Letters to the Editor
Communication is great
To the editor:
As the April 3 election date approaches, it is impressive and refreshing to read the various perspectives from the residents of Baldwin City concerning the candidates and issues. Though I may not agree with some viewpoints, the open discussions and airing of ideas and opinions from the various factions proves there are many residents that truly care about Baldwin City and its future. The elected officials of Baldwin City , be they the present, past or future members, should take heed of the comments from the numerous letters. Citizens do want input in the decision making.
From past letters, some candidates have been labeled as a part of a "coalition." Did these candidates have a discussion over a cup of coffee and air their thoughts about what is important to them and their reason for running for public office? Did they voice their concerns and opinions about the future direction of Baldwin City? Folks, that is done every morning in various places in Baldwin City by all of us! Nothing illegal or secretive surrounding this scenario. Seems healthy to me!
I would imagine we have all, at some point, voiced our opinions to friends and acquaintances in this environment. By listening to these candidates at various forums, I have heard these individuals make statements that were not in agreement. Successful elected officials must agree to disagree and move forward, regardless of winning or losing on a particular issue vote. We have some very independent candidates running for public office on April 3.
If you are not sure who those individuals are, mark March 26 on your calendar and attend the next public forum at the Harter Union dining room on Baker University's campus. The forum begins at 8 p.m. and you will have the opportunity to not only hear the candidates, but you may participate in the forum by asking questions from the floor. It is a great opportunity to form your own opinion!
As we move toward a new future in Baldwin City, I would hope that the council members and mayor will continue this forum of public dialogue. The forum on March 26 will give the candidates, including the incumbents, the opportunity to defend their statements and decisions, in particular with regard to the purchase option of the 160 acres for recreation/industrial park use. The majority of townspeople seem to be in agreement that we need
increased recreational facilities but many people do not agree with the mix of these two entities and question the city's judgment in entering into industrial development. Since there was no public forum held prior to the city's option agreement for purchase of this land, all sides and factions can openly discuss the pros and cons of this issue. Incumbents will have the opportunity to explain the reasoning behind the commitment to purchase the 160 acres and tell the public what businesses have expressed a desire to set up shop in the industrial park. Prove to those of us that question this
purchase the validity in this financial investment that it will reduce the growing taxation in Baldwin City. It is a simple answer, neighbors ... communication with dialogue on both sides.
Hayes announces planks
Citizens of Baldwin. During the course of this campaign we have seen quite a few twists and turns that have made this process one to remember as far as elections in our city. With a breath of fresh air, I would like to refocus on the issues that face our city and present again my planks for my agenda for mayor.
The following seven planks form the agenda for my campaign.
1.) Responsible planning for the future: This would take the form of mapping the expansion and development of the city, both internally and around its perimeter. I want to make it clear that Baldwin City with its current utility issues has no business annexing any land that it can not support with adequate utility service. Most specifically the proposed business park.
2.) Fiscal Responsibility: Our taxes and utility rates are radically out of proportion with what we receive in services. This is verified with the facts that our city has the highest utility and tax rates in all of Douglas county. We are not receiving much in return for these hefty bills. Also a through review of cash flow, salaries and wages in the city must be undertaken. Lifetime contracts, overly high salary rates for department heads, vehicle allowances, and other perks should be stopped immediately to relieve the pressure on the taxpayer.
3.) Community relationships. A program to make the city and its employees more aware of citizen concerns and develop skills in dealing with the public is long overdue. Many citizens voice disapproval at how they are treated by some city employees and that needs to change. Also the city governments relationships with USD 348, Baker University, Douglas County, and the city of Lawrence, need some serious work. If we get along and cooperate with these other entities both in the city and surrounding us, we will profit by it. A combative or stubborn approach towards dealing with these groups will only cause strife and halt any coordinated efforts between the groups.
4.) Police and Fire Protection. Currently our city's police department is struggling along with equipment that are close to there effective lifespan, and other types of equipment that need to be upgraded. Training for both the fire and police forces should always be a high priority. Those of us who work out of Baldwin need to feel that our property and loved ones are safe in the city in our absence.
