In order to provide Great Bend voters with information to help guide their voting in November, the Great Bend Tribune and the Great Bend chapter of the League of Women Voters sponsored a candidates forum Tuesday night at the Crest Theater. The forum was organized according to the rules set down by the National League of Women Voters. The Tribune provided a live feed on the Great Bend Tribune Facebook page.
LWV President Rebecca Dudrey opened the forum, providing some background about the League of Women Voters. She explained that the forum would take place according to League rules, so it would not be interactive, and the audience would not be given an opportunity to ask questions.
She urged people to register and exercise their right to vote, and reminded them that while election day is Tuesday, Nov. 7, early voting begins today, Wednesday, Oct. 18.
Dudrey introduced Rose Kelly as the moderator of the forum. She said candidates for the Barton Community College Board of Trustees, running unopposed, would be available during the intermission to meet and visit with the audience. Then, sticking to a strict timeline, she introduced mayoral candidates Brock McPherson, Allene Owen and Joe Andrasek. Each was provided exactly one minute and 30 seconds to provide their opening remarks.
Each candidate was asked to draw their first of two questions from a fishbowl. They would have one and a half minutes to respond.
Owen was chosen to draw first. Her first question was, “Are you comfortable representing people living outside the city limits in the three-mile extra-territorial zone, although they’re not allowed to vote for representation on the city council?”
“Partly yes and partly no,” she replied, noting that there are aspects of government the city covers in relation to these residents of the three mile zone, and some that the city does not.
Andrasek drew second. He was 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?”
His answer was short. “The answer is no, it’s not ethical, it’s as simple as that,” he said.
McPherson’s first question was, “Should the city implement a policy so that all employees have a neutral avenue for filing grievances?”
He said he is in favor of implementing a human resources policy that applies to all departments of the city, providing that neutral avenue for employees to file grievances. “It’s on my change list,” he said. “We need to get one written and we need to get one implemented.”
The second round of questions began, with Andrasek opting to answer the question previously drawn by Owen in the first round. He indicated he felt it was unfair for residents of the three mile extra-territorial zone not to be allowed to vote for representation on the council.
“I honestly feel that it is not fair,” he said. “They have to go by our city rules on zoning, so they should be able to vote.”
He added that he would like to see this as a future ballot issue, and the residents of the three-mile zone should be allowed to vote on it.
For his second question, Kelly asked McPherson to explain the Kansas Open Meetings act as it applies to office of mayor.
McPherson responded that state statutes determine what a mayor can and can’t do.
“The mayor is not entitled to vote except for passage of an ordinance, he said. He added that he felt there were some general misunderstandings about the offices of mayor and city council. He explained that neither position is paid.
“We are all volunteers,” he said.
For her second question, Owen opted to respond to McPherson’s second question, and corrected McPherson, adding that the mayor also votes to break a tie. She also explained the job of the mayor is to guide the city in the direction the constituents want it to go in, especially in terms of economic development.
“The mayor needs to be an active participant in moving the city forward,” she added.
Each candidate was then provided a short period for closing remarks. Owen used the opportunity to share her idea for quarterly meetings to include citizens and representatives from each city department to increase transparency and let constituents know what is being done with their tax dollars.
Andrasek described himself as hand’s on, and willing to jump in and work if elected. He would like to streamline city council meetings, and continue to encourage constituents to stay involved in city government, he said.
McPherson said he is running because he wants to see change in Great Bend and put the city first. He will make decisions that make a positive impact on the community, he said, and make the city a place where people want to raise their families.
Kelly thanked the candidates and called for those running for USD 428 Board of Education seats to make their way to the stage.
A report on the questions and answers of these candidates appear in Thursday’s Tribune.