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Editorial: Mauck walks the talk
The story went national. Former West York Borough Mayor Charlie Wasko’s racist Facebook posts created a community outcry earlier this fall, including calls for his resignation.
Two of the posts compared President Barack Obama and his family to apes, and one suggested Obama should be hanged with a noose. Another post featured a fictional black person saying socialism is "when the white folks work every day so we can get all our governmental entitlement stuff for free.”
Following Wasko’s resignation, former council President Shawn Mauck disavowed Wasko’s racist behavior and had the unanimous support of the council to become the next mayor. He was sworn in Oct. 21.
Already, there are some major changes happening.
In Liz Evans Scolforo’s report on Mauck’s plans for his first 100 days in office, “Mayor’s ambitious plan for beleaguered West York,” Scolforo examines the newly sworn mayor’s challenges “at a time of bitter political divisiveness, both across the nation and in his own borough.”
In response, Mauck is taking a proactive stance, setting up task forces on community blight and decay, public safety, family, economic development, youth and diversity and human rights.
Mauck understands that the racist attitudes of the former mayor weren’t contained to that one person. The mayor’s leadership plus racist attitudes provided a breeding ground for this contemptuous behavior. He understands that to deconstruct a system based on those attitudes, it will take immediate action.
Sean Thomas-Breitfeld, co-director of Building Movement Project, which helps nonprofit organizations build movements for progressive social change, recently wrote about going beyond the topic of diversity to actually removing myriad systemic barriers as they apply to the actual employees of nonprofit organizations.
In a piece for the New Frontiers Independent Sector Conference this week, and in the context of nonprofits and their changing organizations, Thomas-Breitfeld wrote: “... rather than shy away from internal conflicts, we have to embrace tension as an essential part of making progress.”
He sums up his writing by reminding nonprofits that while they often are willing to fight against injustice and inequity in the “wider world,” they can have trouble getting beyond talk — to action — within their own organizations.
We think Mauck’s outreach in West York is a good example of getting beyond talk after a devastating episode in the borough’s history. And while nonprofits are unique, we believe this approach of naming the conflict and embracing tension can work in the public sector.
As does Mauck, it appears.
Mauck has been circulating a “Citizen Satisfaction Survey” among residents. While most information is used for “statistical purposes” to identify trends, there is an option for the mayor's office to investigate by submitting a complaint form.
And, Mauck said, his plans include a “reinvention of the West York police department.”
One of Mauck’s plans is to develop a two-tract junior policing program that re-creates the West York Police Department's squad room. One tract would be for high-school age youths interested in careers in law enforcement, the other tract would be for middle-school-age children and younger "where they can come together and learn about policing" and just get to know the officers.
Mauck said by the time the next Census is done in 2020, the borough's nonwhite population will likely be more than 25 percent.
"We just cannot operate (like it's) 1950s West York," he said.
Other communities would do well to embrace Mauck's enthusiasm for change and aversion to reactionary attitudes.
Wasko’s public meltdown was the manifestation of racist attitudes that remain prevalent — whether they are publicly manifested or roiling just below the surface.
We applaud Mauck for his efforts and hope other York County communities will do the same soul searching.
And if they find that attitudes and systems remain firmly stuck in a more hateful bygone era, we challenge them to take positive steps to embrace the tension — and change it can spur — in return for the promise of progress.