OP-ED: Seeking honest, transparent York City government

Da’Vaughn White
York City
Blanda Nace, a Republican candidate for York County commissioner, dropped out of the race to become York City's new chief opportunity development officer.

My name is Da’Vaughn White, a concerned York City resident. 

As deeply concerned city residents, many watched via social media and attended City Council meetings months ago regarding the administration’s ill-fated plan to outsource its economic and community development functions to the York County Economic Alliance. Over 40 people of color — many city residents and many neighbors who we know by name — opposed this insensitive abdication.

Thankfully, this “plan” was dropped, we naively thought, for good.

Along the way, two black professionals in the city Community and Economic Development Department were let go.

But then, as the department seemed to have been bled dry, ta-da, in mid-April, the current administration advertised for an economic and community director position responsible for, among other things, leading the redevelopment authority, working with the business community and forging public-private partnerships.

More:Blanda Nace drops out of the race for York County commissioner

More:York City contracts Nace to plug economic development hole

More:Minorities' concerns scuttle York City plan to outsource economic development

More:York City economic development: Fixing a 'broken system'

Abracadabra! A month later, without city council approval, a longtime employee of the county alliance — and one already hired as a city consultant without timely public announcement of the consulting arrangement — is hired to fulfill the same functions advertised for in the director position.

But the new position — paying over $86,000 per year, even though it covers the same functions of a director serving as executive director of the authority — has a clever, some might say distracting, label: chief opportunity development officer.

Such a title, because it is not a director, attempts to shield this official from an official city council vote. Sneaky at best, but feels slimy to us.

We all know that If it looks like a duck, if it flaps like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. This is the biggest, loudest and highest paid duck we have ever seen in York.

The chief opportunity development officer is the new economic and community development director. Cosmetic words, lipstick and mascara cannot erase reality or fool citizens who care. We are not stupid, and we will remember.

We love this city and all of our people, and we believe in the dreams of our future more than the lies and shackles of our tragic past. There comes a time when conscience compels good people to speak up to protect our democracy, legal norms and our under-served people. Now is such a time.

Cynical games like these that lack transparency will only make an “us”-versus-“them” York regarding race, culture and human relations worse. At such a critical time in York County, we believe these devious practices — left unchecked and unaltered— will set our city back for years.

Politics is the art of the possible, and the best of shared possibilities happens when leaders listen to their bosses — our citizens. And when we work in good faith with each other. A stubborn, my-way-or-the-highway approach shows contempt for our neighbors and alienates our people who are rarely heard, and often disrespected.

Worse yet, this imperial approach furthers distrust, disdain, resentment and despair festering for 50 years, since at least 1968 and 1969. We have come so far and learned so many lessons since then for this administration to be dismissive, play word games and treat us like rubes.

We are better than this and these overtly political two-step dances around the truth and the will of the people. We deserve a city government that represents our values of honesty, honor and transparency, and that looks like and serves all citizens it is charged to serve.

Additionally, York City residents are always told “not enough minorities are applying for positions in the city,” which is not true. I applied for many positions in the city and most recently the “business administrator.” I am a well-qualified young man with a master's degree and a significant amount of experience.

I am not saying we deserve a job because of our credentials nor because we are residents. What I am saying is that is that we deserve a fighting chance. A prime example is that I received an email saying that I was a “semi-finalist” in the selection process, but the twist is that I never was invited for an interview. Never.