Brown Vows To Be A ‘very Public Mayor’ If Elected
WILKES-BARRE — George Brown on Friday vowed to be a “very public mayor” if elected, making himself regularly available to constituents and the news media and working with citizens and his administration to solve the city’s problems.
“That’s something that’s very important to me as mayor — to be available. This is a full-time job for me. … You’ll see me at city hall,” Brown said, noting that unlike the current mayor, he would attend council meetings to hear concerns and answer questions from the public.
Brown, who touts a 38-year career working with large companies utilizing a bachelor’s in human resources management and a master’s in organizational management and serving a term on council, met with members of The Citizens’ Voice Editorial Board to explain his campaign platform and answer questions about his plans for the city.
Brown is challenging incumbent Tony George, a retired city police chief who served one term on council before becoming the city’s chief executive, in the May 21 primary election. George defeated Brown in a four-way Democratic primary in 2015 with 2,095 votes to Brown’s 1,944.
“I’m running for mayor because … I believe there is a lack of competence and leadership in city hall at this time,” Brown said. “With the background, knowledge and skill that I bring, I believe I’m the best candidate to be the next mayor of the City of Wilkes-Barre.”
Brown said his top priorities, based on feedback from residents while campaigning door-to-door, would be implementing initiatives to decrease crime, better address blighted properties and city infrastructure, and improve the city’s economic position.
Brown said the city went from an A- bond rating his final year on council in 2015 to George asking the state for financially distressed status through Act 47 last year — a request Brown believes was unnecessary.
While George has said funding isn’t available to do more to improve infrastructure, Brown said he wants to “evaluate how the city is run with the budget that (George) has proposed” because he doesn’t have “faith in the numbers that are in his budget.”
He said he’d work with administration leadership to “put together … a strategic plan,” search for available grants and begin “working closely with the (community development) director and making sure they have the appropriate skill and knowledge to apply for the grants.”
Brown said he would try to more aggressively collect delinquent recycling fees, and he criticized the city’s efforts to increase participation in the commercial recycling program as a little “too late — it’s reactive instead of proactive.”
Brown said George has appointed unqualified or inexperienced people to some key positions, referring to a former police chief and current economic and community development director.
“You have to appoint people to positions that have the skill, knowledge and ability to do the jobs, not appoint them and hope they gain that knowledge on the job,” he said.
Brown criticized George for postponing the replacement of retired firefighters and for not hiring seven police officers to open positions sooner than he announced he would earlier this month.
Brown couldn’t provide what he felt would be appropriate and affordable numbers of police and fire staffing. If elected, he would “sit down with the police (and fire chiefs and their top staffers to learn) exactly what they feel is the appropriate number to provide our residents with a safe environment.”
Brown also proposed to initiate a “neighborhood strike force” within the police department to address specific problems in targeted neighborhoods as well as “increase the police presence” downtown and in more residential neighborhoods.
Contact the writer:
Visit citizensvoice.com/1.2477770 to read about Mayor Tony George’s interview with members of The Citizens’ Voice Editorial Board, which was published May 3.
More in-depth coverage of the issues in the Wilkes-Barre mayoral race will be published next week.