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Welcome ruling in legal challenge to York’s mayor

York Dispatch editorial board
Six new York City police officers were sworn in Monday afternoon, April 11, 2022, at York City Hall. Bil Bowden photo

As the new officers stand behind, Mayor Michael Helfrich addresses the crowd.

Thumbs up to York County Common Pleas Judge Clyde Vedder’s ruling denying a petition to remove York City Mayor Michael Helfrich from office.

The plaintiffs’ lawsuit argued that Helfrich should be thrown out for the evidently disqualifying offense of not taking the oath of office within a mandated time period. That’s a pretty minor offense on which to overturn the will of the voters.

The City Council miss-served those voters further by refusing to allow the city solicitor to represent Helfrich, requiring the expense of an outside attorney. And the expenses may continue to pile up: The plaintiffs are weighing options for an appeal.

More:Judge denies petition to oust York City Mayor Michael Helfrich

More:Oath of office lawsuit: York City Council won't let solicitor defend mayor in hearing

More:York City Clerk: Council didn't start 'mayor oath fiasco'

Enough with this overwrought non-scandal. Rewrite the city statute to provide exceptions for this minor technicality and let’s move on.

Thumbs down to talk of removing postings of Northeastern York School Board meetings from the internet after only a brief period.

Frankly, one of the few silver linings of the coronavirus pandemic was the increasing prevalence of public meetings being accessible online. That was the motivating factor in Northeastern, where district officials moved to accommodate residents who couldn’t attend meetings in person by live-streaming the sessions, then posting them on YouTube.

More:Northeastern considers removing videos of school board meetings from internet

It’s a welcome public service and one we wish more public boards would emulate.

But now it’s in the crosshairs, thanks to concerns about the automatic closed captioning provided by the video-hosting service. The board treasurer worries that garbled closed captioning could violate the Americans with Disabilities Act by preventing equal access to information for the hearing-impaired. And Board President Michael Redding suggested the district could be open to legal action if someone misunderstands board business.

The solution, said solicitor William Zee: taking down the recordings after meeting minutes are approved.

Respectfully, this seems a tad extreme. Not to come down too hard on the district — they deserve credit for recording and posting the meetings online — but there may be ways to correct a closed-captioning issue short of deleting the meetings.

In fact, a different solution should be sought either way. Since the board plans to leave the livestreams online until the minutes are approved at subsequent meetings, removing them after the fact doesn’t address the concerns — legal and otherwise — about incorrect or misconstrued information.

Again, making the meetings available online is a beneficial and commendable policy. But taking down posts doesn’t solve the problems delineated by the district; it only limits the window for residents to take advantage of the board’s welcome transparency.

Thumbs up to the increasing acceptance of man-made climate change among the Pennsylvania populace. According to the 2022 Pennsylvania Climate and Energy Survey, three-quarters of state residents acknowledge clear evidence of climate change.

That’s the highest percentage ever in the survey, which has been conducted every other year or so since 2007 by the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion & Sustainability Studies Program.

Frankly, the figure should be even higher. Agencies like the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have for years been sounding the alarm on the need to drastically reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere of our increasingly roasting planet. Closer to home, former Auditor General Eugene DePasquale documented how the state’s failure to prepare for the effects of climate change threatens its environment, economy and future.

Unfortunately, as with the 2020 presidential election, political ideology too often trumps reality. While 92% of Democrats and 82% of independents acknowledge the threat of climate change, fewer than half of Republicans join them.

While it’s heartening to see that so many of those surveyed view the effects of climate change as a serious threat, opposition to action among the party that controls the state legislature makes responding to the myriad challenges of climate change at the state level -- including diminished air quality, rampant flooding and agricultural upheaval — a challenge all its own.