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York City Council Q&A: Candidates discuss poverty


Five Democrats — two incumbents and three newcomers — will appear on the party's May 19 ballot for York City Council. Three four-year terms are up for grabs. Among the candidates are two incumbents, Council President Carol Hill-Evans and Councilman Michael Helfrich. Vying for a first term on the council are Amy Chamberlin, Carla Christopher and Sandie Walker.

Chamberlin is the operations manager at Mefro Wheels US Services. Christopher is the city's former poet laureate and a creative writing teacher at William Penn Senior High School. Walker currently serves on the York City School District school board.

Each week, The York Dispatch will ask the candidates to respond to a question about issues facing York.

This week's question: York City is an increasingly diverse city with a significant population of people living in poverty. How will you advocate for the poor and the disenfranchised?

Chamberlin: During my years working in the nonprofit sector, especially in organizations addressing human and social service needs, I have had many opportunities to connect with members of our diverse communities, learn about their struggles and frustrations, and find ways to help them overcome obstacles toward a better life for themselves and their families. I have been an English as a Second Language instructor for almost 20 years, and firmly believe that access to adult education is essential to help members of our community learn basic literacy and English language skills that allow them to become active, productive members of our community.

Programs that support job training and placement, parent education and support and affordable housing are essential to address the needs of our residents who struggle to afford basics like food, clothing and shelter. I have written numerous grants to secure funds to support such programs and will advocate for the city to apply for and secure funding that will provide more resources to our established nonprofit partners so they can continue to offer programs to help our neighbors get out of poverty, and build a brighter future for their families.

Christopher: As your city council representative, I will advocate for sound economic development by fostering strategic public-private partnerships that promote education and the development of competitive skills in our students and in our transitional workforce. This is particularly true for industrial businesses and manufacturers, who are often faced with development pressures and a shifting economy.

Through targeted retraining programs, industrial zoning, creating partnerships between buyers and suppliers, and through efforts to bring businesses together and promote small business, we as a city can ensure that these "Made in York" companies are proud to call York home and succeed. It is essential to the overall viability of our city that we discover methods to promote good-paying jobs, safe and stable housing and accessible governmental resources that will enable Yorkers to compete in the 21st Century.

Helfrich: Poverty is at the core of the top three problems affecting York City: crime, taxes and effectiveness of our school system. Much crime comes from individuals who believe they have no opportunities and feel disenfranchised. Crime leads to wanting more police, which requires paying higher taxes. Poverty and disenfranchisement cause our children to be unfocused or unmotivated in school. We can't buy our way out with higher taxes. We can build community, and I continue to advocate for the following. The City must do more to support nonprofits and churches that provide activities and mentoring for kids, and life-skills and job training for our young adults. We can reduce the cost of using our facilities and use neighborhood centers and schools for skills training, enabling residents to build their job skills. We must reduce taxes to encourage new companies and small businesses to locate in York, providing higher-paying jobs.

I recently visited the Lancaster Spanish American Civic Association's extensive education and job-training facilities. Support from their mayor helped develop that. Finally, we must adhere to Article 136, the Small and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program. This helps local small businesses by giving some preference when bidding on York City contracts.

Hill-Evans: As council persons we are expected to pass legislation that improves the lives of our constituents and to pass a budget that makes living in our municipality affordable, livable and enjoyable. Sometimes through approving legislation that comes before us, we get to do just that. Most times, the legislation we approve/disapprove does little to address those who have needs that are greater than anything we could ever create or enforce.

What we can do and what I have continually done is to be a resource out in the community for those who may not know what the resources are or where to find them. For example, by attending community events, handing out fliers informing residents where they can get free health care provisions, I'm advocating for those who are in need. It's called community engagement and it's what we can and should do as elected officials in general and what can be done as council to help our citizens who are both disenfranchised and financially challenged.

Walker: As a child growing up in York City, my family was poor according to our economic status. What we financially lacked my parents balanced out through education, morals and social responsibility for our community. Those values were instilled in me and have shaped me into the woman I am today. My record from working with our youth to volunteering with our needy, poor and homeless citizens speaks for itself.

As your city councilwoman, I will advocate on an even broader level to improve education through an existing relationship with the School District of the City of York. I will also advocate for fair representation when it comes to economic development in the City of York.