There are six candidates running for three open seats on the Leavenworth City Commission. The election is Tuesday. The candidates answered these questions from the Leavenworth Times.
1. There are many good things going on in Leavenworth right now, but I am sure there are some things that need improvement. What do you identify as the single greatest problem facing Leavenworth right now, and what would you do about it?
Melick: There are many issues that need looked at, the one thing to remember is what can we do with less but yet make it great. To me the single greatest problem is the infrastructure. Helping downtown grow and yet doing it in small increments. One way is as easy as painting cross walks and paving
Moulden: Federal mandates that are costly and no federal money to pay for them, such as sewer plant.
Preisinger: Leavenworth has many opportunities for the future. The new hotel that will be constructed at 4th & Metropolitan will offer great accommodations for the thousands of travelers that come to Leavenworth annually for work and tourism. The Stove Factory Lofts will also offer upscale apartments to capture and keep more of the shorter-term residents in our city to live and patronize the local businesses.
Raney: I feel we have the same problem that we see in our everyday households. The economy. I believe we should be doing more to bring in outside dollars. This can be accomplished with more jobs, festivals, tourism etc... Better highway access will also help us in this venture.
Urban: Infractructure – streets, sanitary, sewers, storm sewers, sidewalks, etc. Leavenworth is the oldest city in Kansas. Our infrastructure in some areas of the city is also the oldest in Kansas. What we need to do is continue funding these projects, and as the tax base grows, we can increase funding. This can be done without raising taxes.
Weakley: One problem facing Leavenworth is the lack of growth in families living here. Two areas I would address to help resolve this issue is to improve the quality of our housing in many neighborhoods that meet the needs of a family purchasing a first home and work with our Economic Development partners to bring good paying jobs to the community.
2. What can the city do – and you as a commissioner – to strengthen our business environment, helping our current small businesses prosper, while at the same time attracting new businesses and jobs?
Melick: Possible bringing in a couple businesses that are larger spread out throughout the downtown area. This will help bring people to shop downtown. Another way increasing activities in the area. By this I mean bring that the people would like and support.
Page 2 of 4 - Moulden: The successful business doesn't ask /it takes action.
Preisinger: Attracting new businesses and growing existing businesses is extremely important to the growth of Leavenworth. Having better curb appeal by strict code enforcement and new anti-littering ordinances will help make us more attractive for people to live, work, invest and raise their families here. Enticing a right mix of businesses with prudent incentives also will attract more businesses.
Raney: The best way we can help ourselves and our small business owners is by expanding our tax base. This can be accomplished by bringing in new jobs which in turn will bring in more citizens and tax dollars. Again, having better highway access can go along way in helping us out.
Urban: We can continue looking for and finding new businesses and organizations to locate in Leavenworth, such as the hotel going in at 4thand Metropolitan, the Tire Town project, and the headquarters for the Delaware Indian Nation. It is a must to be user friendly to our current businesses and they grow or expand.
Weakley: To build our business environment we need to improve our highway access, and the incentives for retail development within the business districts. Also we need to work on business development that plays to our current strengths in the areas of tourism, corrections, healthcare, education with St. Mary and the community college and jobs compatible with Fort Leavenworth.
3. The city is likely to feel a budget pinch with reduced state funding in several areas, plus the appraised value of land in the county going down, thus driving down property tax revenues. What should the city do, make some cuts in services (and if so, what), or increase revenues through increased taxes and fees?
Melick: I think with the potential budget pinch we need to make sure we focus on the needs and not the wants. As citizens we can all come together and grow the city working with less. Services are not a area to cut. I think if we use all specialties in the city to the fullest and less contracting everything out will help. Increasing taxes is not a option.
Moulden: Compared to other towns we are in good shape. No frilly projects and tighten our belts.
Preisinger: Our real estate valuation is down 2.7 percent from last year which has a direct impact on ad valorem real estate taxes - the major revenue source for the city. With our real estate taxes already nearly the highest of the 25 largest cities in Kansas (4.5 times more than Overland Park), I am not in favor of further burdening property owners with more tax.
