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District 3 council election: Bancroft looks to bring ‘analytic focus’ to city council

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A computer engineer and entomologist by trade, Jay Bancroft is hoping to bring a data-driven approach to city government.

“I can bring analytic focus to the fiscal discipline that is needed to run the city,” he said.

Bancroft, 53, is one of two newcomers running to replace District 3 Councilwoman Jen Wallace, who chose not to seek a third term. He faces Anthony Sinibaldi in the July 28 election. District 3 covers the southwest part of Newark and includes Devon, Binns, Arbour Park, Barksdale Estates, College Park, Newark Preserve, Abbotsford, Twin Lakes and surrounding neighborhoods.

A native of Wilmington, Bancroft earned a degree in computer engineering from the University of Colorado and worked at the Naval Research Lab modeling war games. He later discovered a love for entomology and went back to school, earning a doctorate at the University of Connecticut.

He worked for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and later at a lab in California, before moving to Newark a decade ago to work for the United States Department of Agriculture, which has a lab at the University of Delaware’s farm.

He’s now semi-retired and lives in the Spring Hill neighborhood.

Bancroft said he first started paying attention to Newark politics in 2014, when controversy swirled around the data center and power plant that was proposed for UD’s STAR Campus. He was involved with Newark Residents Against the Power Plant, the grassroots group that helped defeat the proposal.

If elected, he would be the third consecutive District 3 representative that has ties to NRAPP. Both Wallace and her predecessor, Rob Gifford, rose to prominence through their leadership of the group.

Bancroft said the power plant fight taught him the importance of being engaged in the community.

“I think it did show it can work if people come out with interest and show up,” he said.

His involvement with the issue inspired him to seek public office, he said.

“I don’t have any special agenda,” he said. “I just wanted to try to help out.”

Bancroft said that one of his first priorities as a councilman would be to take up the mantle from Wallace on police reform. Wallace recently called for appointing a task force of citizens to study ways to rethink policing in Newark.

During his campaign, Bancroft has called for passing legislation that would ban chokeholds, mandate violence de-escalation training, establish a database for police misconduct, and modify “qualified” immunity provisions that make it more difficult to prosecute police.

However, in an interview, he acknowledged that he’s not aware of any problems with the police in Newark.

“I think the policing in Newark is fine. I’ve never heard of a bad experience. I’m simply going off of the obvious unhappiness of the general public right now with the way police departments are militarized,” adding that he wants to investigate the issue further. “It’s obviously a hot button issue, and I don’t want to jeopardize public safety to make political points or anything like that.”

If elected, one of the first tasks he will have to contend with is next year’s budget, which will be discussed in depth this fall. City officials have said tough decisions are in store as Newark contends with the effects of the pandemic and the economic downturn.

“We need to have a balanced approach and use scientific analysis to make good judgment decisions about how we manage to keep city services going if there’s big deficits that we need to address,” Bancroft said. “It seems like the economy’s come back a little bit. So maybe the revenue won’t be as much of a problem as they’re projecting, but we’ll see.”

He also vowed to “fight indiscriminate paving of open-space or building structures that do not fit the character of the neighborhoods” but noted he’s not yet sure the best way to go about that.

“I don’t presume to know what the best answer is. I’ll only try to see where the pain points are and alleviate them where I can,” he said.

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