Lehigh County Controller faces criticism after using word ‘ghetto’ when talking about redistricting
HARRISBURG, Pa. – A local politician was in some hot water Tuesday after remarks he made to the Legislative Redistricting Commission.
Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley used the word “ghetto” when expressing his concerns about packing Allentown and Bethlehem into one district. He says the word is being used out of context, but others, including members of his own party, say it was offensive.
“Nor should you allow a map that allows one district that packs Allentown and Bethlehem into one super district. I hope Senator Costa will hold the line on that. We don’t need a ghetto,” Pinsley said to the commission.
Pinsley admitted that maybe that was poor choice of wording, but says he meant it in the historical context.
“I did use the term ghetto and I used it in a term that other Jews have used it in the past in terms of the Warsaw ghetto,” Pinsley said.
Pinsley says he doesn’t think the two cities are “ghettos” and that he’s worried redistricting Allentown and Bethlehem together will take away resources and money needed for both cities and give an advantage to Republicans in the polls.
“My job is to explain to the people what’s happening because we’re stuck with this for 10 years,” Pinsley said.
But his own party says he went way too far in using that term.
“That’s hurtful and it continues to drive home the narrative that Allentown is something other than it is,” said state Rep. Peter Schweyer.
“When you categorized an entire neighborhood that is predominately Black and brown as a ghetto, you’re making a statement whether you realize it or not,” said state Rep. Mike Schlossberg.
In a statement a number of Democratic politicians representing the Allentown area, including newly elected Mayor Matt Tuerk, wrote “To be clear: words matter. The word ghetto stirs images and feelings which show a complete lack of empathy or dignity. These words are beneath the dignity of an elected official.”
They go on to say they hope the controller will take the opportunity to recognize his error and learn from it