5.) Utility Infrastructure. Improvements have been accomplished over the past two years, but we have a long way to go. It shows the lack of vision by the current administration that we did an upgrade on the sewer plant in 1998, and now we need to build a whole new plant. Why wasn't this project started in 1998? Water pressure is quite frankly a sad joke in large areas of the city, and our main supply line is still under the Baker wetlands. We have already touched on the power issue, but all facets of infrastructure need improvement.
6.) "Quality of Life" program. We need to develop a recreational program that will serve the young as well as our senior citizens. For example the current administration has provided the city with a new pool. This pool much to my shock was not open in the evenings for much of the summer. I pay taxes and if I want to swim at 8 p.m. then it had better be open considering what we paid for it. A joint task force between Baker, USD 348 and city should seek to maximize our current facilities while we plan ahead for development of a recreational park. Many aspects of the Lawrence parks and recreational programs could be affordably initiated in Baldwin city but there has been little action on this front.
7.) Codes and Enforcement. Baldwin city has some major issues as to the structure of our codes and enforcement of these codes in all areas. This includes law enforcement, zoning, building, land use, maintenance of property, and animal control. My family for instance, lives across from an eyesore of a house that has been "under construction" for over two years. This structure is occupied and has not passed an occupancy inspection. It has escalated to the point that my neighbors are considering legal action to resolve the situation. We are repeatedly told by the city that they are working on the problem, or that nothing can be done, depending on the source you ask. And in the meantime the neighborhood is treated to a scenic trashpile, with construction equipment, debris and other items completing the ensemble.
I hope that you will keep in mind that this agenda is flexible. I will always have an open door and open mind policy as mayor. I look forward to serving the citizens of Baldwin City. I encourage all people to respond with comments or suggestions for other areas that our city needs attention. Thank you for your support and please vote on April 3.
Hobson says vote
To the Editor:
Just wanting to make a few comments. One council member said that they knew me well and I get riled. So do a lot of other people. You're darn right I do when our mill levy is the highest in the county and we still don't have what most people want.
With our taxes so high, that would drive away any young couple from here to a city that has lower taxes and more than we have. Young people have a hard time getting their children in school and supplying them with their needs.
Saying that the candidates don't know what the job holds, I feel they do and most are well qualified to tackle it. Of course, I can vote for just so many but I think we have a good slate of candidates. Yes, they seem young but that's because we are old. I wonder what age all those people were when they started their life careers.
So, get out and vote. This has been a real interesting election. It has shown me what some people are like. One thing for sure, it has them paying attention to the public, at last. One who is doing their job well should never have concerns about losing it.
Krysztof quits campaign, says thanks
To the Editor:
I am announcing my intent to no longer seek the office of mayor of Baldwin City as a write-in candidate.
I have enjoyed the last six years of public office. It has been a rewarding experience and a lot of good things have been accomplished.
The council of the last six years, Lee Whaley, Joe Salb, Marilyn Pearse, Jennie Washburn, Jerry Roberts, Gene Nelson, Ted Brecheisen, I want to thank you all for the effort you have given of your free time to make Baldwin City a better place to live and may it continue to be.
I also want to thank Baker University, Dan Lambert and Bob Layton for their community help. Also USD 348 and the Baldwin City Recreation Commission and dedicated board for their hard work for the children of this community.
Many thanks to Ralph Tanner who was such great help. Also to the Baldwin City Library and board members for their dedication and efforts in having a library we can all be proud of.
We now have a Fire Department that is the best and a Police Department that can be very proud of what they have accomplished.
Thanks to the Planning Commission. Keep up the excellent work.
Many thanks to all the employees of Baldwin City for your dedication and loyalty. I have enjoyed working with you and together we have made great progress.
Last but not least, many many thanks to my wife and family who have supported and put up with me throughout the last six years.
Stan Krysztof, Mayor
About the Baker deal
To the Editor:
In a recent letter to the Signal (March 7), I quoted Mr. Ken Hayes' statement to the press in which he announced that he had been meeting regularly with Mr. Todd Cohen and two other candidates for city office for the purpose of planning future directions for the city. With the general election still 30 days away that to me seemed a bit premature.
