poor.

They are hamstrung, according to York City Mayor Kim Bracey, by an outdated government structure that severely limits them.


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For example, York last year attempted to enact a street light fee, which would have eased the burden on property owners by spreading it around.

The solicitor's office later told city council there's no legislation that allows third-class cities to collect a street light fee, although it's perfectly fine for second-class townships.

Gillespie's an interesting choice for the House Urban Affairs Committee post because his district doesn't include York City.

In fact, it doesn't get much 'burbier in York County than in the 47th -- which includes Conewago, East Manchester, Hellam, Manchester and Springettsbury townships, plus Hallam, Manchester, Mount Wolf, Wrightsville and York Haven.

This is not to say Gillespie, whose background is in emergency services, isn't up to the task or that his constituents won't benefit from his committee assignment.

It's simply that one would think the chairman of the Urban Affairs Committee would come from -- well, a more urban area.

To his credit, Gillespie has said he's well aware of the issues facing York City and hopes to work closely with Bracey.

We hope he's ready to roll up his sleeves and get down to business then, because Bracey and other mayors already have a plan in mind, what they call a Core Communities package of legislation.

It includes earned income tax reform, a 1 percent local optional (i.e., county-wide) sales tax, and pension and arbitration reform.

"These reforms," Bracey said in an opinion piece here nearly a year ago, "would more equitably distribute revenue generation and would not form age-old overdependence on property tax."

We suppose if the chairman of the Urban Affairs Committee is willing to help shepherd some of these measures, it doesn't matter if he or she lives in a high-rise or on a farm.