A Message from Mayor Gray
Throughout the City, we can see new businesses taking hold. We can see millions of dollars of new investment in housing and infrastructure. And we can see world class cultural attractions and dozens of new restaurants and shops in a bustling, re-energized downtown. Efforts to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods are also beginning to bear fruit. Rental properties are registered and licensed; disruptive tenants and negligent landlords are penalized; civil fines are levied to address property code violations and other nuisance crimes; our single-hauler trash collection program has made City streets cleaner; and a greater commitment to recycling has improved our environment.
Now that we’ve laid the foundation, it is time to move things to the next level. It’s time to move from high hopes to high expectations. Langston Hughes wrote, ““There’s a dream in this land with its back against the wall. To save the dream for one we must save the dream for all.” Over the past four years, we’ve experienced significant success in revitalizing our downtown and improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods. But this is just a start. I want us to build on these accomplishments and work with all of our residents to realize the “dream in the land” we call home.
What is the dream we pursue? To make Lancaster a City with the best quality of life for families; a City that welcomes new businesses and helps them grow; a City that embraces and values diversity; and a City that is ‘green’, clean, and safe.
To make this dream a reality, we must work to sustain and enhance economic development while at the same time ensuring that the quality of life in neighborhoods is not compromised by focusing too narrowly on economic development in the downtown. I challenge every member of City Council, and every resident, to help bring people to the City not only for entertainment and commerce, but to actually live here. Think of the difference it would make if police officers, firefighters, teachers and others would move into our neighborhoods and invest in upgrading the homes that need it most. Recent studies have shown that all benefit when there is true economic integration in a community. This is part of diversity and works for the betterment of us all, especially the young. We continue to need ordinary residents to remain or become an active presence in supporting the initiatives that we’ve begun and that are ongoing in our neighborhoods. The government cannot do it all, but with the help of our residents, we can accomplish much more.
Our work downtown is not yet complete. With the state’s support, Queen Street and Prince Street will finally be repaved this coming year, and we’ll also see streetscape improvements along these two major corridors. Work to improve Central Market will soon begin, our Amtrak station is undergoing renovations, and progress is being made to rehabilitate the long-vacant Press Building.
We also must continue with our commitment to enhance and sustain the arts in Lancaster. Part of what makes our City a vibrant place to live is that we have many opportunities to appreciate art, music and theater. Tourists and residents alike enjoy this important community resource.
Finally, I believe that the public servants employed by City taxpayers are ever mindful of the burden on taxpayers, and are committed to giving the City residents high value in the services we provide. But services cost money. And we cannot keep getting that money from the same sources. We simply cannot continue going back to property owners year after year with higher taxes.
We know that the biggest challenge we face is the very structure and financing of local government in Pennsylvania. This structure threatens us and every other municipality in Pennsylvania. The costly replication of services, the multiplicity of Boards and the over-reliance on property taxes must be addressed. Our cities are the canaries in the coal mine. Those other communities in Pennsylvania that today flourish on development will, earlier than they realize, face the same problem as our cities. Why not address these problems sooner than later? For too long, we have been far too patient, waiting for attention and action from Harrisburg. Every City in Pennsylvania is suffering and many are barely surviving. Still, there is no relief in sight. Harrisburg continues to ignore problems with a municipal financing system that state government itself has created.
Confronting this issue will be my number one priority in the next four years. I will work with any organization, labor union, business leader, or citizen activist to put as much pressure as is needed to convince Harrisburg lawmakers that property owners alone cannot continue to bear the burden of financing City services.
With some tough economic times upon us, and a lot of uncertainty in the world, some people might think this is a pretty good time to hunker down and weather the storm. But I believe that we must continue our commitment to securing our own future. Now is not the time to back down. Now is the time to press forward with the same confidence and trust that has sustained us thus far. Now is the time to dream big, and to pursue those dreams with real action. To this pursuit, I pledge my energy and my attention, and I ask for your support, your ideas, and your good will.
J. Richard Gray
Mayor, City of Lancaster Bernie Burkholder
, Secretary, (717) 291-4701