Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Miscellaneous questions - Karen McCulloh

1. Should the city extend non-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation? If so, should an exemption be permitted for religious beliefs?

Discrimination—We will never be able to legislate people’s attitudes, legitimate or not, but we can make sure that all employees of the city are given the same access to benefits and legal rights. In a nation where one half of all new babies are born into a single-parent family, we need to do everything we can to encourage stable relationships no matter what form they take. 

2. To what extent would you favor exploration of inter-governmental consolidation?

Consolidation is not a panacea for lowering taxes and streamlining government.  If Manhattan and Riley County were to consolidate, they would have to do so under the county identity.  Because Manhattan exists in two counties this would be very difficult.  We have studied this issue extensively both in 1999 and again a few years ago.  There are several activities which could be consolidated to benefit both sides.  For example, we could have one main site for GIS mapping at the county.  The idea of combining HR or purchasing has been studied and found to cost more dollars than the present arrangement.

3. Do you think the city needs a vicious/dangerous breed ordinance?

I think the city dangerous dog policy is adequate as it is.  More important than changing the policy is enforcing it.  We need to have adequate animal control officers to make sure people are following the rules.

4. Do you think the city needs to do more with gun control?

When dealing with any kind of gun control, local government is really at the mercy of Federal and state laws.  There is pending state legislation which would not allow local governments to ban guns on their property unless there are staffed metal detector checks. This would make it prohibitively expensive to have any kind of rules for gun bans in city and county buildings.

5. Should the city revisit a rental inspection program?

My position on rental inspections has always been: when personal safety is on the line, we need to have rules to protect human life.  The first thing we need to do is have a rental registry.  Police, fire and emergency personnel often are not aware of basement and attic apartments and are hampered in their duties.  We already inspect rentals with more than three units for fire safety.  If the previous inspection plan was too complicated or costly, we need to revisit it and make it work.  Inspections would also allow code officers to check on whether the proper number of renters were sharing a unit.  We have a rental in our neighborhood which always has six renters where there should be no more than four, adding to parking and traffic problems.

6. Should the city build, expand or improve its Parks and Rec Department offices?

Manhattan has a large amount of public debt.  This debt is manageable and has definite sources of revenue dedicated to paying it off—sales taxes, specials and TIF districts.  However, before incurring more debt, I think it is time to do some serious long range planning to identify future infrastructure, building and staffing needs.  I realize the Park and Recs expansion is needed and has an identified source of income but I also feel now is not the time for another building project given the concern over growing public debt.  This may be the time to rethink the way we are handling fees and registrations and go to more online activity.

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