November 22, 2014

Residents support status quo at hearing

Danedri Thompson
submissions@gardnernews.com
Members of the Johnson County Charter Commission should maintain the status quo. That was the advice residents offered during a public hearing Tuesday night in Mission.
Of the 35 people who addressed charter commission members, only three expressed support for changing the existing county charter.
“Please get off the train to crazy town,” Overland Park resident Mike Foltz said of proposed changes.
The 25-member charter commission is charged with reviewing the Johnson County Home Rule Charter and recommending revisions to it every 10 years. Amendments approved by a majority of the appointed- commission will be placed on the ballot in November 2012.
Members have suggested a number of potential changes to the county’s charter including making Board of County Commission elections partisan, -sion elections partisan, expanding the number of commissioners from seven to nine, allowing voters to repeal city taxes and the recall of appointed board members.
More than 200 people crowded into the hearing room in Mission. Several speakers noted that the county has prospered under the existing charter.
“If the proposals were positive in nature or non-controversial, you’d probably be here by yourselves,” Henry Rampage, Lenexa, told the commissioners.
Yvonne Starks, Olathe, asked that charter members be open to changes — specifically partisan elections for county commissioners.
“The people who vote for these people should know what they believe in,” she said.
Pat Daniels, Prairie Village, warned that partisan elections would damage the cohesiveness of the Board of County Commissioners.
“We don’t have political strife,” he said.
Several elected officials and former officials also weighed in on the charter commission’s role. Under the existing charter, approved in 2000, a charter commission is appointed and makes recommendations every 10 years.
Former county commission chair Annabeth Surbaugh said one of the most important consideration is how potential changes might affect the county’s bond rating.
“I think the current charter works well,” she said.
Shawnee Councilwoman Dawn Kuhn told charter commission members to spend less time focusing on issues outside the county’s authority. She said a proposed amendment that would allow the repeal of sales taxes and limit public debt would damage city bond ratings.
“Not being able to approve a long-term budget will impact our ability,” Kuhn said. “Have we learned nothing about what has happened at the federal level?”
Current county commissioner Michael Ashcraft, Olathe, said there’s a new fiscal normal in the county and nationwide.
“Do we have the government right now to deal with the new normal?” Ashcraft said. “…I would encourage you to start that discussion.”

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