Wilkes-Barre City Council District C ~ Q & A
May 3, 2015 at 3:49pm
Beth Gilbert (Dem)Student
Education Double majoring in Political Science and International Studies with minors in Women's Studies and Policy Studies at Wilkes University. Graduating in May 2016.
Experience Wilkes-Barre Junior City Council (Two years), United Nations Intern in New York City (Summer 2016), Park Supervisor for Wilkes-Barre City (Two years), Research Assistant at Wilkes University.
Family Father - Damian Gilbert, Mother - Susan Eustice Gilbert, Two older sisters
What is the top issue of residents in your district? How would you address these concerns?
The top issues for residents in District C are blighted properties and crime, lack of representation, and the overall state of their neighborhoods. According to empirical data, blighted properties and crime go hand in hand. If we crack down on blighted properties by introducing legislation to do such and enforcing it, we will undoubtedly see a decline in the crime rate. To address the issue of lack of representation and communication, I will always be accessible to the residents of my district. I encourage all residents to reach out to me with any concerns they may have through social media, calling me, seeing me while I walk the streets, or at one of the town hall meetings I will hold. I will always work in the best interests of the residents of District C. This ties in to the overall state of our neighborhoods. Residents feel that their neighborhoods are underrepresented and forgotten by elected officials. I will represent and fight for each part of the District that I represent.
How would you work with other council members to address issues in all districts?
Working directly and continually communicating with other council members around the city is the only way to ensure that council is able to work as a whole. In my district, I will hold town hall meetings and I encourage other council members to do the same. After each town hall meeting is held, all of council should meet together and discuss what residents brought to the table. This way, council can set a legislative agenda based directly off of what the residents expect from their officials. This will also address issues in each district because we are hearing responses from residents all over the city, not just in one section.
Do you think any areas outside of the downtown need redevelopment and revitalization?
What would be your approach to accomplish those efforts?
I think our entire city needs redevelopment and revitalization. I would like to build upon the progress we have made downtown. We need a strong economy in the epicenter of our city. It is essential for growth. We have certainly made progress on the downtown, but there is still work to accomplish. I would like to see more corner shops and mom and pop businesses throughout the neighborhoods. In order to accomplish this task, we need to make the area more attractive to people to move and settle here. If someone wants to open a business or establish residence, elected officials must make legislative changes to ensure that businesses will not go under and that our neighborhoods are not dilapidated and are safe.
Questions from Wilkes-Barre/Luzerne County Election Coverage 2015
Beth Gilbert forWilkes-Barre City Council – WB City Council District C
1. Please provide some examples of actions that are beyond thescope of a council person.
Actions that are beyond the scope include any administrativeactions that must be followed through by the executive branch rather than thelegislative branch of city government. For example, creating the city budget isbeyond the scope of a councilperson, but council does vote to approve thebudget.
2. Please provide some examples of actions that are withinthe scope of a councilperson.
City Council is responsible for passing ordinances,transacting city business as required by the City Charter, the Commonwealth,and the Federal Government, and the laws of the City. There are, however,responsibilities of a councilperson that extend beyond that of legislativeaction. City Council is there to represent the interests of the residents ofWilkes-Barre. City Council members are elected representatives. With that beingsaid, a grassroots approach to governing is certainly within the scope of acouncilperson. Organizing community events, such as cleanups, having an open communication with residents, and listening to the residents in regards to whatactions they would like council to take is not only within the scope of a councilperson, but absolutely necessary to maintain a positive relationship and role in local government.
3. How do/will you stay informed about City/County issuesand make decisions?
I stay informed on city and council issues by regularlyattending city council meetings, staying up to date on county council, readingthe local newspapers, and meeting with other individuals who have a mutualvested interest in our city. As councilwoman, I will make decisions on behalfof the residents of Wilkes-Barre by regularly communicating with residents tostay up to date with what their main concerns are, communicating withprofessionals in their specific field regarding legislation, and basing my decisions as an elected official on the residents’ interests.
4. What do you perceive as the three most important concernsfacing Wilkes-Barre? If elected to this position how could you take action?What is your timeline?
The top issues for residents in District C are blightedproperties and crime, lack of representation, and the overall state of their neighborhoods. According to empirical data, blighted properties and crime go hand in hand. If we crack down on blighted properties by introducing legislation to do such and enforcing it, we will undoubtedly see a decline in the crime rate. To address the issue of lack of representation and communication, I will always be accessible to the residents of my district. I encourage all residents to reach out to me with any concerns they may have through social media, calling me, seeing me while I walk the streets, or at one of the town hall meetings I will hold. I will always work in the best interestsof the residents of District C. This ties in to the overall state of our neighborhoods. Residents feel that their neighborhoods are under represented and forgotten by elected officials. I will represent and fight for each part of the District that I represent. These actions require immediate attention and can allbe either fully accomplished or significantly improved by the end of my first four-year term.
