York County CYF rally called off as negotiations for new contract begin

York City Council, ralliers discuss public meetings

Sean Philip Cotter

Olga Berrios is tired of it.

Tired of calling her kids whenever she reads about a York City shooting to ask if they're OK; tired of grabbing her little girl and diving to the floor whenever a shot rings out, she said.

Before Tuesday night's short and largely uneventful York City Council meeting, Berrios spoke on behalf of the Stop the Violence group that's organized rallies in response to recent spates of violence in the city.

During the public comment portion that immediately precedes all council meetings, the west end resident asked the council several questions the group had come up with.

Among the questions was a query about organizing more public meetings in an effort to include more residents in the discussions on how to stop the violence, which lately often has involved young people around the city. In December, someone shot 19-year-old Dakeem Dennison to death in what police say was a targeted home invasion likely looking for drugs. York City Police say on Jan. 9, 16-year-old Hydiea Banks shot 18-year-old Shyhiem McDowell in the head, which resulted in her being charged as an adult with attempted criminal homicide.

City resident Olga Berrios speaks to York City Council before their meeting Tuesday night.

York City Police Chief Wes Kahley said at a meeting of the Avenues Neighborhood Association last week that there were 17 shootings in the city during December.

Berrios, searching for solutions, brought up to the council the York Charrette, a series of meetings after the 1969 city riots to bring people together, air grievances and constructively move forward. It took place in April 1970, lasting nine days and spawning entities such as the York Health Corp., York Area Development Corp. and Housing Council, all aimed at ensuring low-income and minority residents had access to resources, according to York Dispatch archives.

She asked if any of the council members knew about this Charrette, whose name comes from a word meaning a meeting — usually a pretty intensive one — in which everyone involved in an issue comes together to look for solutions, according to dictionaries.

A couple of them nodded.

"There's been a lot of talk about that," said President Carol Hill-Evans.

Hill-Evans and council Vice President Michael Helfrich both said some sort of public meeting to bring people together could bring about some progress. Hill-Evans said she pictures it as involving both both city officials and citizens, but definitely more of the latter.

"People need to have an outlet," said Hill-Evans after the council session.

She said someone would need to begin to talk to community members about putting such a meeting together.

"I might just start that myself," she said.

— Reach Sean Cotter atscotter@yorkdispatch.com.