If recent letters to the editor are any indication, there’s plenty of interest in Tuesday’s election, particularly the City Commission race. We hope that means turnout will be greater than has too often been the case in our April elections.
Some citizens have voted in advance, and we congratulate them. For residents who plan to vote and who haven’t made up their minds, we offer the following thoughts and recommendations on the City Commission and Manhattan-Ogden Board of Education races.
The City Commission field is crowded. The seven candidates are John Ball, Daniel Hogan, Rich Jankovich, Karen McCulloh, Debbie Nuss, Usha Reddi and Bob Strawn.
In our view, Manhattan would be best served by a City Commission that contains a balance of political perspectives, whose members get along despite their differences and realize that their collective effort — the teamwork — is integral to the service they provide this city and its residents.
In recent years our City Commissions’ philosophies have swung like a pendulum from left to right and back again. As a result, progress has come in fits and starts. Perhaps that reflects the growing divisiveness statewide and nationally. If so, we hope commissioners are to able to see the harm that does and strive to do better.
To that end, we recommend Mr. Jankovich, Mrs. McCulloh and Mrs. Reddi. They’re not the only qualified candidates, but given that the two incumbents who are not up for re-election, Commissioners Wynn Butler and John Matta, are committed conservatives, putting capable individuals who would bring other views to discussions in the other seats would serve the city well.
Mr. Jankovich, an incumbent who doesn’t fit neatly into a left-right category, has supported the conservative position on some issues and challenged it on others. Indeed, his many years in this community have helped him understand that there is more to local issues than their cost. Mrs. McCulloh and Mrs. Reddi, could, in addition to their expertise as professional women, add a humane perspective to the commission — and do so respectfully.
The other four candidates have their strong points. Ms. Nuss and Mr. Strawn are intelligent and decisive people. Sometimes, however, they seem overly decisive, almost imperious — tendencies that can alienate potential partners and impede progress.
In our view, Mr. Ball and Mr. Hogan, both of whom have focused on the debt, would add little that is new to the commission. Rather, either would ensure a bloc of votes for excessive austerity.
On the subject of the city debt and its impact on city growth and residents’ tax burdens, we are at odds with those two individuals as well as with Commissioners Butler and Matta. In our view, our city has managed the debt responsibly, and while no one likes property taxes — especially when they rise — Manhattan’s are not out of line. In fact, our city debt and residents’ property tax burden compare favorably with those of other first-class cities in Kansas, according to data from the League of Kansas Municipalities.
Compared to the City Commission race, the school board race has been uneventful. The candidates are Mitch Beims, Aaron Estabrook, Pat Hudgins and Marcia Rozell. Although we’re confident that each of them would serve responsibly, we recommend Mr. Beims, Mrs. Hudgins and Mrs. Rozell. We’re impressed by Mr. Beims’ experience in public education. His background includes service as a teacher in both Kansas and Texas schools, and he’s right in saying that this school district, which does many things right, should generally keep doing what it’s doing. Mrs. Hudgins and Mrs. Rozell have found time to volunteer for multiple committees and classroom activities and there’s little reason to doubt they’re capable of addressing issues from a school board seat. We’re not entirely comfortable leaving Mr. Estabrook as the odd man out. If voters remember him, it might be because he ran for the Legislature against Tom Phillips. Mr. Estabrook, a combat veteran of Afghanistan, is a bright individual who also would be a dedicated board member.
In closing, we would again urge readers to vote. What’s at stake are the make-up of our City Commission and Board of Education and the direction those panels take. That’s not something you want to leave entirely to others.