November 26, 2014

County charter commission hosts public hearing

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com

To retain non-partisan county elections, or to hold partisan elections for county commission candidates – that was the question several Johnson County residents voiced during a charter commission public hearing Tuesday night.

The 25-member charter commission is charged with reviewing the Johnson County Home Rule Charter and recommending revisions to it every 10 years.

Several residents voiced recommendations of their own at Olathe City Hall March 29.
Speakers were asked to say their names and their addresses before starting their remarks, but

Brenda Lamar stated her voter affiliation first.

“I am a Republican,” the rural Johnson County resident told members of the commission. “You put me in a column and you knew things about me before I told you anything else. You know how I felt about the size and the role of government.”

She requested that county commission races be partisan elections saying that you can tell a lot about a candidate based on their political affiliation.

“I want to know what company my elected officials keep,” she said.

Steve Shute, Gardner, agreed.

“Who are these people and what is their party?” he said. “(Party affiliation) is a great guidepost. A great reference.”

Gene Paris, Overland Park, disagreed saying there’s plenty of information about people running for office already.

“Party affiliation doesn’t affect the governance of the county,” he said.

Rick Worrel, Overland Park, said he also believes nonpartisan elections have served the community well.

“Nonpartisan elections require candidates to campaign on the issues and the diversity of views,” the business owner said.

Worrel said he advises only “tweaks” to the county’s original charter which was approved by voters in 2000.

He asked that positions that were once elected – county treasurer, county clerk, county auditor, and register of deeds – remain appointed positions; and requested that the Johnson County Sheriff position be elected through a nonpartisan election. The Sheriff’s role is one of two countywide positions that are elected through a partisan process.

Several residents requested that the position continue to be elected rather than appointed.

Ken Smith, Overland Park, said the sheriff is the last line of defense against government tyranny.

“To make it appointed would be a grave mistake,” he said. “…Most important aspect of the sheriff – he is elected and answerable only to the people. If we take away people’s right to vote on who the sheriff is, he will not have autonomy.”

Other residents voiced concerns about the six county commission districts.

Ken Dunwoody, rural Olathe, said four out of six commissioners represent Overland Park. The current chair, Ed Eilert, also calls Overland Park home.

“That makes five,” Dunwoody said.

The districts haven’t changed much in the last 10 years with only a few cul-de-sacs moving from one district to another when the district lines are reviewed every three years, he told members of the commission.

“Proportionately, Overland Park is smaller now than it was 10 years ago,” Dunwoody said. “I would ask this body to consider taking responsibility for redistricting.”

A chicken farmer, he said re-districting and chickens have a lot in common.

“If I have too many hens, the hens will kill one another,” he explained. “If I have too many roosters, the roosters will kill each other. So I have to manage the flock.”

At the state level, he said, the Secretary of State is the chicken herder that oversees  redistricting in the Kansas Legislature.

But things are different at the county level.

“At the county level, we leave it to the chickens,” he said. Under the existing charter, the Board of County Commissioners oversees its own redistricting efforts.

Lamar also worried that rural Johnson County wasn’t well represented on the board of commissioners. Rural residents battled with cities attempting to annex in the last few years, she explained.

“No one represented us,” she said. “We in the rural part of the county are still citizens.”
Americans for Prosperity – Kansas surveyed its Johnson County members about possible revisions to the Johnson County Home Rule Charter.

Jim Mullins, field director for Eastern Kansas Americans for Prosperity, said the group’s poll was a voluntary survey.
Approximately 80 percent of respondents to the poll said they support electing the county

clerk, county auditor and county treasurer; making the commission elections partisan and agreed that no more than three commissioners should reside in the same city.

“I believe the 2011 Charter Commission should initiate a scientific poll with very simple questions to determine the true feelings and desires of the voters,” Mullins said.

Comments

  1. Here is the e-mail I sent to that Commission on March 23, 2011 and I hope other citizens request the same change.

    *****************************************************

    I am unable to come to one of your meetings due to a disability, however, I wanted to voice a concern of mine and something I would like changed.

    Presently any citizen can only vote for one Commissioner and for the Chairman of the County Commissioners. This does not provide me with the democratic process that I feel I deserve. The decisions made by ALL Commissioners affect me personally and I feel I should have the right to vote for ALL Commissioners. Any control over my destiny cannot be accomplished by my ability of voting for only two Commissioners. Hopefully you will bring about this needed change. Give me the ability to have more say in how my beloved County is run.

    Thank you.

  2. All you Gardner republicans keep in mind there are only 3 republicans running for city council, Pugh, Roberts and Sutton. 3 democrats Morrow, Barber and Fotovich and 2 undeclared Martin and Taylor.

  3. watchdogq says:

    That is funny Ecosto, even Dave Drovetta calls himself a Republican. I guess the candidates can call themselves what they want it is how they vote that matters to me.

  4. And remember that Drovetta is a republican. So if you want the same failed leadership, high taxes and debt vote Republican. Drovetta style republicanism doesn’t work.

  5. At last! Someone who udnretsnads! Thanks for posting!

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