Archive for Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Primary Election 2004 Candidate Q&A

Third District Leavenworth County Commission

July 28, 2004

Editor's note: Following are Q&As with candidates who have opposition in Tuesday's primary election. Candidates are for the Third District Leavenworth County Commission seat.

Third District
Leavenworth County Commission


Dick Brauer
19651 Linwood Road, Linwood
Age: 63
Occupation: Certified real estate appraiser, real estate broker and farmer

What are the top three issues facing Leavenworth County, and how would you address them, if elected?
I believe the most important or "top" issues are those for which the county is directly responsible and which have a meaningful and basic effect on the general welfare of the people. By this criteria the top issue must be:
¢ Proper law enforcement. Other issues don't matter very much without it. Society cannot function well without the presence of trusted and thoroughly professional law enforcement officials. The oversight and administrative responsibilities of the county do a great deal to affect the quality of law enforcement. I will do my best to insure that the county commission works in an effective partnership with law enforcement authorities.
¢ Taxes. Ideally, taxes are the combined contributions, which citizens entrust to their government so that it may supply, contract for or purchase those things that the citizens want or need. Problems sometimes arise when governments confuse the needs and wants of its citizens with its own desires. I will work hard to guard against such confusion.
¢ Roads and bridges. Discussions about roads and bridges, etc., are as common as potholes in the spring. On a daily basis, county road crews are perhaps the most visible manifestation of county government. Unless we are willing to bankrupt ourselves, roads will probably never be perfect. Even so, the resources available must be efficiently applied to make our roads as serviceable and safe as possible. I will work for that outcome.

Do you favor the hiring a county administrator or manager?
Recently, it has been proposed that a county administrator or a county manager be hired to do part of the work that the county commission has been doing. Some years ago, county commission salaries were dramatically increased (including perpetual automatic increases) because it was argued that such increases were necessary to attract competent commissioners. Each of the commissioners now receives a substantially higher salary than the average citizen whom they are elected to serve. If the proposal to hire an administrator or manager is adopted, the salaries of the commissioners should be suitably adjusted to reflect their reduced workload.

What unique qualifications do you have to handle the job of county commissioner?
I'm a little uncomfortable talking about my "unique qualifications." I pretty much trust the voters to decide that for themselves. However, I recall that when I was in college, I was aware of no institution of higher learning that offered a degree in "common sense." Common sense is nothing more than the proper application of knowledge. Learning the facts is always important but it means little unless one can put the facts to work solving problems. To the extent possible, I have always made an effort to develop and exercise good common sense.

Should the existing one-cent county sales tax continue after 2006?
It has been said that "Nothing is so permanent as a temporary tax." If that's true, it shouldn't be. When the citizens of Leavenworth County voted for the one-cent sales tax to be applied to the construction of the Justice Center, they also voted that the tax should expire in 2006. Although there may be some practical arguments for continuing the tax, people should be able to rely on the original promises and assurances of their leaders. I would work to see that promises made to the people are kept.

What role should the county play in expanding the area's tax base?
Expanding the tax base is one way for the county to raise more money or to spread the existing tax burden over more people. Of course there are trade-offs. For example, a large sulpher-spewing, petro-chemical refinery might offer a huge increase to the tax base but the obvious disadvantages of such a facility might serve to remove it from consideration. Sometimes the advantages of an expanded tax base aren't the most important consideration. I would first work to strike a fair and equitable balance among legitimate competing interests. Secondly, I would insist that the people be allowed to vote on any proposal likely to result in major changes to the tax base.

Jon Gallion
15756 Donahoo Rd., Basehor
Age: 57
Occupation: investment adviser-stock broker

What are the top three issues facing Leavenworth County, and how would you address them, if elected?
Southern Leavenworth County is growing rapidly. Improving the infrastructure to accommodate that growth, whether it is housing or new business is of utmost importance. The improvement of roads and the installation of sewer and water are expensive, but necessary to support that growth. We need to encourage business development that will provide additional tax revenue and employment. We should also look into state and federal grants that may be available and explore the possibility of issuing bonds to raise funds that would be repaid from the revenues generated by sewer and water fees rather than raise taxes. We also need to review the maintenance program and long range plan for all roads to ensure we are providing the best service for the people of Leavenworth County.

Do you favor the hiring a county administrator or manager?
I would favor the hiring of someone for this position if the voters approve and she/he could produce enough revenue, through grants or other means, to offset their salary and that of any staff they may require. A county administrator would be responsible for overseeing the administration of all county departments, preparing an annual budget and carrying out all decisions made by the county commissioners.

