PBS39 and WLVR host debate: Allentown mayoral candidates on Latino issues

Written by on May 7, 2021

PBS39 and WLVR host debate: Allentown mayoral candidates on Latino issues

By Tyler Pratt

May 7, 2021

The forum was moderated by PBS39 host and 91.3 WLVR correspondent Genesis Ortega, who addressed questions that pertain to the Lehigh Valley Latino community with candidates: Mayor Ray O’Connell, Ce-Ce Gerlach, Julio Guridy, Tim Ramos and Matt Tuerk.

PBS39 and WLVR’s  Allentown mayoral debate May 6 was focused on Latino affairs and revealed the candidates’ strong opinions about policing in Pennsylvania’s third-largest city. 

Listen to the story.

The five participants were asked what changes could inspire more Black and Latino confidence in the police. Most said they supported more officer training programs. 

Democrat Matthew Tuerk highlighted efforts the department has already made. 

“They’ve invested in more mental health professionals in the police department, they’ve invested in de-escalation,” Tuerk says.

But candidates were also asked if they supported defunding the department which would mean pulling money from its more than $40 million budget for other social programs.

Tuerk, Republican candidate Tim Ramos, and current mayor  Democrat Ray O’Connell were all in agreement: no.

“We also put public safety number one. When somebody picks up a phone and they are in trouble or they are in danger, or something is happening in their neighborhood they call 911 and we dispatch a police officer,” O’Connell says. 

Democrat Ce-Ce Gurlach stood alone, saying she thinks it’s time to reimagine public safety.  

“We must focus on the actual structural systemic issues that lead to crime that lead to gun violence we can not continue to expect our police officers to do everything, to be social workers, to be crisis workers, to be mental health workers,” Gerlach says. 

Democrat Julio Guridy proposed a hybrid idea: Funding both community programs and police, using millions coming into the city from the American Rescue Plan

The primary election on May 18 will decide which Democrat will face Ramos on the Allentown mayoral ballot in November. 

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