Archive for Thursday, April 2, 2009

Challenger Johnson concerned for city’s ‘heart and soul’

April 2, 2009

Randy Johnson believes in term limits both on the local and national level.

With that view, he said two terms were enough for Mayor Dave Anderson to accomplish his goals.

“We need fresh perspective and objectivity,” he said.

The perspective he would bring was concern for residents of De Soto’s older neighborhoods, Johnson said. Those residents, many of whom are seniors on fixed income, were threatened and finding it difficult to pay taxes that are now sometimes higher than their old mortgage payments, he said.

Those residents were the “heart and soul” of De Soto, Johnson said. He contrasted those longtime residents to newer “progressive” residents who he said seemed to be driving the city’s agenda.

“We have the people who basically founded this town who are really hurting,” he said. “I go back to Dave Anderson and (City Administrator) Pat Guilfoyle. I think the Chamber is a really viable organization. But when we had the (candidate) forum there, I looked around. There wasn’t many people from De Soto there.”

He was concerned Guilfoyle spent too much time “hobnobbing” with the chamber and De Soto Economic Development Council rather than attending to the day-to-day city business, enforcing employee efficiency or seeking grants, Johnson said.

It is no secret he strongly objects to the rental inspection program the city introduced in January 2008, Johnson said. But the said there were other examples of excess regulation that needed to be rolled back, he said. They were examples of inappropriate government interference that starts in Washington, D.C., he said.

“We can only fix this from the ground level,” he said. “There is a problem with some zoning things and ridiculous permit costs. I think City Hall has to fix its own door before it starts fixing things around them.

“We don’t want to be like Lenexa, Shawnee and Overland Park, but we’re like them in some of the regulations.”

De Soto residents know from his four years on the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education that he is a fiscal conservative, Johnson said. He promised to bring the same restraint to City Hall, saying he would never support a tax increase, although a water rate increase might be needed as the city renovates the Sunflower water plant.

“I think it’s very important in this economy,” Johnson said of his fiscal philosophy. “Progressives are trying to more this town forward too aggressively.

“We all have things we would love to do. We would love to have new cars and things. We need to scrutinize much closer right now. We may be moving in times worse than now. Revenue and property values are down.”

The time was not right for further development of Riverfest Park, Johnson said. He also wouldn’t support the two-block streetscape improvements of 83rd Street downtown with its $600,000 to $800,000 price tag, he said.

That money could be better spent on the Sunflower water treatment plant, Johnson said.

“This is a good time to get bids for repairing the plant and seeing if we can get that plant up and running efficiently and profitably,” he said.

The city currently does not spend general fund dollars on water department operations or capital projects because not all the city is served by the city water system. Johnson said he would consider doing that an upgraded efficient plant that could make money and benefit the city as a whole.

As for the development of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant, Johnson said the recession could delay any development. It was in the city’s interest future development not be primarily residential but expand the local tax base.

Johnson said he realized the role of the mayor was different than that of a school board member. He compared it to De Soto USD 232 Superintendent Sharon Zoeller in that others would bring hopes and wishes to the city council and that as mayor he would represent its decisions. But he said he would also try to build consensus for his ideas.

“As mayor, I would say, ‘This is what I’d like to try to do,’ and work with the council to sell it,” he said.

Attracting another grocery store to De Soto should “be on the front burner,” Johnson said. He said Rick Walker’s idea of forming a cooperative to start a grocery store was a good idea. Some kind of abatement could also be used to lure a grocery, he said.

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