Mayor's Office

Mayor's Statement on Immigration Enforcement

Police in Lancaster and across the country, are burdened with duties that go far beyond the business of basic policing. Our police officers are settling domestic disputes, intervening with mental health issues, and mentoring kids — all while issuing traffic tickets, calming disputes between neighbors, and fighting street crimes.

The safety and well-being of everyone who lives, works in, and visits the City of Lancaster will always be our number-one priority. We cooperate with immigration authorities in cases that involve serious crimes, and we always comply with constitutional detainer requests. What we do NOT do is ask City police officers to enforce federal immigration laws.

Trust between police and the people they serve is absolutely essential to effective law enforcement. Everyone in the City of Lancaster should feel safe stepping forward if they have witnessed a crime or been victimized themselves — and immigration status cannot be allowed to interfere with the cooperation and partnership we need to keep our neighborhoods safe.

This Administration and Lancaster City Police remain committed to protecting innocent, law abiding City residents from abuse, harassment, and harm — regardless of immigration or refugee status. Our focus will remain on serving our community and on building relationships with our residents.

This week’s Executive Order is an unnecessary distraction from that focus.

J. Richard Gray
Mayor

Regarding Dallas & Police-Involved Shootings

The on-going violence and loss of life that our Country has witnessed over the recent past, including the massacre of peace officers in Dallas, serves as a chilling reminder that we have a long way to go in achieving ‘a more perfect union’. Violence that stems from stereotypes based on race or profession diminishes our own humanity and is a threat to the unity and peace to which we aspire. All whose lives are ended by violence have parents, spouses, and children who suffer profound and long-lasting grief and loss.

We condemn violence and the hatred that begets violence. These are times that call for somber reflection. Towards this end, I ask that our faith community dedicate weekend worship services to prayer and reflection; and for those who do not worship formally to, in their own way, meditate on how each of us can act in peace, with respect, and with kindness towards our fellow human beings.

J. Richard Gray
Mayor

Sunshine Week

While the City of Lancaster honors open, inclusive and transparent government every day of the year, this week we are celebrating Sunshine Week! Click here to read Mayor Gray's proclamation. 

Commission to Combat Poverty Hearing

Poverty is an economic and moral issue that threatens social justice and quality of life in Lancaster City and across our nation. Our community has decided to take a stand against this epidemic that is impacting our vulnerable neighbors. The Mayor's Commission to Combat Poverty will engage the community to increase the understanding of local poverty and undergo a problem solving process to make Lancaster City a better place for all.

Join the Mayor's Commission to Combat Poverty at the first public hearing, February 18, 2016 at Reynolds Middle School from 6 to 9 pm to discuss Core Services. The focus of the hearing will be around the following:

- Is healthy food, quality housing, adequate health care, transportation and child care accessible and affordable for working families and single-parent households?

- To what extent does unmet need for these basic essentials contribute to growing Poverty?

www.combatpovertylancaster.org

Mayor’s Report 1/13

I’m pleased to report that, thanks to intervention by Senator Smucker, PennDOT has allowed us to proceed with planned improvements to the streetscape around Central Market and the Heritage Quadrant of Penn Square. A request for proposals to complete these improvements has been issued and project bids are due by January 29th. We expect construction to begin in APRIL and continue through APRIL 2016.     

This $2.2 million project is the third and final phase of our downtown streetscape improvement program, and will include new brick work and granite poetry path in the Heritage Quadrant, new brick pavement with granite sidewalks around Central Market including on North Market Street from King Street to Orange Street, new pavement and sidewalks on West Grant Street from Penn Way to N. Prince Street, new brick pavement on William Henry Place and Penn Way, and new boulevard, in-ground or bollard lighting throughout. Other features will include new traffic signal poles at Queen and King Streets and at Market and Orange Streets, new planters and traffic signal controller at Penn Square (yes the mushroom structure is going away), new brick crosswalks at Penn Square, new curb ramps, audible pedestrian signals, wayfinding signage for Central Market, and site furnishings to include benches, litter and recycling receptacles. Finally, green infrastructure elements in several locations will include a cistern that will provide LEADS with rainwater for the beautiful planters placed in the downtown during the summer months. With completion of this third phase, the City's major corridors in the Central Business District and the Central Market district will have seen streetscape enhancements for the first time in decades.  

A request for bids has also been issued for renovations to the old City Hall, commonly known as the Heritage Center. As you know, plans are underway for the Lancaster Office of Promotion (LOOP) to establish a City Visitor’s Center at this location. We expect that renovations will be completed in time to allow the Visitors Center to be fully operational by spring. 

