Editor’s note: On Tuesday, July 24, the Great Bend chapter of the League of Women Voters Candidates Forum was held, and on Wednesday, July 25, the Great Bend Tribune reported on the first half of the forum at which candidates for U.S. House of Representatives candidates Alan LaPolice (D) and Nick Renecker (R) and Barton County Commission District 4 candidates Alicia Straub and Randy Suchy participated. Today, the Tribune looks at how candidates for Great Bend City Council performed.
When Rose Kelly, voter service leader for the Great Bend chapter of the League of Women Voters welcomed back the audience and candidates participating in the forum following the intermission, she spoke of the League’s goals in facilitating dialogue and mutual understanding between constituents and the people who aimed to be their public servants.
She then introduced the seven candidates there that night vying for three seats on the Great Bend City Council: Bradley McCune (W1), Bobby Lee Roller (W1), James Breitenbach (W2), Dana Dawson (W3), Alan Moeder (W!), Jacob Davis (W3), Chad Somers (W2). Jessica Milsap (W1) was not present due to illness, Kelly said.
Each candidate was afforded a moment to tell the audience about themselves and how they hoped to serve should they be elected. (A brief bio of each candidate was included in the forum program, and can be found at http://www.gbtribuneextra.com/miscellaneous/lwv_bg.pdf )
Candidates were each given an opportunity to pull two random questions prepared by League members from a candy dish Kelly offered. They were then given two minutes to respond. A candidate could also opt to answer a previous pulled question instead if they preferred. But, that was not the case Tuesday night.
Questions from the League
Bradley McCune, one of the four Ward 1 candidates, is a Vietnam war-era veteran who worked for Co-Op for 30 years, starting out in the feedmill and working himself up to branch manager before retirement. Later he returned to the workforce as n over the road semi driver, retiring a second time in 2015. His first question was, “do you think any questions need to be addressed regarding the current flood control system? Explain.”
He was not certain, but that the community could bring its concerns to the council. His second question was, “how would you address the lack of sufficient middle income housing in Great Bend?” Talking to those who have a direct impact on the housing would be his first step, he aid, and noted that he felt there is a housing shortage here, and the problem seems to be getting worse.
Jacob Davis is running against Councilman Dana Dawson for a Ward 3 seat. The 32 year-old father of two worked as an firefighter and an Advanced EMT for nine years in Dodge City while living in Great Bend, and is now employed as a bus driver and groundskeeper through USD 428. For his first question, he was asked, “are you pleased with the way the city handles snow removal? Explain.”
He responded that while clean up on the main throughways of the city is good, side streets in residential areas are often left buried when snow comes, and that improvements could be made to better serve those residents.
For his second question, Davis was asked “what do you see as the best way to attract competent and well-qualified employees in all segments of the city’s operations?”
Noting that he has a brother serving locally in law enforcement, he commented on poor benefits currently offered those employees.
“It will cost more to go on KPERS, but it will attract more people,” he said. He pointed to his personal choice to take a position with the school district rather than seek employment in his previous field in Great Bend. He pointed to previous reports that new recruits to law enforcement and the fire department were leaving after they’ve completed training to higher paying markets. The way to start correcting the situation, he said, might be to weed out long-time supervisors know to be hard to work with, and bring in new supervisors.
Alan Moeder is a lifelong resident of Great Bend, GBHS graduate who went on to attend classes at Barton Community College, and long time business owner and member of many civic clubs. When asked, “would you favor a city-wide clean-up plan, where people could have free city removal of items and debris from the curb? Explain,” he replied he is firmly against it. After the city tried it once a few years ago, he said, he concluded that citizens of Great Bend need to take pride in their property and tax payer dollars should not be used to clean up personal property. His second question, “what do you think should be done about continued storm drainage problems in the city,” Moeder noted it was a serious ongoing problem, and while residents don’t want taxes raised to fix the problem, a solution may very will warrant conducting a study to determine the best way forward possible and the costs involved. He would be in favor of putting a solution to a vote in a special election.
Dana Dawson first served Ward 4 as a councilman for 14 years, and is currently representing Ward 3. He was asked, “should the city implement a policy so that all employees have a neutral avenue for filing grievances? Explain.”
“Unfortunately, I have experience with this, and yes it’s needed,” he replied. He cited his involvement with the controversy concerning now resigned Police Chief Clifton Couch and city officials. His second question was “as a council members, would you consider it your duty to be familiar with all materials provided prior to the meeting, including those from outside organizations?” He was emphatic in favor of prior preparation, and noted that he hoped a way could be found to ensure council members received packets earlier than the three to four days in advance common now.
James Breitenbach has lived in Great Bend for the past three years, having moved from Lawrence with family to support family farming operations here. Previously, he worked in Emergency Management, served as a volunteer fireman, and worked as a field engineer in the telecommunications industry. He claimed unfamiliarity with the issue surrounding his first question, “are you comfortable representing people living outside the city limits in the Three-Mile Extraterritorial Zone, although they are not allowed to vote for representation on the city council?” Still, he responded that if those residents wish to be annexed, they should petition and file for annexation and it should be up to voters. When asked, “would you favor placing city employees on the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System to help improve retention of police, fire and other staff? Explain,” he responded that after talking with employees of law enforcement here, he has learned that some would indeed be in favor of being included in the plan, but further meetings would be needed to determine if that was the general consensus before moving forward.
Bobby Lee Roller, a father of a blended family and lifelong area resident and a 2001 Barton Academy graduate. He has been employed as a corrections officer and an oil field worker. He kept his answers to questions brief, responding to his first, “what infrastructure improvements do you consider most vital,” that replacing the city’s water mains has been great, but that potholes on city streets need attention. Then, when asked, “is it ethical for a city council member to receive payment from the city for consulting work, etc., while serving on the city council,” he replied it is a conflict of interest, and if you are on the council, “you should give it all you’ve got.”
Chad Somers and his family have lived in Great Bend for 13 years. He is a K-State graduate, and the co-owner of Golden Belt Cinema 6, a former co-owner of Benefits Management Inc., and is an active investor in various Great Bend economic development and business opportunities. His first question was,” what do you see as the greatest challenge for the city council in the future?” To this, he replied the council needs to come together with economic councils and the Chamber to create a strategy how best to strategically allocate the money from the city’s fixed budget for the future. He was also asked, “are you pleased with the way the city maintains the cemetery? Explain.” He noted that while he hasn’t had many occasions to visit the cemetery, he is pleased, finding the grounds well kept and manicured, and that he likes the recently installed electronic directory that assists visitors in pinpointing the location of grave sites.
Each candidate was then given a minute each in summary before Great Bend League of Women Voters President Rebecca Dudrey once again took the podium, thanked them for their participation, and reminded audience members to share what they’d experienced that evening and remember to vote at the primary election Tuesday, Aug. 7.
The Great Bend Tribune streamed the forum in its entirety on facebook, and two Live videos will remain available at http://www.facebook.com/gbtribune for those unable to attend the forum.
The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan organization dedicated to informing the voting public about national, state, and local issues of importance. The Great Bend chapter has a new website, http://www.lwvgreatbend.org, and is also on facebook.