Bethlehem mayoral candidates discuss police reform and affordable housing | Lehigh Valley Regional News
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Two of the three Bethlehem city mayoral candidates were guests at a virtual forum Thursday night.
City Councilor J. William Reynolds and Dana Grubb, a former city administrator, participated in the forum, which was sponsored by POWER (Pennsylvanians Organized to Witness, Empower & Rebuild) Lehigh Valley; Black Progress PAC; and Promise Neighborhoods of Lehigh Valley. Reynolds and Grubb are both Democrats.
Republican candidate for mayor John Kachmar was not present at the forum. Incumbent Robert Donchez, in office since 2014, cannot stand for re-election due to the city’s term limits.
The moderators asked the candidates questions about racism, police reform and affordable housing.
“While I like to think I was color blind, I wasn’t aware of my own privilege,” Grubb said. “I realize the advantages I had as a white male. This root needs to be uprooted in order to create a city that is truly accessible to all.”
“The pandemic has shown how much is broken in our country and our city,” Reynolds said. “A lot of our systems have been down for a long time. The pandemic has exploded and made this obvious to us.”
Grubb said that as mayor he would try to work on some of the inequalities through affordable housing, climate action and attracting community-compatible development.
“There are many different ways of implementing politics as a mayor that I would seek to do,” he said.
“We have to learn to live in the energy of others,” Reynolds said, adding that as a city councilor he has worked to build coalitions for change, including the city. Climate action plan and Northside 2027 neighborhood map.
The moderators also asked about police reform and whether they would support the reallocation of municipal funds to programs dealing with penal reform, drug addiction and education.
“I think opening the lines of communication will pave the way for trust and sanity solutions,” Grubb said. “I think it’s a natural marriage. I think the police need to work closely with these services.”
Grubb added that he would reassess whether police should deal with certain issues such as animal control and step up efforts in other areas of focus such as community policing, de-escalation training and bias training.
Reynolds said he is trying to find ways to hire mental health liaison officers to focus on cultural and operational functions.
Reynolds said that as a city councilor he helped create an affordable housing task force.
“We have to be a city that is an inclusive city that is welcome for everyone,” he said. “If we are to be the type of mid-sized city that people want to live in, we have to make it clear and we have to do whatever we can.” He added, “It doesn’t matter if you’ve been here for 50 years or 50 seconds, you get the same level of service.”
“The optimal ratio is 70% ownership and 30% rental,” said Grubb. “The south side is the opposite of that.”
Grubb said he would review city zoning laws to provide more inclusive housing, as well as first-time homebuyer assistance programs.
“There’s no ideal percentage here with rentals and housing because we’re dealing with people,” Reynolds said.