The new Johnstown City Council plans to move in a bold new direction after the previous council was known to be dysfunctional.
Ricky Britt and Reverend Sylvia King are the first two African-Americans to sit on the Johnstown City Council at the same time. King is also the first African-American woman to sit on the council.
According to the US Census Bureau, 86 percent of Johnstown’s population was white, and 11 percent was Africa- American in 2000. In 2016, the population demographics are estimated to be 77 percent white and 14 percent African-American. Britt said having two African-Americans elected to council shows how much the city is progressing.
“We had a lot of white votes. And thank God for them because they’re trusting us. They’re putting the city in our hands, so we have to do a job for them…we’re not here for Afro-Americans, we’re here for all,” Britt said.
Both are also aware of the city’s issues.
The city has had a structural deficit for the past 10 years – – meaning elected officials in Johnstown balanced the budget by finding “one-time fixes.” The city’s seventh amended recovery plan shows that as operating costs continue to rise — the city isn’t expected to make enough money to cover them — leaving a $1 million gap between revenue and expenditures.
The previous council was also known for fighting during city council meetings. Tribune-Democrat Political Reporter Dave Sutor has covered council meetings for the past five years and said the previous council was doing more harm than good.
“The problems are so serious that your fighting shouldn’t even come into the equation, and it does and it’s impacting everything,” Sutor said.
“Instead of them picking on each other’s personalities, they should be discussing what needs to be done,” resident Gritzer said.
Britt and King said the bickering needs to stop so that things can be accomplished at meetings.
“We need to communicate with one another, show respect with one another and listen to what each other has to say,” King said.
They also said there needs to be more money to combat issues, including blight, unemployment, drugs and crime.
“We gotta find a way to get some money find out where the money available for us at. Gotta take time and find those things. You can’t do nothing without money,” Britt said.
They hope to change the reputation of the city and move it forward.
“At the end of the day, let’s do what’s best for the people,” King said.
“We’re gonna do our best. It’s gonna be a better year,” Britt said.