EDITORIAL: York mayor aligns with protesters

Dispatch Editorial Board
Protesters march through the streets of York yelling "no justice, no peace. Prosecute the police," one week after George Floyd died after being restrained by a Minnesota police officer, Monday, June 1, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Thumbs up to York City Mayor Micheal Helfrich for showing some real guts and standing with his constituents at his own political peril.

Days after Americans watched the footage of Minneapolis police officer's knee drain the life from George Floyd, Helfrich spoke up in a way that's rare from a city mayor.

All citizens, Helfirch said May 27, should record any encounter with police.

It was a remarkable statement from a sitting mayor. 

Helfrich's words are sure to inflame tensions with the White Rose Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents the city's cops. 

Police unions are incredibly powerful political forces in their own right. Just ask New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who immediately walked into a struggle with his city's police union when he took office.

Judging from de Blasio's rhetoric and actions since the standoff, the union won.

But Helfrich's words served several purposes. They happen to be true. But they also expressed an extraordinary level of solidarity with protesters that likely defused a smoldering powder keg.

By and large, York City's protests have been with few incidents and even fewer arrests. 

There's an argument that Helfrich's leadership played a leading role. 

Thumbs up to West York Area school board for reversing an earlier decision that flew in the face of fact and the very tenants of education. 

In a unanimous vote, the board approved "Rubenstein: The Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography, 13th edition" for its advanced placement human geography class.

The vote saved the class from the trash heap.

But the real significance was in the vote itself. Weeks earlier, West York's conservative bloc shot down the textbook because it taught about climate change.

It was tantamount to a post-modern book burning. 

Board member Lynn Kohler, who led the revolt against the textbook, went so far as to call it left-wing "indoctrination."

But, as John Adams said, facts are stubborn things. And, at least this time, the facts prevailed over political bias and scientific ignorance.

Thumbs up to York County elections department and its chief Steve Ulrich.

By all accounts, Tuesday's primary election — largely a one-party event, mind you — went well in York County

There weren't hour-long waits. Machines didn't chew ballots. People weren't disenfranchised by a broken system cooked up by elected officials looking to save a buck.

All were features of this past November's municipal election.

But Tuesday's test run for the upcoming presidential election in November was an important waypoint for York County elections officials. The turnout will be substantially larger because Republicans will have candidates on the ballot, and Democrats will be voting to oust President Donald Trump. 

It was also a necessary test for York County election director Ulrich, whose appointment caused significant consternation among the county's political leaders. Ulrich, mind you, had no experience in running elections.

But with a mass effort, Ulrich's department looks to have pulled it off. And it it did so while a national pandemic drove historic levels of mail-in ballots.