EDITORIAL: York City admin in disarray
The sheer dysfunction coursing through York City Mayor Michael Helfrich's administration is neither productive nor politically sustainable.
Almost 18 months after taking office, Helfrich is a mayor without an obvious vision or endgame. His is an administration defined by constant staff turnover, frequent end-runs on York City Council and a general aimlessness that serves neither the city's citizenry nor its government.
Chaos — in York City or on Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue — is not a viable governing strategy.
This past week offered two prime examples of the broken government over which Helfrich presides.
First came word that the city blew a key deadline concerning the York Revolution's management of the cash-bleeding York City Ice Arena for the second consecutive year. That means, yet again, the city can't seek another management firm that might save the taxpayer a few bucks.
Helfrich's top aides, including "acting" business administrator Tom Ray, admitted the error.
Hours later, though, the mayor claimed the missed deadline was intentional, part of some nebulous grand strategy providing time for a wholesale study of the arena's management structure.
The most recent extension comes as a York County District Attorney's Office continues investigating alleged employee misconduct at the arena in 2017.
One thing's for certain: A well-oiled machine this administration is not.
Then there's the saga of Blanda Nace. In May, Helfrich appointed Nace to the administration after creating a job tailored for him. And, unsurprisingly, the new gig was created in a way that didn't require City Council confirmation.
Nace's appointment followed the recent resignation of two "acting" directors of the economic development department. Neither of them ever sat for City Council confirmation, a running theme throughout Helfrich's tenure.
It's apparent Helfrich has wanted Nace running the city's business development arm for some time. Last summer, officials attempted to hand over control of the city's economic development office to the York County Economic Alliance, where Nace previously served as director of strategic development.
But the effort died when citizens blasted the proposal, arguing it would only exacerbate an economic system that shoves aside minority communities for the benefit of white-owned businesses and properties.
On paper, Nace may appear an optimal pickup for an administration in need of a win. But Helfrich's surprise at the pushback following Nace's hiring displayed either willful ignorance or a striking lack of political acuity.
So, now, York City Council is rightly asserting its authority and scheduling hearings over Nace's appointment.
Helfrich's Chief of Staff Phillip Given — now also the city's "acting" director of economic and community development — is filling more roles than are humanly possible thanks to the staff turnover.
"Acting" department heads litter City Hall. The ice rink continues hemorrhaging cash. And the actual duties prescribed to Nace's $85,000-a-year job are murky at best.
All the while, York City remains racked by gun violence. Its taxes push would-be homeowners to the suburbs. Its population remains relatively poor and under-educated.
The city has real, deep-seated structural issues that would define the agenda of any fully formed local government.
They're problems that cannot be tackled by an administration in a constant state of disarray.