York City mayor candidates face off at Rotary Club debate
After sparring last week over crime statistics and trends, the three candidates for York City mayor broke bread together at the Country Club of York before squaring off for round two.
Picking up where they left off at the Oct. 26 mayoral debate at Marketview Arts, York City Mayor Kim Bracey pointed to a 31 percent drop in crime during her time in office, again drawing criticism from York City Council President Michael Helfrich.
“We are tackling and addressing as much as we can,” Bracey said, highlighting the city’s Group Violence Intervention initiative and the York City Police Department’s gun buyback event Friday, Oct. 27, in which about 35 guns were turned over to police.
Helfrich shot back at the two-term mayor, saying he is “tired of trying to help families find funeral arrangements” after spending time Monday, Oct. 31, with the family of Jose Angel Aponte, who was shot and killed on East Market Street the night before.
Including Aponte’s death, murders are up 63 percent this year with two months left in the year, Helfrich said, challenging Bracey to provide statistical proof for the crime reduction she touted.
The York City Police Department reports its crime statistics to the FBI, and the FBI is reporting that York City’s crime rates are down, Bracey said.
“I take exception with our police department and their integrity and numbers being challenged,” Bracey said. “We provide annual reports to every council member every year, along with our budget. If they don't read the information, I’m not quite sure how to make that happen. Numbers don’t lie. Violent crime is down.”
York City school director David Moser again chose to stay out of the back-and-forths between Bracey and Helfrich, opting to deliver his message of improving economic factors in the city to address violent crime.
“When those (economic) numbers come up, people have something to live for,” Moser said.
Targeted revitalization? After downtown York City’s recent resurgence, debate moderator Mike Summers asked the candidates which neighborhood should be targeted next for improvement, drawing clear lines between the three candidates.
Bracey proclaimed “downtown is open for business for everyone” and said the whole of York City, not just downtown, is “thriving.”
Though acknowledging the level of improvement in downtown York City, Helfrich said he does not feel those redevelopment projects are benefiting neighborhoods across the city, calling for more widespread revitalization.
Moser answered Summers’ question directly, telling the 100-plus Rotary Club of York members that the mayor and city government should “get out of the way” and let the free market determine where redevelopment happens.
As a member of the Libertarian Party, Moser said the idea of the “government picking winners and losers” is “morally, ethically unpalatable.”
“We should not be directing what blocks come up and when,” Moser said. “We shouldn’t direct what blocks stay down and how long.”
Bracey, Helfrich and Moser will face off for the York City mayor’s office in the Tuesday, Nov. 7, municipal election.
Bracey is running as the Democratic nominee. Helfrich, a Democrat, will appear on the ballot as the Republican nominee after securing the party’s nomination via write-in votes during the May primary. Moser will be listed on the ballot as the Libertarian candidate.