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Archive for Wednesday, October 20, 2004

New ideas, experience touted at forum

October 20, 2004

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Candidates for Douglas County offices either touted their government experience or spoke of the need for change and more efficiency during a candidate forum Tuesday night in the Lawrence Public Library auditorium, 707 Vt.

"Your county government is in pretty darn good shape," 3rd District County Commissioner Jere McElhaney said. "We have increased efficiency and kept taxes down."

McElhaney's challenger, Marguerite Ermeling, emphasized the need for balancing development interests with community interests in dealing with county growth.

"I am the candidate for the community," said Ermeling, a Lawrence veterinarian.

Also participating in the forum were county clerk candidates Marni Penrod and Jamie Shew, and treasurer candidates Cindy Monshizadeh and Paula Gilchrist. The forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Lawrence and Douglas County and Lawrence Voter Education Coalition. At least 60 people attended.

McElhaney said progress during the next four years would hinge on continuing discussions and working with local school boards and city officials.

Ermeling sees transportation, economic growth and rural development as the key issues during the next four years. She said she didn't want rural development to ruin the county's heritage.

Both Ermeling and McElhaney said they believed in following the county's growth guideline, Horizon 2020.

In the races for clerk and treasurer, Penrod and Monshizadeh noted their experience at having worked several years in those offices as deputies.

Penrod said her experience in the clerk's office would help in instituting the federal Help America Vote Act, which calls for sweeping changes in voter registration and voting processes over the next two years. Both Penrod and Shew said they favored having a paper trail for votes with touch-screen voting machines if and when the machines are installed.

Shew was critical of the mistakes and mishaps the county clerk's office has experienced during recent elections, such as announcing the wrong candidate as the unofficial winner the night of one election. He said a top-to-bottom review was needed. Penrod said assessments were regularly made and that steps were taken to see that such mistakes aren't repeated.

Shew promised a more business-like approach to managing the clerk's office.

Gilchrist emphasized the need for better treatment of taxpayers and car tag purchasers at the service windows in the treasurer's office.

"We're very behind," Gilchrist said of the treasurer's services. "I've heard about people who say they bring their National Geographics to read while they wait in line."

Monshizadeh said there was always a need to improve service in the treasurer's office but touted her knowledge in handling duties beyond what the public sees, such as investing money.

Both Monshizadeh and Gilchrist talked of expanding Internet services to the public.

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