In this issue of Perspective, we are publishing the wishes of Lancaster County folks who are active in the community. The LNP Editorial Board has some wishes of its own.
Some of our wishes are perennial: for elected officials to follow state Right-to-Know and open meetings laws. For state lawmakers to consider trimming the bloated Pennsylvania General Assembly.
And some of our wishes for 2020 are the same ones we had for 2019.
— For state lawmakers to broker some relief for senior citizens being crushed by the weight of property taxes. And for the full implementation of the bipartisan fair funding formula for all school districts. School districts such as Conestoga Valley and Lancaster are being seriously underfunded.
— We hope for continued momentum in battling the opioid crisis. Too many individuals, too many families, continue to suffer because of the scourge of addiction.
— Once again, we hope county and municipal officials pay serious attention to the need for more housing, including low- and moderate-income housing. As we wrote last year, “This isn’t just an issue for the City of Lancaster. It’s a crucial need for the health of the entire county.” And it’s essential to Lancaster County’s economy. Companies won’t want to come here if there’s nowhere for their employees to live.
— We also tender a wish again for the state Legislature to agree to reform the redistricting process via an independent citizens commission that would diminish partisan gerrymandering.
— And we want to see national and state leaders act with urgency to counteract human-made climate change. Our children and grandchildren are expecting us to meet this challenge.
And now, to some other wishes.
— We hope parents heed the medical knowledge of their children’s doctors and get their kids vaccinated. The safety of their kids, and of other parents’ kids, depends on immunization. Vaccines are safe. Rejecting vaccination is not.
— We hope common sense eventually prevails and Congress passes gun regulations that the vast majority of Americans — and gun owners — favor.
Congress should start with the narrowly focused background check legislation authored by Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from the conservative state of West Virginia.
As Toomey states on his website, “Much like Pennsylvania law, it would require background checks for all commercial sales, including sales at gun shows or over the internet that are not currently subject to background checks.”
As Toomey alluded, Pennsylvania law already requires background checks on all handgun sales; the Toomey-Manchin legislation would extend those checks to internet and gun show sales of long guns, closing the existing loophole.
Congress needs to pass this legislation.
— We hope Congressman Lloyd Smucker heeds the folks at Church World Service in Lancaster and lends his support to the Guaranteed Refugee Admission Ceiling Enhancement Act, or the GRACE Act, “which would set an annual mandatory minimum of 95,000 refugees welcomed to the United States.”
The Trump administration has capped the number of refugees the United States will accept in 2020 at just 18,000. For a nation of our size and relative affluence, this represents a shameful abrogation of responsibility to be, as President Ronald Reagan said, a “shining city on a hill” to those seeking refuge from persecution, violence and extreme deprivation.
The cap on refugees also spells trouble for our economy.
As an op-ed co-authored by Lancaster Chamber President and CEO Tom Baldrige in September 2018 pointed out, “Without legal immigration and refugee resettlement, Pennsylvania would have had a net loss in population in every year since 2012. ... (At) a time when our unemployment rate is at historic lows and the need for employees is at historic highs, the immigrant and refugee population is an absolutely essential piece of our ability to continue to grow the local economy.”
— This wish is not just for LNP, as it may seem to be on its surface, but for Lancaster County. We hope to see an increase in the number of subscriptions to LNP | LancasterOnline.
As LNP staff writer Jeff Hawkes wrote in June, “Studies have found evidence that communities without strong local news coverage have weaker voter turnout and civic participation. In places where newspapers close or reduce publishing to less than four days a week, municipal borrowing and rates increase significantly. In counties where a newspaper closed, local governments increased their payroll and the average tax bill rose $85.”
Hawkes quoted Earl Wilkinson, the head of the Dallas-based International News Media Association, who asked: “Can we credibly say that ‘We the People’ can exercise our will without access to facts, without access to news, without access to institutions that constantly hold truth to power?”
The answer is, of course, no. Newspapers play an essential watchdog role, holding elected officials to account for the way they conduct the people’s business.
LNP marked its 225th year in 2019. It is blessed to serve a community that values a newspaper that offers strong local coverage. But we need your support to survive long into the future.
— And finally (and we’re guessing you saw this one coming), we hope that this presidential election year somehow unfolds without the expected ugliness and rancor.
The recent impeachment of President Donald Trump, we know, has ratcheted up the political temperature. But we need to find ways to talk to one another without resorting to insults and attacks.
We need everyone to participate in our democracy by registering to vote — and then by casting ballots. We need Congress to support Pennsylvania and other states in their efforts to beef up election security.
And we need to heed the lesson offered by Republican state Sen. Ryan Aument, of Mount Joy, at Democracy Day, an event held by LNP | LancasterOnline in November for high school students. The theme of the day was civil discourse.
Aument concluded his presentation with a video of the late Robert F. Kennedy, speaking before an Indianapolis crowd hours after the devastating assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968: “What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another.”
It is our greatest wish for 2020 that in this presidential election year, in this great country of ours, we all do our part to meet this need.
Happy New Year!