What unique qualifications do you have to handle the job of county commissioner?
I retired from Sprint Corp. after 30 years in various management and administrative positions. I believe the experience I acquired creating and administering budgets, managing and working with various personalities and coordinating interdepartmental projects will be very beneficial. As building committee chairman for the Basehor United Methodist Church I acquired additional construction and budgeting expertise. During the planning and building process I had the opportunity to work with many county personnel. I also have experience in managing my own personal business.

Should the existing one-cent county sales tax continue after 2006?
I believe we should continue the existing one-cent county sales tax to provide needed revenue. My position would be to give each community an apportionment of the revenues, with the remainder targeted for specific improvements such as roads and other projects to accommodate growth. The sales tax served the county well by paying for the new Justice Center and would continue to benefit all residents by providing revenue for other projects.

What role should the county play in expanding the area's tax base?
The county government needs to do everything it can to encourage the establishment of new businesses as well as the growth of existing businesses. Businesses typically pay higher taxes and provide employment for county residents. More employment translates into additional sales and property tax revenue. The county, through the commissioners, then needs to ensure the tax revenue is spent in the most judicious manner.

Dean Oroke
17395 Chieftain Rd, Tonganoxie
Age: 59
Occupation: construction/farmer

What are the top three issues facing Leavenworth County, and how would you address them, if elected?
¢ Taxes: As property values continue to increase to near double digit figures in the county, we must maintain the line on the mill levy and budget spending. County services must be maintained without imposing a hardship on the "taxpayers," particularly the retired who must live on a fixed income.
¢ Road and bridge: We must do a better job of maintaining our current rock roads and expanding our plan to hard surface those roads that are most traveled. It is critical that the county develop a comprehensive "5-Year Road Plan" to plan for the future. There is federal aid available to support secondary road systems, which I'm certain the county has not fully utilized.
The county must develop a better working relationship with the Kansas Department of Transportation and all the utility entities that serve Leavenworth County.
¢ Development of U.S. 73/K-7 Corridor: The highway development of U.S. 73 & K-7 is very critical to the eastern development of Leavenworth County to support the movement of traffic to and from our county. I will work with local units of government to determine what is best for the residents of Leavenworth County. Having served as campaign chairman of the 24-40 highway expansion when the road system was widened from two to four lanes from Tonganoxie to Wyandotte County, I know the magnitude of the problem. I also worked with state and federal officials on the realignment of U.S. 73 Highway north of Leavenworth and I understand what it takes to make such a project successful.

Do you favor hiring a county administrator or manager?
Yes, I favor the hiring of a county administrator. Our county is becoming large enough that this position is needed and would definitely enhance the performance of our county business. The job must be well defined by the county commission and the financing of this position must be provided for within existing county budget. I feel this position would lend itself for better organization and communication within the county.

What unique qualifications do you have to handle the job of county commissioner?
During my 54 years of residency in Leavenworth County, I have served on many community organizations: from a fireman/policeman, Recreation Commission member and Rural Water District officer; to the Courthouse to the State Capitol. I served as a member of the Kansas Eastern Region Insurance Trust and VP of an eight-county MARC Board. I I own a small business and I know the difficulties involved in running a business. I have always been one to research and learn about the issues and how they interface with government and have not been afraid to become involved. My experience with various levels of government has equipment me with a broad knowledge to utilize within this position. Being able to work with people is critical if we want to truly improve our county government and I believe I can foster that support.

Should the existing one-cent county sales tax continue after 2006?
Yes, I personally favor the continuing of the countywide sales tax. The sales tax is paid by all who purchase goods or merchandise within Leavenworth County and not just county residents. The tax has financed the county judicial building as well as many projects within each individual city. The tax is estimated to generate $5,428,517 in 2004 with the following distribution:

Leavenworth $2,187,512
Leavenworth County $2,336,565
Lansing $527,512
Tonganoxie $191,722
Basehor $151,816
Linwood $18,017
Easton $15,760

If the countywide tax were approved by the voters, I would recommend a good portion of those funds be used for county road improvements and property tax reduction.

What role should the county play in expanding the area's tax base?
The commissioners must personally become involved in recruiting new business and maintaining current businesses with in county. Economic development is an excellent way to increase our tax revenue base. Additionally, I fully support the efforts of the Leavenworth Area Development, Port Authority and the local chambers of commerce, in supporting our current businesses and pursuing new businesses as our county grows. Business creates jobs for the residents and generates revenues to support county services. We have two business parks in the county, one in Leavenworth that is almost full and one in Tonganoxie that has been slow to develop. More work needs to be done to improve economic development to increase the tax base.

