Joe Cox pledges to continue to be an outspoken representative of western York County residents if re-elected to the District 3 seat on the County Council.
“I’m going to be doing the same thing I do,” said Cox, a Republican whose blunt approach has resulted in heated debates with other council members during his three non-consecutive terms. “If you’re not able to take pressure, you won’t be able to do the job.”
Cox, 50, said he often finds himself the lone critic on issues such as the county’s lawsuit against the Culture and Heritage Foundation, which has cost taxpayers more than $200,000 in legal fees. He opposed the lawsuit, which the county filed after the foundation said it would no longer give financial support solely to the county’s public museums and the two sides sparred over control of property donated for a new museum.
“If you don’t have a backbone on County Council, then you should not be there,” he said, adding that he’s often taken what’s been considered the unfavorable position on several occasions, but that ultimately he was proven right. His time on the council, he said, has made him a more “realistic” politician.
Like his opponent in Tuesday’s GOP primary, Robert Winkler – a financial adviser from York who is running on an economic development platform – Cox says the county needs to improve infrastructure – including road and bridge maintenance – in rural areas.
But unlike Winkler, who is pitching himself as a candidate willing to broker deals on the council, Cox has emphasized his ability to disagree as one of his top assets and as a way to stay true to his district.
“I’m always trying to move us forward,” Cox said. “District 3 has been fighting an uphill battle since Day One – we’re always left out.”
Cox has spoken against what he calls inequity in how the county distributes hospitality tax money and has pushed the council to slash funding for the Rock Hill/York County Convention and Visitors Bureau. He also believes the unincorporated areas of the county often get overshadowed by Rock Hill.
While Cox said he favors consolidating county staff and reducing spending, he has learned that tax increases are necessary as the county population grows. The County Council raised property taxes last year, and a larger increase is on the table as the council debates the county’s 2014-15 budget.
Cox has adamantly opposed large capital projects, such as building on the eastern end of the county a law enforcement facility similar to Moss Justice Center in York. The county doesn’t have enough money to both build and hire people to work in such “big ticket items,” he said.
He does support spending money to update existing facilities, such as renovations at the historic courthouse in York – a project that has been fraught with delays and now faces an unknown budget shortfall, county officials have said.
“I knew the courthouse was going to be a nightmare,” Cox said of how long the work has taken. The project began in 2008 and asbestos abatement was recently completed.
While Cox has fervently opposed spending money on some programs, such as York County Access, which provides subsidized transportation to elderly residents or those without personal vehicles, he has remained the lone council supporter of others, such as York County Forever, which uses county money to buy land and land rights as a way to preserve open land.
“Will he stand up against a whole group?” Cox asked of Winkler. “That’s when I say my experience should overwhelm what I have in the primary and in November.”
The winner of Tuesday’s GOP primary will face Steve Love, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary, in the Nov. 4 general election.
Jie Jenny Zou • 803-329-4062