Beginning this month, the City’s solid waste hauler will begin accepting cardboard and paperboard of any size or quantity for collection at curbside. And last month, the City began the annual permitting process for independent trash and recycling haulers. As a condition of permitting, all vehicles in the City that collect municipal waste or recycling must be inspected by City Police, and provide proof of required insurance. Permitted haulers must also submit customer lists to ensure that multifamily dwellings and businesses have regular collection service. The number of independent haulers in the City has held steady at 14 over the past three years. This permitting process has proven to be an important supplement to our Single Hauler Program that has effectively reduced illegal dumping and litter, and increased recycling citywide.  

We are joining with the City of Bethlehem to host a one-day forum here in Lancaster to discuss the CRIZ Program. Presentations will be given by Lancaster and Bethlehem on how we are implementing the CRIZ Program and our experiences to date. Staff from both cities will discuss some of the issues encountered in working with developers. Discussion about CRIZ requirements and interaction between a City and the Commonwealth will also be discussed. Cities that are eligible to apply for the CRIZ Program beginning in 2016 and other third class cities that may want to find out more about the program have been invited. We expect the Mayors, Economic Development Directors, developers and others from these cities to attend.  The result could be a list of program administrative and legislative changes that could be recommended to the Commonwealth and Governor-elect Tom Wolf’s administration.

J. Richard Gray, mayor

Common Sense Lancaster Legal Defense Fund

We’re here today to announce the launch of the Common Sense Lancaster Legal Defense Fund. This is in response to a lawsuit against the City filed earlier this week by the Virginia-based National Rifle Association. This NRA action is being taken against the City for an Ordinance adopted in 2009 that requires city residents to report a lost or stolen gun within three days of discovering that it’s missing.

I stand here today with our City Council members to tell City taxpayers – and the Pennsylvania General Assembly – why we need this simple, common sense ordinance and why we’re fighting against this attack by the gun lobby.

First, this ordinance in no way undermines or limits the rights of any law-abiding gun owner. The purpose of this ordinance is to take away an alibi for people who buy guns for those who are prohibited from legally owning a firearm. These illicit buys are called “straw purchases.” In a 2013 news report, District Attorney Craig Stedman said “House burglaries in which firearms are stolen and then sold on the street is a large problem.” That same article reports that a Gun Violence Task Force created in 2006 by then-Attorney General Tom Corbett found a clear trend where “A significant number of women, often girlfriends or drug users, purchased guns for men with criminal records.”

Second, continued failure on the part of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to take any meaningful action with respect to illegal guns, forces local elected officials to take action. In 2007, state legislation was introduced that would make it mandatory statewide that lost or stolen guns be reported to police. That law never made it out of committee. Instead, Pennsylvania lawmakers gave the gun lobby the very tool they’re now using to sue cities across the Commonwealth. State law signed by Governor Corbett late last year allows the NRA to sue cities and collect damages if local ordinances such as Lancaster’s are not repealed. When this legislation was first introduced, the Prime Sponsor claimed that the law was needed “to stop little tyrants at the local level from enacting their own gun-control measures.”

I ask, ‘How many funerals must we attend for victims of gun violence involving a stolen gun? How many parents must consoled who’ve lost a child to errant bullets shot from a stolen gun? Where is common sense in this debate?”

We do not take this lawsuit lightly. We recognize the drain this will be on City resources and City taxpayers. At the same time, we believe that standing by this ordinance is the right thing to do. We are responsible for the safety of those City taxpayers – a responsibility we intend to fulfill.

I call on those who believe that common sense must prevail, to support the Common Sense Lancaster Legal Defense Fund. Thank you for your interest. 

J. Richard Gray, mayor 

Message from Mayor Gray: NRA Lawsuit

Yesterday, families of the victims in the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School filed suit against the town of Newton and its school board for failure to protect school children from gun violence.

Today, the Virginia-based NRA filed suit against the City of Lancaster for trying to protect our citizens and visitors from gun violence. We believe it's reasonable -- and compliant with state law -- to require that people report a lost or stolen firearm within three days of discovering that it's missing. This common sense ordinance in no way imposes any type of hardship on any law abiding gun owner, and it’s the right thing to do.

It’s shameful that the gun lobby was able to influence the State legislature to pass a law that allows any national organization with a member in Pennsylvania to impose their agenda on our community. Lancaster has joined Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in challenging this State law on constitutional grounds. We refuse to be bullied into compromising the safety of the people of Lancaster. We believe we will win that lawsuit and we will defend our local ordinance against today's attempt by the NRA to intimidate us with this lawsuit. To the NRA leadership, its lobbyists, and its members, my message is simple: The City of Lancaster will not take away your gun if you own it and use it legally.

The fact that both victims of gun violence and the NRA are suing small, local municipalities is more than ironic. Indeed, this is the natural consequence of State and Federal lawmakers irresponsible pandering to alarmists who use fear to raise funds and recruit members. In both lawsuits, local communities and taxpayers are held accountable for this pandering and must bear the cost of defending reasonable and legal efforts to curb gun violence.

