Manhattan has long been well-served by citizens willing to dedicate their time and talents as city commissioners. That’s certain to be true after this election, as there’s a solid group of candidates.
The trouble, in fact, is narrowing down your choices. By this point most of you have already made yours. But in the event you’re undecided and looking for some guidance prior to going to the polls Tuesday, we offer some here for your consideration. Three commission seats are up for election, and all three incumbents are running. They have all shown that they can do the work, and mostly that they’re willing to compromise. Those incumbents are Wynn Butler, Aaron Estabrook and Usha Reddi.
All the challengers also appear capable. They include Kaleb James, Rich Jankovich, Marcus Kidd, Monica Macfarlane and John Matta.
To us, the highest priority at this moment is to keep local government offices non-partisan. That is under direct assault, in a coordinated attack from Washington and Topeka. Nonpartisanship needs your support at the voting booth.
Therefore we strongly recommend Mr. Jankovich, who has been unequivocal in rejecting partisanship. He also previously served with distinction as a commissioner. He’s an independent thinker with a demonstrated capacity of getting things done. He was instrumental in bringing expanded air service to Manhattan, and as a longtime banker he has a clear eye on financial matters.
We also recommend Mr. Estabrook, who has served as a swing vote on the current commission, with a previous turn on the school board. We view his independence as an asset.
Ms. Macfarlane has also steered clear of partisan involvement and appears capable and prepared for the position, and we’d pick her over the other newcomer, Mr. Kidd.
Mr. Butler and Ms. Reddi have done a fine job, but their presence unfortunately will tilt the commission toward polarization at a time when that is the opposite of what is needed. Same to a greater degree with Mr. Matta.
The top two vote-getters will serve four-year terms, and the third-place finisher will earn a two-year spot. They’ll join incumbents Linda Morse and Mark Hatesohl. The key is to have some balance and people willing to listen, work together and compromise. We’re hopeful that’s what the election will produce.
The sales tax
On Riley County’s proposed sales tax for roads, we’re lukewarm supporters. Clearly there are needs for road and bridge improvements, and so the question is how to pay the bill. In many ways these seem like routine county expenses, but if they are treated that way the cost burden will fall entirely on residents. A sales tax means that visitors help carry the load, and that’s why we’d recommend support, since those visitors use roads and bridges as well.
We would have preferred that the county work with the Manhattan city government on a combined effort, but that ship has sailed. Given the options, a “yes” vote seems the responsible choice.