26 January 2010

The truth about YorkCounts

Every now and then, I'll leave a comment on one of the York newspapers' forums. Because it can be challenging to have reasonable discussions on those forums - those of you who read the comments know what I'm talking about - I thought I'd use one exchange to make a point here.

Someone who identified themselves as Truth took exception to my agreement with a York Daily Record editorial supporting regional police services. Here is Truth's full response to my comment:

"Dan, please don't distort the truth. Those of us who were present at the various meetings know full well that the suburban police chiefs did not tell YorkCounts that police services should be provided regionally. That has been a perpetuated misleading statement recited by YorkCounts on countless occasions. What SOME, not all, of the suburban chiefs said was that concept is worth exploring, but the chiefs did not jump on board with your concept. Now, THAT'S the truth. There is no reliable data that suggests that regionalization will reduce crime. None."

Had I chosen to respond again on the forum, here's what I would have said:

It's not me who's distorting the truth. The position of the chiefs at those meetings - and we have the names of participants who spoke on the record - was that fighting crime could be done more effectively with a regional department. It was not about "exploring the concept." One of those suburban chiefs - Darryl Albright from Northeastern Regional - felt strongly enough about it that he asked to sit in on meetings to discuss how to do a study of the issue. That's the truth.

Other critics claimed current collaborations such as the York County Drug Task Force are sufficient. They say West Manchester Township is correct in its critiques of YorkCounts' vision of a regionalized force, that it will end up as a bailout of the city police.

And I say: Nobody knows for sure - not people who prefer their small-town department, not West Manchester Township officials, not YorkCounts - how a regional police department would deliver services compared to the way things work now. But we know from talking with a consultant that regionalizing services has worked elsewhere to the benefit of all involved. Our position is: The chiefs said there's a better way to do it; we want to do a study to see what's possible here; and we'll keep working to make that happen.

Others say the city should pay for its own police. Guess what: Books have been written that show how the resources in cities across the country have been sucked dry by the land-use and transportation policies of the past 60 years - policies established by federal, state and local governments to encourage suburban development. It's not York's fault that the middle class moved to the suburbs in the '50s and '60s. It's not York's fault that downtown merchants followed. It's not York's fault that the majority of people who remain in the city are poor renters. So what does a shrinking tax base, concentrated poverty and increased demand for services add up to? It means you don't have enough money or staff to do what needs to be done. YorkCounts advocates for municipal policies that increase affordable housing throughout the county, smart growth that invests in established communities, and fairer taxing policies that would allow cities to shift away from property taxes.

How do you respond to questions about YorkCounts and its work?

- Dan Fink


Marg said...

York has so many little fiefdoms, be it government in the form of towns, boroughs, townships, municipalities,city and all the corresponding police departments, and those in charge are full of their self importance and not looking at the full picture. I'd love to see school districts merge into a county system, and police departments could merge, too. County government could be consolidated into regional areas that would function more efficiently. But first, the little kings and queens of the governing powers and the police depts would have to behave in a manner that is antithetical.

Bill Swartz said...

It's great to see this post, "The Truth About York Counts". The common sense rational approach to solving the real problems of York County is refreshing. It's also wonderful to see the record being set straight when critics distort the facts.

The conventional wisdom is that York is just stuck. But the fact is that there are real world solutions to the problems we face. It isn't really the municipal divisions, educational challenges, the lack of land use planning with teeth etc. that are the root problem. Those are real challenges but the root problem seems to be fear. Fear of change.

It's natural to fear change but we must overcome this fear if we're to strengthen this already GOOD place to make it the GREAT place it is so poised to become. The wind is at our backs with national and local trends. All we need to do is have the confidence to put up our sails. Let's make this a place we'll be proud for our children to someday call their own, rather than a town full of rationalizations and reasons for inaction. Our children can only benefit from our actions, not our excuses.

Native Americans had a saying: "We don't inherit the land from our grandparents. We borrow it from our grandchildren." It's time for us to put aside our fears, embrace the common sense approaches of York Counts and Metro York and create a community worthy of this multi-generational stewardship. A great watch gets passed down for generations. Let's make a great watch instead of making excuses.

The pushback and inaction are predictable and are mostly due to fear. We cling to the current order of things because it seems safe. We favor the familiar dysfunction to the potential success because it's just easier. The truth is that we might get by on doing nothing now. But it's also true that our kids will someday judge us on our courage, creativity and strength. How will we fare in their eyes? Will we do what's easy or what's right?

Kudos to York Counts for their efforts, their communications and especially on this blog post. Kudos also to all those who are actively supporting York Counts and Metro York. It's time for all of us in York County to put aside the fear of change. Let's embrace common sense and the 21st century.

We are CITIZENS, not guests in this town. So we should not go about this half-heartedly. Let's do it like we mean it. We can do this if we act as a community. Together, we are greater than the sum of our parts. Together, we are one York.