J. Richard Gray, mayor

Be confident that safety is priority in Lancaster

LNP’s Editorial Board has called upon city officials to “restore the public’s confidence in the city’s safety.”

Indeed, instilling confidence in the safety, vitality and livability of the City of Lancaster is my most important responsibility. I accept that responsibility without reservation or equivocation.

As mayor, I will continue to do everything government can do to maintain and enhance Lancaster’s safety and its stature as a premier community in which to live or conduct business.

The murder of Nicole Mathewson was a senseless and vicious act, a loss of immeasurable magnitude, a cause of immense grief, and a reason for lasting prayer. Sadly, neither the city nor the rest of the county is a haven from this type of evil. In recent years, communities from Elizabethtown to Drumore have lost neighbors to heinous killers who have invaded the homes of their victims.

At the same time, there can be no denying or minimizing the sudden and unsettling rise in gun violence in the city. The fact that these incidents have so shaken our community is evidence that gun violence is outside the norm of day-to-day life in Lancaster. Be assured that we do not intend to allow this to become the new norm.

Incidents of violence over the recent past, though unrelated, have been perpetrated by a small group of young people, many of whom have prior criminal records or involvement with illegal possession of firearms. In all of these cases, when victims and witnesses have cooperated with police, arrests have been made, warrants have been issued, or suspects have been identified.

We remain committed to aggressive enforcement of existing gun laws. We will be proactive in locating and seizing illegal firearms prior to their use. When a gun is used or seized during the commission of a crime in this city, we will demand high bail and incarceration if a perpetrator is convicted.

There is no one solution to violence and disorder, and a collective effort is needed to keep any community safe. The City of Lancaster is no exception. Those with information about criminal conduct who fail to cooperate with law enforcement allow violence to continue. Anyone with access to a computer or phone can provide information anonymously.

Don’t wait for a crime to occur, and don’t think that you must tolerate disruption in your neighborhood. Residents often say that they don’t want to bother the police with a phone call to report suspicious or disruptive activity. We want and need people to call 911 anytime they witness suspicious or disruptive activity.

Others claim that police don’t respond to calls on a timely basis. In some instances, this may be the case. Police prioritize calls as they’re received and respond accordingly. Please be patient and rest assured that our police bureau strives to provide the best and most reliable service possible.

We will continue to build relationships between city police and the community they serve. As many residents know, the city is divided into 12 sectors or neighborhoods. A map and contact information for each neighborhood sector is posted on the police website. Sector officers are frequent participants in neighborhood meetings, gatherings and church services. In the coming year, sector officers, fire bureau personnel and housing inspectors will join forces and convene meetings in each neighborhood sector.

Finally, city government does not have the resources, the expertise or the moral authority to replace parents, pastors, teachers and other responsible adults who have daily influence over the decisions and the actions of our youth.

These same youth live in a country with relatively easy access to firearms, and an entertainment industry that trivializes human life and glorifies extreme violence. Movies and video games expose young people to repeated violent scenes in which killings occur without remorse, mourning or meaning. Is it any wonder that misguided young people with guns are further desensitized to the consequences of their actions?

Couple this with the sad and unforgivable reality that many of our neighbors are still experiencing the vestiges of hundreds of years of discrimination, racism and poverty, and many of our young people see limited options for a better future. We ignore these realities at our own peril.

The quality of life in Lancaster does continue to improve. Our collective challenge is to make sure that every member of our community shares in that life.

J. Richard Gray, mayor

Mayor’s Report - January 28, 2014

As you know, at 10:30 AM on Tuesday, January 21st, we issued a snow emergency declaration.  With this, WGAL News, Lancaster Online, and the City's website posted announcements that a snow emergency would go into effect at Noon.  We also sent snow emergency messages on the City's Facebook, Twitter, and email alert systems and on the Police website and Facebook account. 

With the snow emergency declaration, residents were advised to clear vehicles from snow emergency routes and move cars into Parking Authority Garages. 

This is not the first snow emergency declaration issued in the City, but it is the most recent.  The incident provides an opportunity to remind the public of what to expect during a snow emergency, and to review  how snow emergencies are managed.  

1.       First, residents are encouraged to sign up for Facebook, Twitter, and alerts on the City's website.

2.       Second, residents are encouraged to determine whether or not they live on a snow emergency route, and to identify the Parking Authority Garage located closest to their residence.  Note that  garages owned by the Red Rose Transit Authority and by Lancaster Newspapers are not part of the Parking Authority network.

3.       A snow emergency declaration allows crews to plow from curb-to-curb.  This plowing cannot be done if vehicles remain parked along the route. 

