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EDITORIAL: A conflict of interest in North York

The Dispatch Editorial Board
North York Borough Council President Richard Shank, Tuesday, October 13, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Thumbs down to North York Borough Council President Richard Shank, who this week refused to relinquish his grip on the borough's forensic audit of Liberty Fire Co.

Let's just put it straight: Shank's conflict of interest here is brazen.

The audit has already resulted in the felony embezzlement charges against former fire Chief Steve Miller. And for months, borough council members have griped about the barrier Shank erected between them and the auditor, and Shank's unwillingness to make the probe public.

What's clear is that Shank is trying to manage the audit in a way that — for one reason or another — permits him an ability to dictate what comes out.

Things got worse Monday night.

That's when Shank admitted that he and Miller are close friends, all while rebuffing calls that he step away from acting as the council's sole liaison to the auditor.

We can't know Shank's true motives, here, because he's single-handedly quashed any effort to loop in the taxpayers about the scale of the issues at Liberty Fire.

But what's clear is that Shank is personally involved in the matter. And, as such, his refusal to cede control continues to taint the entire sordid affair. 

Thumbs down to the U.S. Supreme Court for supporting the Trump administration's half-baked reasoning for shutting down the U.S. Census early.

It's obvious that President Donald Trump is looking to hamstring minority communities in the "blue states" he so despises. But, throughout the court challenges, the president's lawyers claimed their move was based on an arbitrary deadline.

The Supreme Court rolled over for his administration, while accepting the administration's pretext. It's as if the justices were eager to get duped. Their deference to executive power is downright shocking.

With plans for the count hampered by the pandemic, the Census Bureau in April had proposed extending the deadline for finishing the count from the end of July to the end of October, AP reports.

The administration, however, argued that counting needed to end immediately so the U.S. Census Bureau would have time to compile and compute its data by Dec. 31, a deadline set by Congress.

The bureau had proposed moving the apportionment deadline to next April, and a proposal to extend the apportionment deadline passed the Democratic-controlled House. The Republican-controlled Senate, however, didn’t take up the request.

Thursday's end to the U.S. Census — about two weeks early — will do real damage to communities such as York City.

It will mean fewer federal dollars. It will undercut representation in Congress. It will further imbalance a system of representative government that's already failing under the weight of unabashed anti-majoritarianism.

York City officials already had said the pandemic had hampered their census outreach efforts.

"The miscount due to COVID and the shortsighted judgment of the federal government and Supreme Court will hurt every city resident,” Mayor Michael Helfrich said. “A complete and fair count is absolutely necessary to understand how funds from the federal government can be properly disbursed.”

Thumbs up to York County, which, appears to be holding COVID-19 at bay, while the virus is on the rise throughout the state.

York County's infection rates were among the worst in the state a month ago. Now, its average daily tally of new infections is down 23% since this past month.

And that's while dozens of counties throughout Pennsylvania are experiencing significant growth in the rate of new infections.

COVID-19 remains a public health crisis that's killed thousands of Pennsylvanians. At least for now, York County's outbreak is not among the state's worst. 

 City of York Medical Director Dr. Matt Howie speaks at the York County Administrative Center in York City, Friday, Sept. 4, 2020. The recent uptick in positive COVID-19 testing, specifically at York County Prison, was addressed. Dawn J. Sagert photo