Mr. Cohen wrote last week in the Signal (March 14) that he agreed with part of my letter. Cohen states, "Mr. Nelson did accurately state that private meetings have no place in city government. He is right that elected leaders cannot and should not do so. But I would ask him, then, why he took part in the council's secret decision to reject Baker University's offer of land for a recreation center north of the high school?"
Wow! Did I read that right? Is Cohen accusing me of a violation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act? Sure sounds like that, doesn't it? Not only me, he is accusing the mayor, the city administrator and the rest of the city council of making a "decision" in secret. That is a serious and reckless charge.
For those voters who have trusted and supported me I want to explain what I know about the decision not to accept the offer made by Baker University and Mr. Michael Green last summer.
I heard this offer mentioned only once. That was at one of our publicly announced and publicly scheduled Budget Committee meetings late last spring. The meeting was called and scheduled at a regular city council meeting and it was for the purpose of reviewing the proposed 2001 budget. Near the beginning of the meeting, the mayor mentioned that he had received an offer from an attorney representing Baker and Mr. Michael Green. I do not remember all of the conditions, but four stand out in my memory. 1) The city had to build a community center with an indoor swimming pool at a cost of a few million dollars and in a relatively short period of time. 2) The center was to be built on 16.3 acres owned by Mr. Michael Green who would lease the land to the city for a specified number of years at a low cost. After the specified period the city could negotiate with Green to buy the land with the building on it. 3) The city had to purchase the Palmyra fire station and move it somewhere else. That might cost the better part of a million dollars. 4) The city had to bring utilities to the area and pave Eisenhower Street to the lake road. That could cost another million or maybe two. For these and other considerations, the city would get the temporary use of 16.3 acres from Mr. Green and the use of another 14 acres from Baker University for 25 years with the stipulation that it be used only for ball fields. The city would also receive $225,000 from Baker to be applied against the above costs.
The mayor asked all of those present if anyone wanted to pursue this offer. I was silent because I sensed that the city was in no position to take on that kind of debt. It seemed to me to add up to several million dollars. No one else spoke up either. I assumed incorrectly that this was just a preliminary announcement and that we might hear some more about it later.
A few days later I read on the front page of the Signal (June 28, 2000) an interview in which Mr. Bob Layton, Baker Treasurer, announced that the city had turned down the Baker/Green offer. I was surprised that it had happened so quickly and I wanted to know more of the details so I could answer any questions my constituents might have. I went immediately to the office of Mr. Layton and asked him to confirm what I had been told and what I had read in the Signal. He did that and then I asked him if I could see for myself a copy of the original proposal. He said he could not do that without checking with others at Baker. I felt certain that I could see a copy at the city office, so I thanked him and went directly to the office of City Administrator, Mr. Larry Paine. Mr. Paine confirmed again what I had been told about the offer, but said that he no longer had a copy. Both men mentioned that there had been a time limit for a response to the offer. Perhaps that explains the speed with which it all occurred. At any rate it seemed to be a done deal and I frankly could not see any way for the city to come up with that kind of money. I knew we were already facing increases in utility rates to maintain basic services and I was concerned that we might have a property tax increase as well. That turned out to be true a short time later when the 2001 budget was approved. I voted "NO" on the proposed budget because I felt that we could have somehow reduced some of the increase in property taxes. Mr. Lee Whaley voted "No" also, but we lost that one.
That's what I know about the Baker/Green proposal. I have asked for Mr. Layton and Mr. Paine to read this letter and confirm what I have written. The Signal story is available to anyone who wants to reread it in the archives on their Website.
One thing that is missing that I would still like to see is a copy of the original proposal. Mr. Cohen in his letter says, "If I had been on the council, I would have insisted the offer be discussed in a public meeting and that the public's input be sought." I can applaud that and I challenge him to use his talents and position as a candidate to obtain a copy of the original proposal and to publish it in the Signal where all can read it. As he says, the public's understanding and input should be sought. It has become important to the voters in this election. After we all see that document, one of us should apologize to the other. I am anxious to learn which one of us that will be.
Voter and candidate for the city council