York City Mayor Kim Bracey is asking for another four years in office.
Her Libertarian challenger, David Moser, has positioned himself as the alternative to the status quo.
The two candidates will face off Tuesday, Nov. 5, for the next four-year term as York City's mayor.
Bracey took office in 2010 as York City's first black mayor and the second woman to hold the position.
A graduate of William Penn Senior High School, Bracey attended college and served in the Air Force before returning to York in 1994. She led the South George Street Community Partnership as executive director and was named York's director of community development by former Mayor John Brenner in 2003.
Moser, 36, calls himself a self-educated "advocate for the people of York, full-time father and part-time entrepreneur."
Questions and answers:
1. On Oct. 15, another young man was shot and killed in what police are calling a gang-related incident. While the data shows that serious crime is actually on the decline in York, the city remains undeniably plagued by street violence. If you are elected to serve the next four years as York's mayor, what will you do to address this issue? How will you guide the police department to stop the killing?
Bracey: Even though our city's violent crime rate is down, as a mother, as a grandmother, as a veteran, and as a vocal member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, I believe that each life ended or scarred by illegal guns, drug turf wars, or terrorism is one too many.
Moser: Bureaucrats can make numbers appear favorable on an election year. It is high time we stop talking and start showing some of this community policing I've been hearing about for years. Bright lights and military equipment are not gonna do it. York is our home; not a battlefield. Our brothers and sisters, our children, our neighbors; we are the "combatants" a militarized police force target in this war. It's time for peace on the streets and that starts with the police. I fully intend to reintroduce citizen oversight of the York City Police when elected. Most are good people doing the best job they can under the orders they are given. I want them to have better orders. The police should be answering to the same communities they are employed to serve. It's time for real change ... for everyone.
2. The need to cut costs is often the impetus for talk of regionalizing services, particularly police and fire. Mayor Bracey, you have identified this as a priority when it comes to the city's fire department. However, it has proven a difficult task. And many people bristle at the idea of regionalization, saying it compromises local control. What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you think York City could save money through partnerships with other municipalities? Why or why not?
Bracey: First, this isn't just a city of York issue. Many of our core communities - our 54 other cities, boroughs and townships - are battered by skyrocketing pension, health care costs and creeping expansions of tax-exempt properties. As mayor, I have worked beyond the city limits in fostering key relationships to help our city grow, while always considering the best interest of our city without making regionalism seem like a bad word. In my first term, our neighboring communities are seen as key partners in making our city the best it can be, a role they embrace. The status quo is unacceptable as struggling cores represent lost business opportunities, lost private revenues, regions with brand clutter and confusion, and not living up to its potential. If our core communities go down, they threaten to take their metropolitan areas and counties too.
Moser: We can and currently do save money/resource by working together with other municipalities. We don't need to sacrifice our local control or identity to do so. Regionalization is not about cost sharing but replacing local government and local organizations with larger governments and organizations that must compromise between serving us and other areas. Nothing need be formalized or compromised to buy bigger lots of paper together or share a street sweeper (which we already do). Nothing is gained by a local community "getting lost in a crowd." This very year Manuel Gomez and I have fought and beaten back regionalization. It was pushed under shady circumstances by some equally shady characters including Councilman Henry Nixon. Proponents lied to three municipal councils and the people. This York does not need. It was buried. We'll keep it there.
3. York City's financial issues are strongly tied to its dependency on property owners for revenue, while thousands of people who work in the city pay nothing toward public safety or the maintenance of infrastructure they use. Likewise, a disproportionate number of tax-exempt properties are located in the city. They, too, consume city resources but - unless voluntarily - contribute nothing monetarily to pay for it. Ideas and initiatives are on the table, including the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program and a proposed commuter tax. Do you think these efforts are enough? What will you do during the next four years to give city taxpayers relief?