Ken Rahjes
314 E. 8th St., Tonganoxie
Age: 38
Occupation: vice president of marketing for Association Resources and Communications, Topeka

What are the top three issues facing Leavenworth County, and how would you address them, if elected?
¢ Growth/economic development: I support the efforts of Leavenworth Area Development and the Leavenworth County Port Authority in addition to the local chambers of commerce in attracting new businesses to and retaining existing businesses in the county. Exploring opportunities in the recently passed Kansas Economic Growth Act, which focuses on research and technology in the life sciences, in addition to encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit are areas that I believe hold real opportunities of bringing new ways of thinking and new ways of creating employment. We must pursue the possibility of turnpike access for Leavenworth County and the opportunities this would bring.
¢ Infrastructure: Roads are a vital and important part of county government. We need to make sure our comprehensive plan is sufficient. This applies not only to roads but to utilities and fundamental services as well. A compromise needs to be reached on any change in road improvement fees, making it equitable for both the landowner and the county.
¢ Quality of life: We all have different reasons why we chose to live in Southern Leavenworth County. We boast great schools, safe neighborhoods and a spirit of community. We must continue to strive for that quality of life that led us here. Growth is good, controlled growth is better. Planning is the key. I want to be your voice in county government.

Do you favor the hiring a county administrator or manager?
I favor the hiring of an administrator. This person would be hired by, work with and be accountable to the commissioners. We owe it to our citizens to have a trained expert to help find cost savings and seek out sources of revenue, in addition to making sure we are getting the best value for each dollar to make Leavenworth County run efficiently and effectively. The result of this fiscally responsible step should ease the tax burden on each of us while allowing us to have the services we require.

What unique qualifications do you have to handle the job of county commissioner?
I have previous experience as a township clerk and school board member. In addition, I am currently serving as treasurer for the Tonganoxie Public Library so I have some experience with the governmental budgeting process. I also have a thorough understanding of the legislative process and have personal relationships with many of the state legislators as well as our national representatives. For us to be successful we need to have as many partners as possible. I will work to create an environment where everyone can and will be heard, and approach each issue with an open mind.

Should the existing one-cent county sales tax continue after 2006?
This issue should be decided by the voters of Leavenworth County. The key is having specific plans as to where and how the money will be used if the tax is extended. That said, we must make sure our taxing structure does not create an undue burden for business and retailers by forcing consumers out of the county to seek lower prices on consumable goods and services. We don't want to tax ourselves out of revenue.

What role should the county play in expanding the area's tax base?
The best way to boost our tax base is by bringing in jobs rather than continuing to expand our tax base on the backs of homeowners. The county has a talented work force and we must learn from other successful counties and communities in their recruiting efforts to bring in companies that are seeking a quality work force, diverse in their abilities. We must not simply rely on higher valuations of personal property and stable mill levies to allow us to maintain our current delivery of services.

Marvin Torneden
22912 Linwood Road, Linwood
Age: 62
Occupation: custodian, Basehor-Linwood Schools

What are the top three issues facing Leavenworth County, and how would you address them, if elected?
Taxes, Roads, Zoning. All three are tied together in some ways.
Taxes affect all age groups after high school age and business to include farming. I would look into all spending of taxes and collections of taxes.
Make sure all properties pay taxes, to spread tax load out. Cut spending if possible without cutting necessary services, with input from voters.
Roads. Look at the needs of local areas or communities and best ways to address roads for each area leaving none out. Taxes affect roads also. Look at possibility of more state or federal help through grants or assistance in the relocation of business and large numbers of people to rural areas by their choice. It should not be financed by present taxpayers.

Do you favor the hiring a county administrator or manager?
I am open on the issue of county administrator or manager if budget will support and voter's desire through petition followed by a vote on issue.
Although I would be against it if it was a way for any county commissioner to get away from responsibility and a way to put blame on someone else or hide behind.

What unique qualifications do you have to handle the job of county commissioner?
I have a general knowledge of county government and have been involved in most issues for over 30 years. I am involved in public service and have been through Reno Fire Department, church and working for "Reno Township on Roads 1972-1973." I have to work with budgets on farm, church and when working with Reno Township.

Should the existing one-cent county sales tax continue after 2006?
People should decide on one-cent sales tax after 2006, by vote. I would look into possibility of help on property taxes, roads and limited income people; (on social security and the like) if left in effect after 2006.

What role should the county play in expanding the area's tax base?
The county should be involved almost 100 percent in expanding the area's tax base "with city government's help."
It should not be through increasing old or present tax bases or loads, to pay, help or reduce new or future tax bases for new development.
It should be looked into to find new ways to help finance services required.

¢ Third District county commission candidate Fauna Dean did not respond to The Mirror's questionnaire.

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