The Gardner News sent four questions to Gardner mayoral candidates. Below are the answers.
1. With a population of more than 20,000, Gardner should become a first-class city. Last year, the city passed a charter ordinance keeping elected positions to five at large members plus mayor. What are your thoughts on a mixed ward/at large system – four seats determined by population and geography with one at large seat?
Morrow – I’m in favor of changing the current At-Large structure. I favor a Ward system like they have in Olathe. One councilmember from each of 4 wards, two At-Large councilmembers, and a mayor that votes. Under this system every resident would have a majority of governing body members working for them.
Shute – With our population increasing by 1,000 residents annually, we will definitely reach First Class status (25,000) in the next four years. We will have no choice regarding wards at that point. Keeping 5 councilmembers and an at-large seat, or going to seven with three at-large seats, are both valid options.
2. How would you describe the boardmanship that has been displayed by the current Gardner City Council? Briefly define boardmanship and explain what skills you would bring to the council.
Shute – I believe that the current City Council has worked very well with the mayor on policy issues, as indicated by virtually all actions being passed 5-0 and 4-1. The conflicts currently seen at the dais are more due to lack of trust between council and mayor than actual policy differences.
Morrow – “Boardmanship” relates to the position and skills of being on a board, however, what I believe our council has occasionally displayed is brinkmanship, pushing an issue to an objectionable limit to force a desired outcome. In such situations I am diplomatic, resolute, and firm on the side of what’s right.
3. Since 2015, Gardner has lost a number of trained, professional directors and city clerks, in part due to concerns with council actions. If elected, what would you do to create a positive work environment for employees?
Morrow – In general the city’s turnover rate has fallen dramatically over this time. Going forward I will push for comprehensive and increased training on the governing body rules of procedure. In addition, supplemental training on ethical conduct, conduct with other governing body members, city staff, the media, other agencies, and the public.
Shute – We need to close the trust gap between mayor, council, and staff. That takes a mayor that is willing to be a conduit to close the gap, instead of taking sides between staff and elected council members. We are all here to serve the citizens, not our own interests.
4. With a more than $60 million budget, Gardner council has been unable to join together to allocate $150,000 to repair/replace the interior bathroom at Gardner Municipal Airport the last several months. A porta-potty was placed outside. Do you support a working, flushable toilet in city facilities? Do you believe this porta-potty is symptomatic of the council’s inability to focus on basic governance?
Shute – I don’t think this is a fair characterization of the situation at the airport, and the actual situation cannot be explained in under 50 words. The septic field needs to be replaced with a sewer line, and any structural building changes will require making it ADA compliant. (including the bathroom).
Morrow – I support having a working restroom in all city facilities including the airport. Our governing body does come together and pass 95+ percent of city business unanimously. The airport restroom is used by an extremely small percentage of city residents, and may be why it has not drawn more attention.
Answers to questions from USD 231 board of education candidates and Gardner City Council will appear next week. All candidates were contacted.
Election is Nov. 7, 2017. Election information is available at the Johnson County Election office, jocoelection.org.