4.       When a snow emergency goes into effect, City Police begin going door-to-door along snow emergency routes in an attempt to locate owners of vehicles that remained parked along these routes.  When efforts to locate those residents failed, vehicles are ticketed and towed. 

5.       During last week's emergency, Police started ticketing and going door-to-door at approximately 3 pm.  They continued this effort through the night until midnight. Towing began at approximately 4 pm. 

6.       Ticketing of these vehicles is required by the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code.  Towing is done by a private tow operator under contract with the City.  Last February, after following the required bidding process, the City's towing contract was awarded to Silverback towing. 

7.       An estimated 125 vehicles were towed during last week's snow emergency.  Since that time, we have received complaints from residents related to the service provided by the towing company.  We are reviewing our contract with the company and will take whatever steps we can legally take to address these issues.  

Rick Gray
Mayor

Mayor’s Report - January 14, 2014

I'm pleased to report that agreements have been reached with two of the City's three bargaining units.  Last month, we completed separate contract negotiations with the Lancaster Police Officers Association and with non-uniformed personnel represented by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.  We appreciate the efforts of these bargaining units to negotiate in good faith to arrive at a mutually agreeable contract.   Highlights of these agreements follow.

First, Police union members have ratified a three-year contract that began on January 1st.  Medical savings achieved by being self-insured in 2012 and 2013, provided the City with some flexibility in salary negotiations.  Thus, the Police contract provides for annual salary increases of 3 percent in 2014;  and 2.75 percent in 2015, and again in 2016.  The cost of the 3% increase in 2014 is approximately $300,000 and the average salary for a Police Officer in 2014 will be $71,500.   Additional salary increases of .25% or .5% in 2015 and 2016 may be awarded if certain medical insurance savings are achieved.

The Police Association acknowledged the continued pressure of medical insurance costs and agreed to higher employer contributions for medical benefits.  Police contributions for family medical coverage have increased from zero in 2007 to $520/year in 2009 to $1,344 in 2014.  Police employee contributions to medical insurance coverage will increase to 7 percent of the COBRA equivalent beginning in 2015, and 8 percent of the COBRA equivalent in 2016. 

Finally, police officers hired after January 2015 will be on a different longevity schedule.  This will result in a 40% savings over the current longevity schedule that can add as much as $10,000 to an Officer's base salary each year.  The Police Association also agreed to accept the City's Domestic Partner Benefits Policy. 

As for our non-uniformed employees, AFSCME has ratified a three-year contract that provides the same salary increases as the Police contract.  That is, 3 percent increase in 2014 and 2.75 percent in 2015, and again in 2016. 

As of January 1st, changes will be made in the way employee contributions to medical insurance benefits are calculated for AFSCME employees.   That is to say, employee contributions will no longer be based on salary ranges.  Instead, beginning this year all employees will contribute 5 percent of the cost of medical insurance, or the COBRA equivalent rate.   In 2015 and 2016, this contribution could increase to 6 percent if health care costs increase by more than 6 percent in either year. 

Again, we appreciate the good faith and cooperative spirit that characterized negotiation of these two contracts.  Having these contracts in place for the next three years provides the City with some degree of certainty with respect to labor costs that have such a significant impact on our long-term financial planning.  We look forward to equally productive and cooperative discussions with our Firefighters union when those contract negotiations begin later this year.  

Rick Gray
Mayor

Public Meeting - City's 2014 Annual Action Plan

The Public Meeting will take place at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 15, 2013 in Conference Room #4 at the Southern Market Center, 100 South Queen Street (Vine Street Entrance).

The City’s Annual Action Plan presents the objectives to be achieved and the activities to be undertaken in 2013, using an anticipated total of $1,607,450 in CDBG Program funds for the 2014 Fiscal Year (1/1/14 – 12/31/14) by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through its CDBG Program.

The purpose of the public meeting is to receive public comment on the proposed use of funds prior to the submission of the 2013 Annual Action Plan for official action to City Council at their regular meeting on Tuesday, November 12, 2013.

Click here to view the City’s 2014 Action Plan.

The City will accept citizen comments regarding the Plan for 30 days (October 1 to October 31, 2013). Persons interested in commenting on the proposed plan should write to the Department of Economic Development and Neighborhood Revitalization, Municipal Building, 120 North Duke Street, PO Box 1599, Lancaster, PA 17608-1599 or at kshrom@cityoflancasterpa.com. For additional information regarding the plan, call the Department at (717) 291-4743 (voice) or (717) 291-4761 (TDD) Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

If you are a person who is mobility impaired or if you have other special needs, wishes to attend this public meeting, and requires special accommodations to participate in the meeting, please contact Kari Shrom at (717) 291-4743, or at kshrom@cityoflancasterpa.com to discuss how the City may best meet your needs.

J. Richard Gray
Mayor