Bracey: As mayor, I helped to prepare the Pennsylvania Municipal League Core Communities in Crisis Report and endorsed its recommendations and I will continue to urge our General Assembly to implement the PML recommendations. These efforts, married with the efforts of Pennsylvania Chambers of Commerce, including York's own, led to the Coalition for Sustainable Communities Initiative to restore our core communities to fiscal health, due to our dependency on property taxes. Despite these comprehensive measures and efforts, constraints and legacy costs still conspire against us. Along with Councilman Henry Nixon we have asked for support from many of our tax-exempt entities as we recognize the need for a fairer system to support our infrastructure, and level of public safety expected. My pledge is to continue our fiscal freedom initiatives, pursue cost-effective options, and fight for new revenue streams, while urging our state's help for core communities to help themselves.
Moser: Hmmm. Ask those that have specifically incorporated in such a way as to avoid taxes to voluntarily pay taxes? Really? I think they would rather give up the building they probably only paid a dollar for and go. Charge a tax for the privilege of working in York City? Really? With all the dining options on the square and free parking it's worth it, right? The solution for the city and the taxpayer alike is to grow the tax base. Instead of looking for the next piece of furniture to sell, cut the red tape and stand back. There are 43,000+ folks in this city. Someone would be opening businesses and hiring neighbors if the government wasn't in their way. There are 300+ properties sitting in the RDA land bank no one is paying taxes on either. Let's get those on the real estate market, then the tax rolls.
4. York City's downtown business district is, by most accounts, in the midst of a significant revitalization. However, many other sections of the city are in dire need of help. Do you think the city is doing enough to address its economic-development needs? What can residents - most of whom live outside of the downtown district - expect from their next mayor in terms of improving their neighborhoods?
Bracey: My administration works hard in all areas of the city and facts are a stubborn thing to dispute such as the new, multi-million dollar, adaptive re-use, mixed-use project, featuring over 90 market-rate apartments, at historic 700 Linden Avenue; along North Queen Street the former Gable Tobacco Warehouse is back to life with 13 upscale, brick and hardwood apartments; in our northeast neighborhood, C-Town Supermarket, a full-service grocery store, opened at the Yorktown Mall in 2011 providing 35 new jobs; the West End saw the de-conversion of 11 blighted, multi-units into single-family homes; we also secured a $250,000 grant that went towards streetscape and lighting in the area; through our REBUILD York efforts we repaved 17 city streets, made streetscape improvements in neighborhoods, and added handicap-accessible curb cuts; we acquired and closed a bar, on Princess Street, and this type of neighborhood work will continue in my next term.
Moser: No. There is no "significant revitalization." No. The current administration is failing us. We have friends and family of the administration being funneled mass amounts of grant monies to construct capital projects that do not fit York's needs and have brought no real new business to our city, much less jobs and commerce for city residents. Residents can expect impartiality. I'll work to alleviate the heavy hand of government for all. If tax breaks and preferential treatment can help some it can surely help all. In the short run we have to curb our debt spending. In the long run an emphasis on growing the tax base, via creating a more welcoming climate for all that wish to pursue business in the city, will allow for improved infrastructure and a reduced dependency on home owners and renters alike. My administration will not rob the residential to support the "downtown" privileged.
5. If you are elected, what can York City residents expect from you during the next four years in terms of priorities? What ideas do you have that could potentially improve quality of life for York residents?
Bracey: The city of York deserves a mayor with the credibility to build consensus; a mayor with a vision to shape a new downtown, while maintaining a focus on improving our neighborhoods. The City of York needs a mayor with the sophistication to lure major companies; attract clean energy startups and high-tech businesses; and the knack to nurture the area around the York College of Pennsylvania and the York Hospital into a robust center for education and health care. With the support of many, I have proven to be the best person for the office of mayor at this time. I am the person who will advance these priorities in my second term while providing a clear perspective that builds upon partnerships required for success. My proven track record, leadership, and experience help our city more fully realize its great promise and potential for tomorrow and years to come.
Moser: My priorities are responsible book keeping, empowering people, encouraging business/job growth, and ethical policing. Some things we can correct in short order. Some will take time. All needs to begin now. Some of those short order priorities are return to citizen oversight of the police. We had it before and we need it now. I also want to remove the parking meters. I have a plan to replace them with tasteful signage that can be made available first to local business then others that will account for the same revenue the meters bring in now and can be expanded to other visible areas of the city. Most importantly I want to maintain not only an open-door policy but active participation between the people and the administration. I'm running for office but we all have a stake in this city. Our city. Our homes.