Tonganoxie Mayor candidate questionnaire: Bill Peak
ELECTION RACE: A current council member, Peak is running against incumbent Jason Ward in the mayoral race.
FAMILY: Wife, Kathy
POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Five years on City Council and two years on Planning Commission.
COMMUNITY SERVICE: Board member and program director of Tonganoxie Community Historical Society, chairperson of Retail Commercial Development Committee, Gallagher Park Committee member, Library Foundation member, Government Day volunteer at City Hall.
What made you run for office?
I wanted to help Tonganoxie prosper and retain a sense of community. After witnessing last year’s budget hearing start with a negative $240,000 balance, I am worried about our financial future. I want to enable long-term planning solutions via the budget and recruitment of commercial business to offset major tax increases. I want the best for the community that I chose to live. We have many strategic qualities of location, schools and people that can help move us forward with the help of nonreactive financial policies that retain and grow a balance as deemed by the city financial adviser. I also seek innovative solutions to some basic problems. The cost savings on Washington Street sidewalk by utilizing city personnel is one example.
What qualifications would you bring to this office?
Number one is the ability to ask hard questions and dissect problems as they appear and strategize about potential future situations. My record as verified by council minutes highlights my determination to be fully read and to have asked questions of staff or public before the meetings. Consensus building is derived from the many volunteer organizations I attend in addition to council.
How do you plan to stay in touch with constituents?
By being an on-the-ground mayor that is active in his community and attends social, community and charity functions during the year as I now do. I also believe in better communication between the city, schools, library, Recreation Commission, Chamber of Commerce, EAST, social media groups plus business owners and will work to facilitate dialogue with both work sessions and scheduled input.
What issue are you hearing about most?
The difficulty people have with clarity of ordinances at City Hall and downtown business losses. I have spent hours on behalf of citizens at City Hall to help with questions with some success. In some cases the city has tried to include those affected in the dialogue but in some cases fell short. Renewed emphasis at the top to make any ordinance clear and error free will be implemented by me.
The downtown can be helped by finding its unique status in new and innovative ways. Select shops of which one is coming can fill some of the void but they have to be supported by the community. Way-finding signs and renovation of the old library spot are but two in a long line of improvements that will slowly change downtown. Groups such as EAST and social media have to play a part in turning around the decline. Potential business owners should also be given a packet of protocol by the city to help navigate the rules and regulations and city council members and the mayor should be on hand to welcome them.
What are the three most important issues facing the city and how would you address them?
Budget. It is the philosophy of the budget that troubles me. Yes, some good projects but some at the expense of a million-dollar reserve that is now depleted because growth projections were invalid. We need to use that as a lesson for the future. With our budget constraints we began to be innovative and used city labor to save money. We are at a crux in determining specific needs and how to pay. I advocate more data to determine exact needs and costs. Raising water rates and skimping on maintenance are not long-term solutions. Relying almost exclusively on sales and property tax leaves us vulnerable. We are paying down about $1 million per year in principal and as debt is reduced the budget will gain some flexibility for needed projects.
Economic Development. This ranks equally with the budget. We need to create and implement policies to encourage economic development with the city being a strong player. While the Chamber of Commerce has taken on the goal of business recruitment I have advocated that the city must provide clear and concise information for any business interested in our town. Retaining the business we have by encouraging shop local and promotion through the Leavenworth County Development Corporation with an added emphasis on retail is vital. The Industrial Park needs to produce within the next few years. With the million-dollar extension of utilities I would encourage extensive marketing by the city in addition to LCDC.
3.Public buildings. What buildings do we need and how much will they cost? This is the first question. I applaud the library in their thoughtful plan to ascertain exact needs within a timeline and coordinate that with fundraising. For the city, with input from infrastructure committee and citizenry, the exact needs in space and personnel with long-term growth included must be arrived at before any decision. With the school or library as possible partner this is exact scenario that requires discipline in obtaining the best information. I want and would expect all options of need, finance, location, grants. etc., explored. The council has designated a small portion of budget for a study.