5. What issues do you feel need to be addressed in your first six months?
Crime and blighted properties need to be addressed immediately. I know there have been attempts to rid the city of our blighted property issue, but they have not been strong enough. I would like to see a stronger attempt to eliminate blighted properties and hold irresponsible absentee landlords accountable. Crime cannot be put on the back burner of the legislative agenda. Council can deter crime by working with our police force to enact specific regulations that will make Wilkes-Barre a safe place to live.
6. Have you thought about any legislation you are interested in seeing the Council enact, repeal or revise? If so, what is it? What would you propose? Why? What is the timeline?
One piece of legislation that I would be interested in bringing to discussion while on council is the Local Economic RevitalizationTax Assistance law (LERTA). This plan encourages renovation and new construction in cities by offering tax breaks to businesses that renovate their properties. A major deterrent to improving the deteriorating business property has been that improvements result in higher property value and therefore,result in higher local property taxes. The higher taxes often discourage business property owners from making improvement in blighted areas. Under thePA Constitution, LERTA establishes standards and qualifications by which local taxing authorities may make uniform special tax provisions applicable to ataxpayer for a limited period of time to encourage redevelopment. This can beenacted relatively quickly, and then it is up to business owners to utilize it.By having businesses pay a share of taxes, this will eventually bring some ofthe tax burden off of the residents.
7. Council members are currently elected from 5 Districtsand have to work together for the best interests of all residents. Over theyears dissatisfaction has been expressed with Council members not working as ateam for the City. How would you change that?
Working directly and continually communicating with other council members around the city is the only way to ensure that council is ableto work as a whole. In my district, I will hold town hall meetings and I encourage other council members to do the same. After each town hall meeting is held, all of council should meet together and discuss what residents brought to the table. This way, council can set a legislative agenda based directly off of what the residents expect from their officials. This will also address issues in each district because we are hearing responses from residents all over the city, not just in one section.
8. How will you rebuild the relationship between the Council and the Mayor? How would you deal with conflict?
No matter who our elected mayor is, I will work closely with them and work toward the greater goal of improving Wilkes-Barre. Council and the mayor cannot let any personal animosity effect city business. I will not always agree with the administration, but I will always work towards compromises.
9. What can you do to reduce the corruption and increase transparency? How would this be implemented?
Lack of transparency and professional accountability are huge indicators of corruption. I will always be very transparent with residents and I will hold myself accountable for everything I do while in office.
10. Should City Council have audio or video recording of every noticed regular meeting, special meeting, or hearing open to the public? Could these be aired so every resident could have access?
Absolutely. City Council does currently tape and record their meetings, but they are not live streamed like the County Council meetings. I would certainly be interested in how we could take the steps necessary in making this a reality.
11. If you are an incumbent what specific initiatives/ordinances have you proposed? Please share an overview of yourvoting history and stance on issues during your term.
12. Suppose the City Council faced a proposal that meets all the regulations, yet a large number of citizens appeared before City Council to stop it. How would you decide how to vote?
If the citizens of Wilkes-Barre provided concerns that the proposal would negatively affect them or the city, then I would vote against the legislation. A lot of proposals meet all regulations on paper, but sometimes what sounds good on paper is not the best route to take.
13. Do you have family members employed by the County or City you are running in? Who? What capacity?
No. I do not have any family employed by Luzerne County or Wilkes-Barre City.
14. What is the one thing you want voters to know about you when making their decision.
I work for the residents of Wilkes-Barre, and only for the residents. I am a strong-willed person, and I do not let other’s views sway my own and those who I work for. As councilwoman, I will always vote on behalf ofthe residents of Wilkes-Barre.
15. What is your position on the One strike Ordinance?
I believe the One Strike Ordinance is good in theory, but in practice, it can sometimes fail. This ordinance sometimes punishes good landlords who rent to one bad tenant. I believe the ordinance needs reform so that it only affects the landlords who have a genuinely negative effect on our city.
16. About five years ago, Wilkes-Barre City Council passed an ordinance to clean up vacant properties in the city by having owners register their properties and pay an annual registration fee of $200 per vacant property. But the city hasn't collected any payments and never created a list of vacant properties because the city never enforced the ordinance. Why do youthink this is?
I think the issue was not high on the city’s agenda. I also think a lack of manpower plays a role in the lack of enforcement of this ordinance. If we are going to enforce an ordinance like this, we need to make sure that it is enforced and not simply used as a scare tactic.
17. Do you support outsourcing other services?
I only support outsourcing of our services if it is cheaper,more efficient, if the city does not have enough manpower, and if the city has proved that it cannot effectively and reasonably manage the task at hand.
18. What you think you would do for the City of Wilkes-Barrethat someone else wouldn't?
I will treat my position on Wilkes-Barre City Council as full time job. I will be the voice of the residents, and I will continue to go door to door to speak with residents even after I am elected. I will never stop communication with the residents of Wilkes-Barre.
19. If you are running for more than one position. Why?Which will you take?
I am only seeking the seat for Wilkes-Barre City Council District C because I do not believe it is ethical to seek more than one seat.In my opinion, seeking more than one seat is a sign of an unfocused interest and simply an attempt to seek power.