Raney: People are experiencing a budget pinch just about everywhere. Now is not the time to be raising taxes and fees. We citizens do not need a bigger financial burden. As for what to cut? We need to be sure all services and first responders are taken care of. Then we need to look at what "wants" we are spending money on.
Page 3 of 4 - Urban: The city has felt this budget pinch for the past two or three years. The city commission and city staff, so to speak, tightened their belts. We were able to produce budgets with no tax increases and no services being cut.
Weakley: It is true the city is feeling a budget pinch through recent years and staying the course to not raise the mil levy and maintain services and safety should continue. To relieve our budget pressures we need work in expanding our tax base through commercial and residential development.
4. At least one candidate running for the commission has announced support for having an elected mayor in Leavenworth rather than our current system. It only takes three votes among the commissioners to put that issue on the ballot and let voters decided. Would you be in favor of having an elected mayor representing the city, or keeping as it is now?
Melick: This has been a issue that has been around for many years. I have heard from both sides of the coin. I think that first we should look at what we can do for the community as a whole before we focus on a issue that at first would just increase the salary budget and take away from bringing the city to the 21st Century.
Moulden: current mayor was appointed by the commissioners. I am in favor of the people in the community electing the mayor position. Let the people decide.
Preisinger: There has not been a groundswell of citizens to change our present form of government to the Mayor-Council from our present Commission-City Manager. There was a petition a few years ago to change, but it failed for lack of required signatures. If the citizens of Leavenworth want a change in government, I would wholeheartedly support it and put it on the ballot.
Raney: I feel it should be in the hands of the citizens. After all, the mayor doesn't just represent the city commissioners, the mayor represents us citizens. Therefore, I feel the citizens should have the right to voice their opinions.
Urban: Our current form of government works and I have no problem with it. However, most cities of the 1stClass in Kansas, the mayor is elected to a four-year term by the voters. I feel this allows the mayor and the city manager to accomplish more.
Weakley: I would not be in favor of change. Past commissions found this would divide the city into wards, bad idea. The part-time mayor position has the same power and compensation and only yields bragging rights for the one elected. It's only been proposed by commissioners not citizens. If citizens propose this, understand its impact I would review it.
Page 4 of 4 - 5. What makes you the best candidate running for city commission, or at least one of the three best. In other words, why should voters cast their ballot for you?
Melick: I feel I am a "voice for you." I am a everyday citizen, I do not own a business I have no underlying agenda. If you ask for why vote for myself it would be for a change and a person who will listen to citizens, discuss your issues and bring it forward to discuss. We do what is right, we do not cross the "T" and dot the "I".
Moulden: I have been in Leavenworth all my life, I have seen some commissions work well and some not so well, but we can learn from all of them.
Preisinger: I am proud of my past four years as your commissioner, mayor pro tem and mayor and my eight years serving on the Leavenworth school board. My wife and I have raised our family here and I remain committed to making Leavenworth a better place. My record speaks for itself and I would appreciate your vote on April 2.
Raney: I feel that a man is only as good as his word. So, I will make you, my fellow citizens, these three promises: 1 - I promise to always put our families, our children and our taxpayers first and foremost. 2 - I promise I will always listen to my fellow citizens, and do whatever I can to help them. 3 - I promise I will always remember that the city commission seats belong to the citizens.
Urban: Just to mention a few things I have been involved in while serving on our city commission in the past - 20th Street, Eisenhower Road, Shawnee St., Metropolitan St., Wolman Park pool, two fire stations, library upgrade, 20th and Metro interchange, Eagles retention pond, 4th and Metro hotel. Growth is important and we need to continue.
Weakley: My public service grew out of community involvement, so I as always will be responsive and accessible to the citizens. I bring proven leadership to the commission. I have demonstrated I am fiscally responsible. I have taken a proactive stance in developing new and existing businesses to the community. This is why I am asking for your vote.
- Dale Brendel