Jim Jesse says he's ready to meet the growing challenges in county government.
Lawrence attorney Jim Jesse believes taxpayers would benefit from having someone with his professional expertise sitting in the 2nd District chair on the Douglas County Commission.
Jesse, who is 31 and the Democratic candidate in that race, says the business of a county commissioner no longer is limited to paying the bills and inspecting roads and bridges. The size of the tax base and the complex nature of the issues facing county government present increasingly complex choices for elected officials.
``I think the county commission in coming years is going to be asked to make decisions about things they've never been asked about before,'' he said.
Jesse believes county officials will be confronted with such issues as the environment, social service needs, corrections and juvenile crime. The county commission also will have to choose carefully how it will spend money for public and social services.
``The county's growing and the demand for services is growing. I'm sure each of the county's departments also would like more money,'' he said.
Jesse believes that outside agencies and internal departments both should be asked to do a better job of justifying where they spend their tax money. Although Jesse will be willing to hear requests to add outside agencies to the list of funding recipients, agencies that already receive county subsidies will have to persuade him to continue those allocations.
Jesse said he'll use a simple test in making these decisions: ``If we give you $1 of taxpayer money, will you do more than $1 of benefit?''
Economic development and job creation are among Jesse's primary objectives. In that vein, Jesse said he would be willing to consider restoring the county's $50,000 annual contribution for a Kansas Innovation Center facility and to continue the $72,000 annual subsidy for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce's economic development office.
Without an active economic development program, Jesse fears the community's economic base will fail to grow.
``If you want to see how important it is, all you need to do is to look at other communities like Atchison and Ottawa,'' he said.
Jesse, who represents property tax protester Don Cashatt in litigation against the county, said he is not seeking office to reform the county appraiser's office. However, Jesse would be willing to revisit the current county policies on tax appraisals.
``I have no intention of micromanaging the appraiser's office, but when you see inequities in the system or they're brought to your attention, then I think a county commissioner has an obligation to correct that,'' he said.
Before opening his own legal practice, Jesse was an attorney for the State Board of Tax Appeals.
On the South Lawrence Trafficway alignment question, Jesse said he generally supports the 38th Street route but reaffirmed his willingness to explore alternatives south of the Wakarusa River.
If elected, Jesse said he will favor land-use planning that doesn't encourage dense rural development.
``My philosophy is we need to keep the growth in urban areas and keep the rural areas more pastoral,'' he said. ``If you have subdivisions in the county, doesn't it undermine the whole reason for living there?''