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Archive for Tuesday, October 29, 1996

WORSTER LOOKS AHEAD FOR COUNTY PLANNING

October 29, 1996

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Bev Worster believes Douglas County needs to plan for its future.

In her quest to be 3rd District Douglas County commissioner, Democrat Bev Worster is promoting the long-range approach to decision-making.

``One of the main thrusts of my campaign is that we should think about the future and plan for it,'' she said.

Worster, 52, believes the taxpayer would benefit from that philosophy because a multiyear plan would give the county a way to stabilize the mill levy and prevent taxes from outstripping increases in income.

``The city and schools have a five-year capital budget. The county does everything on an annual basis,'' she said.

Worster, who is on leave from her job teaching English at Lawrence High School, has attended nearly all of the county commission meetings since her campaign began this summer. Sitting in those meetings, Worster said she has seen commissioners miss opportunities to take a hard look at expenditures.

``Small requests for social services often are closely scrutinized and not fully funded, but requests from outside engineers and consultants are not scrutinized. The commissioners, at least in the public part of the meeting, do not ask questions,'' she said.

Although Worster does not believe the county should shrink from its responsibilities to provide for the most vulnerable members of society, she believes that objective can be met in a fiscally conservative way.

``I'm really pretty tight,'' she said. ``I grew up in a large family where there was never quite enough money, so I learned how to manage it.''

If elected, Worster said she would subject requests for funding increases to this test: Is it cost-effective and does it save money down the line? Does it reduce harm to people and their property? Does it enhance quality of life? Does it contribute to health and safety?

For Worster, who is a former president of the Douglas County Preservation Alliance, the South Lawrence Trafficway alignment question is a hot-button issue. Worster said she is not opposed to the project; only to the way it has been handled.

``I think we definitely need to finish the trafficway, but we need to explore other alignments as alternatives,'' she said. ``Certainly south of the (Wakarusa) river is one of them, but I am very sensitive to the anxiety of the people who live south of the river.''

Worster also is an advocate for economic development that creates clean industry and good-paying jobs, and expands the tax base. Programs like the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce's economic development office ask for a public investment, but Worster says the opportunity for a return on that investment can't be ignored.

However, Worster said economic development should include preservation of the qualities that make the county a desirable place to live.

``Environmental protection and historic preservation are the building blocks, not the stumbling blocks, of economic development,'' she said.

Worster, who was raised on a farm in Wilson County and came to Kansas University on a scholarship provided by her local farmer's cooperative, said she also wants to see the agricultural character of rural Douglas County maintained. Funding may be available through the 1996 Farm Bill to protect rural areas from urban sprawl.

``I want agriculture to continue as a viable, healthy part of the Douglas County economy,'' she said. ``I think we should provide incentives to farmers to keep their best soils in agriculture, not sprouting houses and subdivisions.''

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