Rental inspection program likely to stay dead

By Corene Brisendine

Four of five City Commission candidates at a forum Monday sponsored by real estate professionals and builders agreed that they would not support reinstatement of a rental inspection program enacted by a previous commission and then repealed by the current one.

Candidates Usha Reddi, John Ball, Bob Strawn and Rich Jankovich all said they would not support the program’s reinstatement. Only Karen McCulloh said she supported the idea behind the program.

Two candidates, Debbie Nuss and Daniel Hogan, were unable to attend due to medical issues.

McCulloh said her support for the concept was based on a desire to ensure that people living in rental housing were safe. But Reddi said she thought it was the responsibility of the tenants to be educated, and added that local government and Kansas State University have done a good job with getting that information out.

None of the candidates believed in forcing companies to pay what its proponents refer to as a “living wage,” but McCulloh suggested future commissioners look at how California is attempting to implement a “curb tax” for non-profits in order to help support core services everyone uses such as emergency services, police and fire. Strawn said viable companies wanting to move to Manhattan are looking at the schools and “quality of life,” for their employees, not the cost of living. He said the city needed to focus on those, instead of “bribing” them with tax abatements or forcing them to hold to a particular wage standard.

Candidates also differed in their view of the city’s policy of levying “special assessments” to encourage the development of new areas. Jankovich said he was “not sure there is a better way without specials.” He did admit the commission needed to hold property owners accountable for not paying the taxes, but had no solution to the problem. Reddi said commissioners should require the developer to sign an affidavit or meet benchmarks before being allowed to develop more property in Manhattan. Ball said he thought the specials policy has worked well, and the commission needed to focus on those who don’t pay. McCulloh suggested looking into operating like most cities in Kansas and across the nation—tack the cost of infrastructure on to the house rather than levying special assessments and then being forced to try to collect them. She also suggested developers not be allowed to develop more property until the back taxes on specials have been brought up-to-date.

Advance mail-in voting begins Wednesday, and people can visit the county website to download the form, print it and mail it in. In-person advance voting at county offices begins March 25.

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