Get to know the new faces running for York City Council
With over half the York City Council seats up for election this year and only one incumbent in the race, residents will see a wave of new faces in city government.
Only Edquina Washington, the current council vice president and chief impact officer for YWCA York, is seeking reelection.
Teresa Johnescu, Elizabeth Bupp and Blade Kline are the new Democrats filling out the rest of the field in a primary race where the November election has historically been an afterthought. Common threads among the three platforms is increasing transparency between the city and residents, creating a better relationship between the council and the mayor, and addressing gun violence.
So, who are they?
MORE:York County residents will be blown away by windy forecast
MORE:25-year-old man dies after shooting in York City
MORE:Local roundup: Eastern York softball reaches 3-0 with shutout of Delone Catholic
Elizabeth Bupp, better known by her nickname Elsbeth, centered her campaign around making information more accessible for community members. As a member of two local neighborhood associations — the Olde Towne East and East End associations — Bupp said fostering community involvement is essential.
“I’m basically coming at it from somebody who's involved at the local level, and the council is an opportunity to share information widely among citizens,” she said.
Bupp has a variety of experience in the York City community. Although her career took her way from the area for a time, she returned in 2017 and started a blog that covers all sorts of goings on in the city.
If elected to the council, Bupp said she wants to encourage more community involvement in city government. For example, she noted how few residents attend zoning hearing board meetings — where key decisions about the city's future are made.
“When people come to the meetings and speak up with their opinions about a zoning issue, it gives the zoning members the feedback that we need to help make the right decision for that neighborhood,” said Bupp, who is the secretary for the city's zoning hearing board.
>> Please consider subscribing to support local journalism.
When it comes to other issues her campaign focuses on, safety is another key item. Bupp is a supporter of the Group Violence Intervention program the York City Police Department runs as well as installing a ShotSpotter system to detect possible gunfire.
“I totally support the GVI,” Bupp said. “I really think it's a very positive way to go. To basically do interventions in the lives of kids who might be going down the wrong path, and to surround them with opportunities and mentors, and [provide] a reality check, ‘what's going to happen if they take the wrong path?’”
“I’m running for City Council because I’m committed, this is my forever home. I’m not going anywhere,” Johnescu said in an interview. She is taking a “boots-on-the-ground” approach to her campaign, knocking on doors and listening to people.
Johnescu has lived in York County for over 20 years, and she and her husband moved to downtown York City as their children grew older. She was a career educator in secondary and post-secondary education for more than 20 years and has held several municipal positions in the county.
“I really truly plan to be an authentic listener," she said. "I want to get out and introduce myself to as many city residents as possible. I want them to know that I will in good faith, you know, work hard to find solutions to address their concerns and to improve the quality of life for every person living in this city.”
Johnescu served as a tax collector in upstate New York before returning to York County. In the years since, she served as a zoning official in Springettsbury Township and on York City's Historical Architectural Review Board.
“Public safety seems to be the most important [issue], and so I want to take what people are saying to me and bring it back to the City Council to try and work on solutions,” Johnescu said.
Johnescu is a supporter of ShotSpotter, which uses technology to locate and identify gunshots around cities, as well as the SafeNet Project, a citywide security camera network.
More:Get to know Gather 256, a new caffeinated creative space in downtown York
More:Decades-old York City police hiring cap lifted after months of debate
More:Habitat for Humanity welcomes newest Chestnut Street residents
As a homeowner and landlord in York City, Johnescu is dedicated to addressing blight issues. If elected to the City Council, she wants to see a strong relationship between the York City government and the York City school board.
“I think the blight issue, we have to resolve that. ... As an educator, I see the relationship between the blight and school. You know, traumatized kids and poor school performance,” she said.
Johnescu argues that neighborhoods that look safe typically are safe. Personally, she plans to stay in her neighborhood, even into her eventual retirement.
"My model for again is my 94-year-old neighbor two doors down," she said. "She’s out the door every day going somewhere. I plan to do that too. I think there’s a demand for that.”
Blade Kline, 26, previously lived in Yorkana, where he served on the Borough Council before moving to York City two years ago. At the time, he was the youngest council member in Yorkana history.
Kline currently works as a research analyst for the state House Democratic Caucus and volunteers for the state and local Democratic Party.
"I've tried to dedicate my life to serving my community," Kline said, "and this just presented as another opportunity for me to try and give back and to improve the lives of city residents."
Kline, who plans to advocate for lower taxes, said there's room to ease tensions and make city government more accessible to residents.
"I think we have a real opportunity right now, with Democrats taking control of the state House of Representatives, to try and work with our state partners," he said, "and look for some more diverse funding options, not just for our city, but for cities statewide, so that we're not solely relying on our property taxes to balance our budget."
City Council and the Mayor’s Office
The three new candidates agreed on one thing: The relationship between the York City Council and the mayor needs to improve.
If elected, Kline said he wants to create better transparency and accessibility to the council and foster a better working relationship between the council and the mayor.
"I don't want to be a rubber stamp," he said. "I believe that disagreement is a good thing, but I also don't want to push back against the mayor just for the sake of being combative."
Kline noted the "palpable tension" that appears to exist between the council and Mayor Michael Helfrich.
"We need to be working together," he said, "even if we don't always agree on everything."
In recent years, disagreements over the use of federal COVID aid — among other issues — delayed the passage of York City's budget. In 2021, the budget was passed just before the deadline, threatening a city shutdown. Meanwhile, a group of city residents, including former City Council members and candidates, have challenged Helfrich's ability to serve.
“I think we have to work all as one big team,” Bupp said, when asked about that relationship.
Bupp recalled the over 13 years she worked with American Airlines and how a company with 100,000 employees was able to work as a team.
Please consider subscribing to support local journalism.
“There are a lot of lessons from looking at a big company and how they operate and applying that as you can, applying those philosophies to a city of our size where it's possible,” she said.
Johnescu shared similar sentiments.
“It has to be a positive relationship,” she said, “We’re all grownups. We’re all professionals. We’re representing the needs of the city.”
The municipal primary election will be held May 16, followed by the general election Nov. 7. The voter registration deadline for the primary election is May 1.
Pennsylvania residents can visit www.vote.pa.gov/Register-to-Vote/Pages/default.aspx to register to vote or check their registration status.
— Reach Noel Miller at NMiller3@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @TheNoelM.