York in 'dire state': Activist Shareef Hameed looks to oust Mayor Helfrich in November
Shareef Hameed, a political newcomer and local activist, will officially take on Mayor Michael Helfrich in November as an independent.
Hameed, a therapist at Pennsylvania Comprehensive Behavioral Health, said that four to five months ago he hadn't even considered running for mayor. But an unconventional candidate is what the city needs to bring about change, he said.
"Everyone who knows me knows I've never really pushed politics like that," Hameed said. "But York is in such a dire state economically, politically and socially, I think they need a huge change to bring about change."
The first-time candidate is a York City native who, after moving to North Carolina, returned in 2018. He is running as an independent and officially filed his nominating petitions on June 7.
As someone new to politics, Hameed said he is still learning the ropes about some of the more detailed issues in the city, such as property taxes and property values.
In addition, he did not have opinions on some hot-button topics critical to the city's finances, such as the $235 million sale of the city's wastewater treatment system.
But in general, building up the city's youth, combating poverty and addressing gun violence are key to his campaign, he said.
Hameed emphasized the need to invest in youth centers and more youth activities such as sports, which he said the city is lacking.
In terms of addressing gun violence, the city needs to study poverty and other root causes instead of prioritizing initiatives such as the citywide surveillance network that is now being discussed, he said.
"The allocation of money can be used to get into the root of the problem," Hameed said. "You can put up thousands of cameras, but it has never been proven cameras work."
Instead, Hameed said, money to fund those expensive proposals should be allocated for mental health services, aid for families and programs to benefit youth.
In addition, to help bring more jobs, zoning ordinances should be altered to allow for more small-scale businesses such as open air markets and street vendors, he said.
Other priorities for Hameed include improving health care access through walk-in clinics, improving government transparency and investing more in areas outside of downtown, according to documents of policy positions distributed by his campaign.
They also include hiring more police officers of color, bringing in a soccer league for Latino youth and vetting the Parks & Recreation Bureau to potentially cut waste and use the saved funds to invest in youth programs and activities.
As for those who question his ability to accomplish these goals due to a lack of experience, he said, it's all about surrounding himself with the right people dedicated to different city issues.
"You don't need to be micromanaging people and standing over them," he said. "Let them do their job, and the boat will start being steered in the right direction."
The municipal general election will take place Nov. 2. So far, only Helfrich, a Democrat, and Hameed are registered candidates.
— Logan Hullinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.