The City of Lancaster is comprised of 60,000 residents – 40 percent Latino (largely from Puerto Rico), 17 percent African American, and the remaining non-Latino white. Additionally, Lancaster has the largest per capita population of refugees in the country from places like Burma, Syria, Somalia and the Republic of Congo. Our demographics are surprising to some — we are more than Amish and Mennonite, though the Anabaptist traditions in our community are strong. Twenty-nine percent of the City’s residents are poor – higher than Philadelphia (27%) and Pittsburgh (23%). Three census tracts within in the City – largely comprised of people of color – have poverty rates of more than 40 percent. A repeated theme in neighborhoods affected by high rates of poverty is that they have been forgotten by the City. Subsequently, the first-ever Director of Neighborhood Engagement position was created and filled to work internally and externally to address concerns in our neighborhoods, especially those south of King Street. (King Street serves as a geographic boundary in our City. All of the public housing is largely in the South of the City, which was subjected to “urban renewal” in the 1960’s.)
Despite the economic recession and pernicious rates of poverty, the downtown and other neighborhoods to the north of King Street have rebounded and are thriving. Downtown has seen over $1 billion in investment. Buildings that stood vacant for decades are seeing new life. It is against this backdrop, that Danene Sorace was sworn in as Mayor of the City of Lancaster in January 2018. Poverty and its concomitant issues were resounding themes in the election. Strong neighborhoods remain a signature priority for the new administration along helping residents connect to employment training and jobs that can move them out of poverty and up the economic ladder.
Mayor Sorace is committed to approaching the work in our neighborhoods, and all of City government, through a racial equity lens. More than a bullet point in the strategic plan, there is an understanding that to work through legacy issues of poverty, improve community police interactions, and more, we need to step into the work differently. GARE will help make this so.
Previously, Mayor Sorace served on City Council and chairing the finance committee and serving on the public works, economic development and neighborhood revitalization committees. With more than twenty-years of non-profit and philanthropy experience, she has a proven record of developing and implementing strategies to advance public/private partnerships in the areas of health education and the environment. Mayor Sorace graduated from Juniata High School in 1990 and Albright College in 1994. She was the first in her family to earn a Bachelor’s Degree and went on to receive her Master’s in Public Policy from the Bloustein School at Rutgers University.