The first topic at the seniors center forum on Friday was Fake Patty’s Day.
City commission candidates were asked of their opinion of the annual pre-St. Patrick’s Day event, which took place Saturday.
“I love Fake Patty’s Day,” said Commissioner Rich Jankovich sardonically. “I’ll be down there until three o’clock in the morning.”
He said the good thing about Fake Patty’s Day is the inter-agency cooperation that happens with the EMS, Riley County Police Department, Manhattan Fire Department, Fort Riley military police, highway patrol, Junction City and even the university.
The negative, on the other hand, is the drunken behavior of those who decide to imbibe too heavily.
Candidate Bob Strawn said what the city of Manhattan needed to do was morph the day into a better celebration. He said the city should try to get musical entertainment or some cultural aspect of the day involved to make it more community friendly and turn the focus away from binge drinking. Until then, he said, a strong police presence was the only way to deal with those who go too far in celebrating.
Candidate Karen McCulloh said she lives near Aggieville and every year has to deal with people vomiting in her yard. She said the city needed to educate people on the dangers of binge drinking in order to help curb the problem.
“We need to look at binge drinking as an overall issue,” she said. “How to solve it, more dialogue.”
Candidate Usha Reddi said she has three children in their twenties, and reiterated her concerns not only as a parent, but also as an educator. She said binge drinking was not the only safety concern; keeping celebrants safe from attach was another issue. She said she applauded ATA Bus for getting people to and from Aggieville safely.
Candidates also discussed the law board and the fact that more than half the city’s tax levy went to support the police department.
Jankovich said he voted in support of last year’s RCPD budget after having been on the board just one week.
He admitted he had only had the numbers in front of him at the time to make the decision, and now realizes the problems. He said during his time on the board, he has helped the department find inefficiencies in its health care costs.
He said that will help, but he also thinks more is needed.
McCulloh said consolidating the 911 services helped, but about 89 percent of the RCPD budget is for personnel. She said she would not want to cut officers to lower the levy because doing that would leave citizens at a greater risk.
Strawn said he thought the law board needed to have more representation from the city at-large instead of a split between city commissioners and county commissioners. He said citizens have criticized the police department as being too “strong armed” and “bloated.”
Ball said the police department shouldn’t just be handed money every time staff members ask for more. He said the budget needs to be justified, and without growth within the city or county, there should be no growth within the department.
Usha Reddi said that while she has not served on the law board, she has talked with RCPD Director Brad Schoen. She agreed with McCulloh that cutting personnel was not the way to reduce the police budget. She said the other issue was that jailers are not only dealing with criminal activity, but also mental illness.
She said the officers know that someone who is mentally ill does should not be in with the other inmates, and that places more burden on the personnel working in the jail, so more personnel are required.