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West York Borough Council votes to censure racist mayor

West York Council on Monday night unanimously approved a motion to censure its top elected official, embattled Mayor Charles Wasko, who last week made national and international news for having posted racist posts on Facebook, some of them targeting President Obama and his family.

“We will send a message to the mayor that his legislative body rebukes him in every way,” said council president Shawn Mauck.

“He has embarrassed all of us. Not just this table but everyone in this room. Everyone in West York. Everyone in York County, everyone in this Commonwealth.”

Bryan Wilson, a member of the West York Borough Council, arrives to Monday night’s meeting with a poster that conveyed the overwhelming sentiment expressed by borough residents during the borough council meeting. 

The council also approved a motion to give the borough solicitor authority to explore every legal means to remove Wasko from office, including impeachment.

“We are on to you,” Mauck said. “We ask you now to do right thing and resign tomorrow..whatever is going to take.”

The council measures came as an impassioned council meeting on Monday night reconvened after a short break.

A community that has largely expressed outrage since last week poured out emotional appeal after emotional appeal as to why Wasko must be removed from office.

Members of the West York community packed into borough hall to take the floor for a few minutes and express compelling arguments as to why Wasko did not represent their community.

In a swift succession, one after the other, – from NAACP officials, to residents old and young and residents from neighboring communities – some of them their voices choking back tears, speaker after speaker   invoked human rights, democracy and a common humanity to denounce what they said was the hate rhetoric spread by Wasko on social media.

“He is not just distasteful, he is dangerous,” said Carla Christopher, a member of Put People First, York County. “He is dangerous to Hispanics, he is dangerous to African Americans. He is dangerous to women, to our Muslim friends and neighbors, …he is dangerous to the economic stability and future of this borough.”

More than 100 people packed into the meeting, which was moved to the basement of the hall in advance of what has become a national – and even international – news.

News of the racist posts penned by Wasko on Facebook spread beyond this small working-class borough last week, spilling across social media and into some of the largest news media outlets in the country and the world.

Wasko’s posts included some stunningly racist posts, including one targeting President Obama and his family. One of his posts featured a noose with a caption suggestion it was for Obama.

Wasko, who was elected in 2013 in an uncontested race, has largely avoided the media and public appearances. He was not in attendance at the meeting, although prior to the meeting, some of the members of the council indicated that he might show up.

Elijah Cross, a York City resident, said he has spent a lifetime facing racism.

“I can’t believe I have to stand here and do it again,” he said.

Like many speakers, Cross appealed to the pack room to use their power of vote to ensure that racists officials were not elected to office.

“This mayor has his position now because of the lack of voters that came out when it was time to elect him,” Cross said. “Let this be a reminder to you the next time anybody tries to say that one vote doesn’t make a difference.”

Without naming names, a number of speakers invoked what they called the hateful rhetoric that has colored the presidential election.

Ophelia Chambers, the head of the York NAACP, said Wasko was able to post the racist material because he had “been given the opportunity, the permission to be as bold as he can.”

She said a candidate for president had given Americans the permission to say “obnoxious” things.

“I  feel safer knowing who is thinking that way,” she said.

Mauck said the borough’s population continues to increasingly diversify and currently has about a 25 percent minority makeup.

“He must and should represent all constituents,” he said. “He must be held accountable.

Erec Smith, chairman of the YWCA’s Racial and Social Justice Committee, rebuffed suggestions made by some residents that Wasko’s personal opinions would not influence his decisions as a public official.

“That is naive,” Smith said. “Even if he tried…we are better off with someone who doesn’t have those thoughts.”

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