Building trust, saving neighborhoods and fueling an economy in York
Ride D. Parker II
For decades York County has experienced a core of poverty surrounded by relative wealth. And this core of poverty, due to the racist red line, is disproportionately made up of people of color.
The heart of York County, the City of York, experiences endemic and intergenerational poverty. He also has nowhere to grow. It is fully developed and landlocked over 5.2 square miles, with almost 40% of the value of its property tax exempt. Thus, cycles of poverty and trauma repeat themselves over and over again.
We know that it will take courageous county-wide public and public-private solutions to make the fundamental changes necessary for our city and its children to thrive. We also realize that a strong city means a strong county.
Many organizations and individuals have done a lot of work to move York forward and create a more equitable community. I thank them and sincerely congratulate them for this.
Since returning home to York from serving my country as an Air Force Police Officer, I have worked with the York County Community Foundation and the City of Mayor’s Ecosystem Coordinator of York Michael Helfrich, Erika Sweeny, to work on an inclusive development initiative in the Penn Street neighborhood.
I have worked with the York City Redevelopment Authority and Miss Bobbi’s place (a local nonprofit) to rehabilitate dilapidated homes and provide homeless families with school-aged children the opportunity to keep their children educated without the burden of transition. I’m also working with the York County YMCA to revamp the York Youth Commission, which is focused on sustainable programs that allow “kids to just be kids” amid so much turmoil and trauma in our neighborhoods.
While I have seen the desire and effort on the part of many people to make things better, I am very troubled by the lack of progress on key solutions.
It has been a year since 1,000 citizens from across the county demonstrated peacefully in York Square to advocate for systemic change to tackle racism, injustice and poverty. And I have yet to see the robust implementation of the known solutions.
The best business, political and community leaders have come together under the York Counts banner and have spent years crafting an excellent action plan called ‘The Time is Now’ to tackle systemic racism, inequalities in matters. education and poverty. This action plan has been approved and sponsored by the York County Community Foundation, York College, WellSpan, United Way, Better York and the York County Economic Alliance.
Unfortunately, we have not yet implemented the solutions of this comprehensive action plan, despite the fact that our community has several billion dollars in net investable assets. So, I have to ask myself, have we really answered the call? What are we waiting for?
I sincerely hope that our county business, political and community leaders will come together and implement the solutions listed in their “Time is Now” action plan.
Our children in York are our gold. We need to invest in them and make fundamental changes to eliminate the systemic racism that limits their future. Because these children are our future. We know that there is an almost linear correlation between academic performance and poverty. Therefore, we cannot tackle educational inequalities without addressing this limiting factor of poverty.
The good news is that America is on the brink of its biggest rebuilding effort since the Civil War. I firmly believe that York County can serve as a regional powerhouse. To become a thriving community with widely shared prosperity, we must address the key issues of unequal education, systemic racism, and poverty. These do even more harm than simply limiting the future of the children of the City of York. They prevent our entire country from embracing diversity as a strength and from being competitive in the global economy.
We can no longer neglect these issues. We need to ensure that children of all color and economic status live in a safe, fair and prosperous York County. Ten years from now, I see York County as a regional powerhouse that educates, attracts and retains the best and brightest in the world. Yes, it will take hard work, but it is fair work that needs to be done.
Here are some proven steps we can take:
- Universal Preschool: We know we cannot solve the problems of our beloved city and county without investing in the education and development of children unlucky enough to grow up in poverty. We are aware that comprehensive national and local statistics show that there is an almost linear correlation between poverty and educational achievement. So, we clearly need to fight poverty if we are to fix our uneven education system. One proven method is pre-K universal in our city and across our county. Leaders like the Community Progress Council and elementary educators have known this for years. Finally, let us insist on universal pre-kindergarten and realize it.
- York County Commissioners can keep the promise made 17 years ago by York Counts to establish a County Human Relations Commission to fight discrimination in all its forms. The main objective of this commission would be education and awareness.
- Commissioners can also make another 17-year York Counts pledge to found a county health department to help improve the lives of all citizens.
- For more than 20 years, the City of York has had a well-intentioned but ineffective “Minority and Women-owned Business” ordinance on its books, a largely unfunded and unenforceable mandate. It is time to overhaul this legislation and give it wings. An integral part of this effort should be that our county business, political and community leaders come together to create a specially designed $ 15 million fund to tackle economic inequality, unequal education and systemic racism in the world. York County. With large federal COVID relief funding, billions of net investable assets in our community, and millions of proceeds from the sale of the city’s wastewater treatment plant, the stars are aligned. It’s now. A $ 5 million grant fund for minority and women owned businesses in the city and a separate $ 5 million zero interest loan fund for minority and women owned businesses in the city are expected. be key components of this global $ 15 million fund.
- New neighborhood resource centers. Unfortunately, due to lack of funding, the Salem Square Resource Center – part satellite of the Martin Library and part police substation – is now closed. After all that our nation and our neighborhoods have been through in the past few years, after all the gun violence, after all the talk about helping the most vulnerable, closing this West Princess Center is unacceptable. Not only should it reopen, but every urban census tract with concentrated poverty deserves such a stabilizing gathering place for open learning at night.
- Redline repairs for York’s poorest neighborhoods. Some census tracts in our urban neighborhoods have languished for decades due to outdated and outdated state and federal policies. Redlining was the 20th century federal government practice of not making property loans to neighborhoods of color. This intentional divestment has had a crippling multigenerational impact of low homeownership rates, environmental racism and desperation.
Cities like York need a creative, focused approach like this to mend the breach and right the damage done to historically black neighborhoods. Here is the link of the moderate national movement “Strong Cities” which pleads the cause.
– Ride D. Parker II is a native of York City and a graduate of William Penn Senior High School.