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Archive for Monday, July 10, 2000

GOP county candidates stress growth

July 10, 2000

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Listen for the door knocks. It's election time again.

The two Republican candidates for the 2nd District Douglas County Commission seat both say they'll be going door-to-door trying to best one another as Aug. 1 primary voter favorites.



THURSDAY FORUM

Voters can meet and listen to the candidates at a Thursday public forum sponsored by The Douglas County Property Owners Assn.The forum starts at 7 p.m. in Building 21 at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds.

"Everywhere I go, I'm constantly talking to people," said Vinland resident and candidate Scott Mock, who was canvassing Baldwin this weekend.

Either Mock or county resident Bob Johnson are squaring off for the privilege of facing Democrat Dan Gregg on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.

Voters then will decide who shall replace retiring Commission Chairman Tom Taul, who vacates his seat at the end of his four-year term.

"I hope to be able to bring about a little more sense of common ground and discussion, sharing and compromising," if elected, Johnson said.

Mock said he wants to listen. "I will have an open mind and listen to what people have to say," he said. "I really don't think it's my goals I want to achieve, but what the public needs."

Their backgrounds

Mock, who's owned Chubby's Welding and Machine for 16 years, said he has met many people, especially farmers, through his work. He said rural residents needed representation in government.

"The reason I got into government is so people like myself do have a voice," he said.

Mock said he is particularly interested in protecting home-based businesses and agrees with the planning commission's proposal for a three-tiered system.

"We need to have our own system. We're not like other counties," he said. "We need to do what works for us."

Johnson, a Kentucky native taking his first crack at politics, is touting his involvement in various civic organizations during the past 32 years. He has served eight years on the Lawrence Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees, four years on a community task force for USD 497 and other boards.

"I feel some sense of duty to do what I can to be sure the county is a good place for my children and grandchildren to live," he said. "There's not a single issue prompting me to be a commissioner so I can deal with that issue," he said. "I will listen to all issues."

Johnson on growth

Land use in Douglas County has been a hot topic for several years.

New subdivisions in cities and rural areas are popping up all over the county. Baldwin, Eudora and Lawrence are growing by leaps and bounds.

But with new development comes the additional costs of new electric lines, new streets and new traffic lights.

Planning is key as the county's population reaches 100,000, the candidates say.

"Growth is a good problem," Johnson said, but it should be managed.

Johnson, who attended a Smart Growth Conference earlier this year in Lawrence, said he believes in watching where business or residential growth occurs.

"We should be identifying today how we want things to be in the next 25 years," he said.

Johnson said county staff needs to plan for growth.

"The question now isn't how we're going to grow, but how will we manage our growth?" he said.

Mock on growth

A lifelong county resident, Mock said he remembers Wakarusa Drive as the "drag strip" before it was paved. He has seen Baldwin become a haven for families escaping big city life.

He said the county isn't about to stop growing. More people probably will sell large tracts of land to developers, he added.

"You can make more money selling than you could farming in the next 10 to 15 years," he said. "It's becoming too expensive to farm."

Growth has its pluses and minuses, he said.

"In a way it's great because it increases our tax base and puts less of a burden on people already here," Mock said. "But then, it increases the burden on police, schools and roads."

To prevent growth problems, Mock said county and city officials need to work together to plan for the future. He said he supports the Horizon 2020 plan but that it should be reviewed annually.

"We need to make sure everything goes together smoothly, so we don't wake up someday and realize we don't have enough classrooms or enough roads," he said.

Challenges ahead

Many issues are at the forefront of this race -- growth, government consolidation and county budget among them. The two Republican candidates have differing views about what's important.

Johnson said he is concerned about managing growth, reducing the mill levy, paying for public services and solving transportation problems.

"I don't know how you can solve one without solving the other," he said. " But, I don't see those problems as unmanageable because we can manage our growth."

Mock said he wants to keep property taxes under control and watch county spending. He said he wondered if commissioners could bargain a little to reduce costs on some projects, such as road construction bids.

Commissioners "really need to keep a close eye on every dime they spend to make the county a great place to live," he said.

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