Archive for Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Candidates discuss stances at forum

Voters got a chance Tuesday to hear from County Commission candidates one week before the primary elections.

July 30, 2008


Election 2008

In-depth coverage of the candidates and the issues, all leading up to the Aug. 5 primary and the Nov. 4 general election.

Candidate chats

Douglas County Commission, Second District

Douglas County Commission, Third District

In what was voters' first and final opportunity to hear Douglas County Commission candidates' stances on issues before Tuesday's primary elections, the eight candidates didn't stray far from each other on issues ranging from land use to the necessity of townships.

The forum, organized by the Voter Education Coalition, took place at Kansas University's Dole Institute of Politics and drew more than 50 people.

2nd District Democrats Ken Adkinson and Nancy Thellman swapped platforms with Republicans David Brown and Grant Eichhorn. Democrats Ken Grotwiel and Clenece Hills of the 3rd District sparred with Republicans Jim Flory and John Tacha.

Money drew top billing, with most candidates shooting down the idea of raising the mill levy to pay for economic development. Brown and Adkinson both said they would support a raise, "but it has to make sense with a quick turnaround," according to Brown.

Moderator Ann Gardner, the Journal-World's editorial page editor, asked the candidates how they would confront allocation of the county's revenue. Hills, Flory and Tacha said public safety was their number one priority, but Grotwiel said commissioners need to be more creative with budget allocation.

"Public safety is eating our budget alive," he said. While programs like the county's re-entry program should be a top priority, commissioners need to consider how to shave the budgets of city departments and social service agencies, he said.

Eichhorn, who owns a construction company, said funds must be allocated wisely.

"Looking for efficiency, as a business owner, is job one," he said.

Candidates took a stand for the elderly, each identifying transportation as the top issue for retirees. Thellman said the county's services were falling behind the promises made in marketing pitches.

"If we market ourselves (to retirees), we have to provide," she said, citing public health as another weak spot.

All 3rd District candidates said they support the construction of the South Lawrence Trafficway with the 32nd Street alignment. Thellman was the only 2nd District candidate to oppose the idea.

An audience member asked if 3rd District candidates would consider doing away with townships, to which Flory said he was "leery of consolidation. Townships are the closest level of government to the people, and I think they should be preserved."

Tacha and Grotwiel said the issue should be considered to save money, while Hills said townships were "not obsolete."

Tacha promoted a session-long theme of consolidation, suggesting the county, the city of Lawrence and Lawrence Public Schools could combine some services, such as transportation, while service agencies could also work together to cut costs.

Gardner asked the panelists if they support using agricultural land to build industrial and business parks.

"We need to preserve and grow," Flory said, echoing the 3rd District candidates. "The balance comes from studying where expansion least impacts the land."

Second District candidates were more cautious. Brown would support construction if it would bring jobs, he said, but Thellman said agriculture is a tax-effective industry itself.


margaretsunshine 9 years, 4 months ago

There hasn't been very much said about any of the candidates so far. I attended the forum and thought most were very good. John Tacha has my vote. He is the only candidate who has owned a business. We need more people on the commission who can approach the issues from a business standpoint in these tough economic times.

LittleSmith 9 years, 4 months ago

What I don't understand is why the local press keeps saying that the Flory/Tacha race is a win-win...there's HUGE differences between them. You can say GOODBYE to county government for the people if Flory doesn't win.

cato_the_elder 9 years, 4 months ago

Campaign filings indicate that Tacha has outspent Flory 5 to 1, which is quite evident from Tacha's all-out media barrage in recent weeks versus Jim's yard signs and vigorous door-to-door campaigning. This primary race is unusually interesting, as it pits a great deal of the money in the smallest and wealthiest part of Lawrence, much of which backs Tacha, against all other 3rd District registered Republicans in both the City and rural Douglas County, who are expected to vote for Jim Flory.

LittleSmith 9 years, 4 months ago

So you think overseeing four women running his little business for him all these years gives him the kind of business experience needed to run a multi-million dollar government? At least when he was on the school board, they had some limits to what they could spend. Like I said before, without Flory...goodbye to good government for the people.

birdie 9 years, 4 months ago

I agree with margaret sunshine - I would rather have a business person running my county than a career government attorney! Tacha has a long history of serving on local nonprofit boards as well, very known and active in the community. What community volunteer work has Flory done that wasn't associated with his government job? According to a radio program he was on today, he explained that he spent the last decade commuting to Topeka and KC.

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