Archive for Thursday, March 19, 2009

Johnson calls for change, Anderson notes achievements at candidate forum

The general election is April 7

The general election is April 7

March 19, 2009

A De Soto Chamber of Commerce candidate forum last Thursday gave the two candidates for De Soto mayor their first chance to explain their vision for the city.

Johnson was brief in his remarks, perhaps because he followed that response with a longer one as a candidate for a second term to the USD 232 Board of Education Position 4 seat during which he focused of his effort to bring open bidding to the district.

As mayor, he would be fiscally cautious in the current recession, Johnson said.

Some of the De Soto City Council candidates who preceded Johnson argued more residential development was needed to spur commercial growth. That was the wrong approach because more rooftops wouldn’t expand the tax base in a city whose residents were asked to carry the load of supporting the school district and city government, Johnson said. Rather than more homes taxed at 11.5 percent, the city needed to attract commercial growth taxed at 30 percent to help pay for its schools and city government, he said.

He had some differences with Anderson, Johnson said, stating that “the water thing went on too long.” But he said his big concern was the city needed fresh leadership and new perspectives after eight years.

“I appreciate what Dave’s done for the city, but it’s time for a change,” he said.

Like Johnson, Anderson responded to statements De Soto City Council candidates made earlier in the forum. In his case, it was statements by a number of candidates that De Soto shouldn’t become another Lenexa. That wouldn’t happen for two reasons, he said.

The first reason was the care and attention De Soto city government could give to opportunities, Anderson said, citing the recent experience of Engineered Air when that company approached the city about its 2008 expansion.

Anderson said the city staff, elected officials and the De Soto Economic Council first got together with company officials to hear the proposal and see if it was financially good for De Soto. Rick Rambacher of Engineered Air said he was later told by a Lenexa elected official that city couldn’t have duplicated that effort, Anderson said.

The second thing that made De Soto unique from Lenexa and every other city in Johnson County was its location on the Kansas River, Anderson said. Riverfest Park, the planned streetscape improvements to the two downtown blocks and the greater downtown revitalization plan were opportunities for the city to take advantage of the river, he said.

Anderson touted the accomplishments of the past eight years, including the building of a new pool and sewer plant, update of the comprehensive plan, creation of the west area land-use plan and the 95th Street Corridor plan and the coming merger of the city fire department and Johnson County Rural Fire District No. 3.

Much of that progress was because of the city’s staff, as was the city’s strong fiscal position, Anderson said. It was learned last week Standard & Poor’s reaffirmed the A bond rating bestowed on the city in 2008, Anderson said. The rating, which will save the city thousands of dollars when it issues debt, was earned by cautious budget policy that allowed the city to end 2008 an additional $300,000 in unencumbered cash reserves, Anderson said. Those reserves would provide a hedge against mill levy increases as the city to deals with possible revenue shortfalls from the recession, he said.

Although he had favored exploring a water purchase agreement with Olathe out of concern the renovation of the Sunflower water plant would make water rates too expensive, Anderson said he supported the city council’s decision to upgrade the Sunflower plant. With that decision, his goal would be to form a wholesale water district with neighboring water districts to spread the cost of the Sunflower water plant’s renovation and operation, he said.

“I’m going to make that happen,” he said.

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