03 December 2007

YorkCounts E-Newsletter - December 2007

The YorkCounts E-Newsletter
found on the blog at yorkcounts.org
December 2007

In this issue:

Metro-York recommendations announced

YorkCounts, York County's community-wide quality-of-life coalition, this month presented eight forward-thinking recommendations for improving municipal prosperity and education, with the aim of a better, stronger heart of York County. Known as the Metro-York recommendations, the ideas are the outcome of YorkCounts’ ambitious Metro-York project.

The recommendations can be found in their entirety on the web at yorkcounts.org/metro.

Those related to municipal prosperity are to:

  1. Establish a consolidated Metro-York police department;

  2. Engage in additional meaningful regional planning, ideally incorporating all of the municipalities in the heart of York County;

  3. Reform taxation through a local tax study commission;

  4. Study ideas for modernizing York County’s form of government.
The recommendations related to education are to:

  1. Establish a permanent and well-funded Metro-York Schools Consortium to research, develop and implement new public school models and make all schools in York County truly world-class;

  2. Attack the root problem – a school district can’t succeed when poverty and its related problems are concentrated the way they are in the York City schools – with new academic programming that appeals to parents throughout York County and an education-based incentive for middle-class parents to return to the city with their children;

  3. Invest $3 million per year in each of the next ten years in “intensive care” for at-risk students: intense, targetted programming to at-risk students, as they enter grade school to keep them focused and/or in middle and high school to keep them from thinking that dropping out is an option;

  4. Use the soon-to-be-established Office of Workforce Development as a catalyst to strengthen relationships between employers and the Metro-York workforce.

“These recommendations are the product of a broad-based, citizen-driven community collaboration,” said YorkCounts Board Chair Larry Miller. “Be the first to say, 'Count me in!'”

“Many of these approaches are working in other communities – places similar to York County,” noted Metro-York co-chair Eric Menzer. “One idea, for regional police, already has traction and made the front pages in September. Let’s have as much momentum for the rest of the recommendations. What’s in it for you? Good jobs, good schools, safe neighborhoods – the kind of prosperity that everyone in York County wants.”

YorkCounts launched Metro-York in 2006 to address core concerns in the heart of the county, including a concentration of poverty, rising crime, tax burdens and inequities, a lack of job opportunities and challenges within our schools. Primary obstacles to success were identified as the “small box” divisions between school and governmental entities that make for inflexible systems, so the recommendations urge a breaking down of these divisions, although YorkCounts does not propose merging municipalities or school districts.

Metro-York co-chairs Menzer and Bill Simpson joined Miller and other participants to present the recommendations November 15 during a press conference at the York Jewish Community Center, where they emphasized the importance of thinking beyond borders.

“Our communities have outgrown the borders that supposedly contain them,” Menzer said, noting that the Spring Garden Township-York Township border runs right through the York JCC’s property, but the neighborhoods on each side have common concerns. For people within the Metro-York geography – York City, North York and West York boroughs and Manchester, Spring Garden, Springettsbury, West Manchester and York townships – chances for a better quality of life are interdependent, Menzer said.

Members of the community participated in Metro-York in 2006 and 2007 through three committees. A strong, credible cross-section of elected officials, municipal administrators, business and nonprofit leaders and retired Yorkers took part. These panels listened to testimony and analysis from experts and leaders, then met numerous times to discuss and debate key concerns and formulate proposals. The results were presented to the YorkCounts Board, which adopted the recommendations.

The rollout event represented the first chance for many to see the Metro-York recommendations, but the public at large has weighed in on the underlying issues before, and these concepts appear to enjoy popular support.

Miller, Menzer and Simpson noted the results of a poll of 403 York Countians conducted at the beginning of the Metro-York process by the Marttila Group. According to the survey, 89 percent of the residents of older suburbs, 91 percent of those in newer suburbs, 89 percent of urban dwellers and 89 percent of rural residents said that “smaller communities should work together to create regional police forces.” At least 89 percent of each sub-group also wanted governments to “work together on planning and development issues.”

YorkCounts will be a driving force in advancing these ideas in the coming months and years, Simpson said. “We’ve identified champions for several recommendations. And we want more community input. This is a beginning, not an end, to the process of making York County a better, stronger place to live,” Simpson said.

Metro-York ideas enjoy favorable news exposure

The evening and days following the rollout saw widespread coverage of the Metro-York recommendations. Links to and quotes from news pieces:

  • Members of Metro-York say students could achieve better if school district boundaries are erased, at least for some schools, and if students from different socio-economic groups can intermingle. -- Metro-York has advice -- York Daily Record, 11/16/2007

  • "For thousands of students in failing schools, time is a luxury they don't have," Eric Menzer, co-chairman of Metro-York, said.... "We must no longer let dropping out be acceptable." -- System failure -- York Sunday News, 11/18/2007

Editorial reviews have also been positive. From an enthusiastic piece headlined "Join the Metro-York team" that appeared in the November 18 York Sunday News:

"The folks behind the Metro-York proposal have taken an important step forward... with the release of eight things we can do to break down barriers and begin working together for the overall good of our region.... These are things that can and must be done.... Connect the dots, connect the people. There is hope."

The Daily Record just finished presenting a series of eight follow-up editorials -- one on each Metro-York recommendation:

Full copies of each of these pieces -- and many more, including stories from the Central Penn Business Journal, WITF, WGAL and other outlets -- will be kept at the YorkCounts website. You can find some YorkCounts press coverage from 2007 here -- and the archive will be growing.

Write a letter to the editor supporting Metro-York!

The community is already talking about the Metro-York recommendations. So this is a good time to encourage Metro-York supporters -- and friends and neighbors: express yourselves!

A concise letter to the editor can make a strong case for Metro-York and YorkCounts generally -- or for one or more specific ideas. Write:

Remember that you can find the recommendations in their entirety, as well as some background information, online at yorkcounts.org/metro ...should you need additional information and inspiration.

What makes a good letter to the editor?

Keep it short. Letters are more widely read than op-ed pieces.

Be positive. Ideas endure on their strengths. -- Encourage friends and neighbors. Familiar letter writers are helpful, of course, but new names can help to illustrate broad support.

Avoid inside baseball. Remember that the average reader has still heard very little about the Metro-York recommendations.

Address readers at large, not specific opponents of the ideas. There are more than 416,000 residents of York County. Not all 416,000 will be swayed. The energy and enthusiasm are most productively directed at persuading the many, many, many undecided readers.

For more information, contact Beau at the YorkCounts office: 717/815-6430 or dbougham@ycp.edu.

Loren Kroh takes on key YorkCounts roles

At its November meeting, the YorkCounts Board approved the appointment of Loren Kroh to chair the YorkCounts Community Solutions committee. Community Solutions is an implementing committee, primarily concerned with putting into action and assessing the progress of YorkCounts ideas.

Kroh also has been appointed to the YorkCounts Board itself.

Kroh is the Co-Founder and President of Corvus, LLC, a company committed to improving student success rates at career colleges. Prior to Corvus, he was the President/CEO of Bradley Academy.

Kroh serves as the Chairman of the York County Economic Development Corporation and is a member of the Board of Directors of the York County Community Foundation, Crispus Attucks Community Center, Byrnes Health Education Center, Wm. F. Goodling Advanced Skills Center and York County Alliance for Learning. He previously served as Chairman of the York County Chamber of Commerce.

YorkCounts welcomes Loren Kroh to a committee chairmanship and the board and applauds his commitment to forging a better, stronger York County!