Editor’s note: This is the second of three stories about Wednesday’s Candidate Forum, sponsored by the Great Bend League of Women Voters. The third installment will feature candidates for the Great Bend USD 428 school board.
Wayne Henneke is seeking reelection as a Great Bend City Council member representing Ward 2. Also seeking to be elected to that position is Matt Aycock. Both answered questions at the Candidate Forum.
Henneke noted his work experience from 1974 to his retirement in 2012 has been in city government. He’s been on the city council for two years and would like to serve another term.
Aycock said he is a fairly recent transplant to “the great city of Great Bend,” but he and his wife have made it their home. He wants to look at old ordinances on the books and see if the city can do more to attract industry and young professionals.
Henneke was asked, “Do you support the plan of Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State, to move city council elections to the November ballot, to make city council elections partisan and to allow voters to cast a unanimous party ballot without reading the ballot?”
“No, I do not support moving the election to November,” Henneke said. “I don’t see any benefit in declaring you’re a Republican or a Democrat (for city council elections).” As for the unanimous party ballot once proposed by Kobach, he said, “I don’t see how anybody could expect anybody to do that.”
Aycock was asked, “Are you comfortable with representing people living in the 3-mile extra-territorial zoning area when they are not allowed to vote in the city council election?”
“I think the people within this 3-mile zone need to be represented,” Aycock said. Even if they can't vote, “they should have access to city council members.”
Henneke’s second question from the LWV was, “Controversy surrounds the improvements being made to the library. What is your opinion about the improvements and about how the financing of the improvements has been handled?”
“If we were able to do it all over again, the city should have been involved,” Henneke said. The new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at the library costs about $900,000, he said, but the city was able to replace the system at the Great Bend Convention Center for somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000. In the future, he said, he would like to see the city consulted before tackling such improvements. He also praised Great Bend’s public library and its staff.
Aycock’s second question was, “How would you address the lack of sufficient middle-income housing in Great Bend?”
“That is something we need to address,” he said. There aren’t enough homes in that price range, and there are many older homes that need to be updated. He would consider a tax cut to contractors or home owners for making improvements.
Aycock then commented on the other questions. While city elections should not be partisan, he said, “I’m in favor of doing something to improve the turnout.” On the library, he said the city council should have been aware of the situation earlier. “I’ve noticed they tend to be more reactionary than proactive.”
Henneke said the city council has accomplished a great deal. As for the library issue, “I really do think that the city should have been involved.” But, he said, the council sets goals each year, and the current goals include making Great Bend safer and improving housing. “What we say we’re going to do, we do.”
In his summary, Aycock returned to the idea that the city council needs to be doing more. He recalled the man who complained about dogs a year ago. The council had meetings but nothing changed: “I still can’t walk my dog in my neighborhood,” without be charged at by an off-leash dog. And, when the city was looking for a new police chief, someone on the council said – perhaps in jest – that the council hasn’t reviewed the police chief’s job description in 20 years. He said all job descriptions should be reviewed at least every five years.
Henneke responded that when a stricter dog ordinance was requested, the council met with the public and had a committee report done. “We already had a vicious dog ordinance,” Henneke said. It was determined that enforcement, not policy, was the issue. “The council sets goals and policies for the city,” he said. “The council does not micromanage.