Danedri Thompson
Guest Columnist
The appropriate way to remove people from office is at the ballot box – not in a three-ring circus that serves as an echo chamber of egos.
Unfortunately, that’s not how a loud minority of people in Gardner like to do things. They’d sooner usurp the voters in a bid to pump their own egos than wait until the next election. At least, that’s how it seems to this voter.
In 2011, Fotovich received 13 percent of the votes in his bid for city council. Fotovich’s 446 votes were fewer than Dennis Pugh’s, who also earned a spot on the council in that election. When Pugh followed Fotovich home and physically assaulted him, few people could be bothered to come to a council meeting and wax poetic about things like integrity and morality.
Instead, I watched as people on social media said things like “Larry deserved it.” Some of the people saying that are the very same people who on social media today are demanding Fotovich leave office.
Fotovich is mouthy, and he never lets anything go. It’s frustrating to witness and probably even more exasperating to be on the other side of it.
That said, I voted for him in 2011 knowing exactly what to expect of him. He makes meetings longer, because he asks a lot of questions. Most – not all – but most are questions that should be asked. He asks things like, how much money will we spend in interest? Should we purchase outright instead of leasing? He asks why don’t we lower the hotel tax to make Gardner more competitive with Olathe, instead of increasing our hotel tax to their rate?
The hotel tax debate was Fotovich’s finest moment. After the council passed its annual budget, council member Heath Freeman suggested that Gardner’s hotel tax rate lags behind some of our neighboring cities. Back in August when Freeman suggested the tax hike, Gardner’s transient tax rate was 6 percent. Thanks to that vote, Gardner’s hotel tax rate is now higher than guest tax rates in Olathe, Shawnee, De Soto and Merriam,  Spring Hill and Bonner Springs . Our 8 percent rate now matches that of Lenexa and Leawood.
When Freeman made his suggestion in August 2013, so-called conservative members of the council  agreed to raise the tax, saying it’s not Gardner residents who pay it. Council member Steve Shute said it’s often businesses who pay it.
Fotovich suggested lowering or eliminating the tax in the hopes that the rate would create an economic competitive advantage and lure additional hotels to the city.
“To me, the greater goal would be to decrease the tax,” Fotovich said. “The best way to increase the consumption is to lower the price.”
Fotovich was the sole council member to oppose the tax hike.
“I don’t see how anyone can get excited about a tax even if it’s a tax on someone else,” Fotovich said.
Fotovich got it right, even without meeting with constituents or reading up on tax hikes on social media. His miserly ways are inherent. He doesn’t need someone whispering in his ear that tax hikes aren’t a good thing.
The same can’t be said for others on the council. It appears, many take their cues from the loudest minority instead of the silent, steadfast majority. This community is a conservative one, but on the most basic, conservative ideal – keeping taxes low to stimulate growth – only one council member could be counted on to vote correctly. And that council member is Larry Fotovich.
I have no faith whatsoever that an appointed replacement council member would do the right thing if that situation were ever to arise again.
We currently have council members who pay lip service to conservative ideals , and only one who actually voted that way.
Those rallying to discipline Fotovich appear more interested in theatrics than common sense. For example, Fotovich  naysayers told me anyone who owns a house outside of Gardner should resign.
That’s ludicrous and shows a complete lack of reasoning. There are plenty of people who own property outside of Gardner city limits who are voters and members of this community. I can count myself among them. My husband and I own a rental property in Olathe and land just beyond city limits. One day, I hope we own a cabin in the mountains and a condo in Hawaii. My voter registration will likely remain in Gardner.
Another person suggested I should drive to his house right now. This was during a council meeting. The person said that if I did, I would see that there aren’t any lights on at his Gardner house.
There weren’t any lights on in my Gardner house at the time either. I was at a council meeting. I turned the lights off to conserve energy.
Meanwhile, the Fotovich protesters presented a petition signed by some legitimate names. But other signatories included, “Me So Horny.” Me So Horny probably isn’t a registered Gardner voter.
Thesame people who presented to council a photo of Fotovich standing in front of a barbecue grill with several other men as evidence that he doesn’t live in Gardner. There is no time or date stamp on the photo they presented nor is there any hint of where that photo was taken. If it was taken in Olathe or North Dakota, a photograph of someone in a different location doesn’t prove they live there. I have dozens of photos of me at the Eiffel Tower.. Sadly, I don’t live in Paris.
The people demanding Fotovich resign complained that his presence on the council creates a distraction. I would argue their eye rolling, heavy sighs and snide comments during council meetings create the greater distraction.
I am writing about my support of Fotovich so that we can put to rest the idea that there’s an overwhelming majority of citizens who wish him to leave.
I can’t say for certain how the numbers stand, but he was duly elected by Gardner voters. And those numbers don’t lie.
I’m not looking forward to the day when Gardner, once again, has a majority of appointed council members. Several of the last appointees, with the exception of council member Tory Roberts, never even bothered to vote in city elections prior to their appointments to the council.
The entire episode to throw Fotovich out of office appears to have been  based solely on personalities and political theater.
I voted for Fotovich in 2011, because I trusted his judgment then. I don’t always agree with him, but I continue to trust his judgment today.