Mayor candidates square off at BHS debate
It was like old-home week Friday when Baldwin City mayoral candidates Slade Dillon and Ken Hayes returned to their alma mater, Baldwin High School, to debate in front of the student body.
But, the warm-fuzzy feeling didn't last long. The candidates took opposite stances on the first question posed to them from the students. The question, read by senior class president Chris Brown, was "how do you propose to accommodate the rapid growth in Baldwin City?"
Dillon, a 1989 BHS grad, was first up.
"I hate to say it, but we need a one-cent to one-and-a-half cent sales tax," said Dillon. "I've looked and looked at the figures and that's the only thing I can come up with to pay for the needed upgrade to the sewer plant and other projects."
Hayes, who graduated from BHS in 1984, was quick to point out that Baldwin has the highest tax levy in Douglas County.
"I think we're overtaxed as it is," said Hayes. "I'm totally opposed to any additional taxes."
The two also disagreed on how to proceed with electrical issues, including whether or not to appeal a recent decision by a Franklin County District Court judge who dismissed a lawsuit filed by Baldwin and several other cities to try and recover the $300,000 city rate payers had to fork over in 1999 to the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities. Hayes went on record last week as saying the city should appeal the decision.
Friday, Dillon, who has indicated publicly that getting out of the power business is his No. 1 priority if elected mayor, stayed to that message and threw in the appeal, too.
"Power generation downtown is way past its prime," he said. "Today we're still spending money on the ancient diesel generators downtown. It's too late to fix that. We're currently tied up in a $300,000 lawsuit. I don't think we should appeal because we don't have a case. We could save a couple thousand dollars doing that."
The candidates were also asked about their thoughts on the drug and alcohol problem at BHS.
"This is an issue where the parents need to get involved," said Dillon. "There is a big drug and alcohol problem that needs to be addressed in the home."
Hayes took a little different stance.
"If I was mayor, it would become a question of education and enforcement," said Hayes. "Obeying the law is a priority of mine. Anyone selling drugs should be dealt with harshly. I think it's something you need to look at and make the right decision."
Another topic was a recreation facility. The candidates did not disagree.
"A recreation facility would be nice. The issue is how to pay for it," said Hayes. "I think we need to work with the facilities we have right now, work in conjunction with the school board and Baker to maximize what we have now."
Dillon made similar comments, but also alluded to the North Park project proposed by Baker five years ago that would have provided the city with free land to build ball fields and other recreational facilities north of the high school. The city turned down that offer and another similar offer this past summer.
"The money just isn't here now," Dillon said. "Everyone wants a recreation facility, but no one wants to pay for it. I think we already dropped the ball several years ago out here north of the school."
The subject cropped up in another question involving the need for additional parking at Baldwin High which would probably do away with the current ball fields north of the school.
"We obviously need to look around and find some ground," said Hayes. "Our current mayor turned down an offer of free ground. I wouldn't do that. We need to find ground and it will be a priority for me. I think we need to find ground and we need to build fields, not just baseball fields."
Dillon's closing statement was brief.
"We've ignored the problems for 20-25 years and this is what happens," he said.
Hayes related to the students that in the future, they could be the ones answering questions.
"I think you need to pay attention to what is going on in your community," said Hayes. "In 10-20 years, you're going to be dealing with issues like Slade and I are doing. Politics is not something I wanted to become involved with, but I became infuriated with what was going on. Be involved. Keep an eye on your leaders and make sure they're doing what is important."
Sally Hoffsommer-Brecheisen, a lead teacher in the Baldwin Experiential Charter School, organized the Friday debate. She wanted to show BHS students about success.
"I was excited by the fact that both mayoral candidates were BHS graduates," said Hoffsommer-Brecheisen. "I went to school with Ken and Slade was one of my students. I like to emphasize to my students what successes they can become."
She also said it was the BHS graduate angle that they were after with the mayoral race. Mayor Stan Krysztof, who isn't a BHS grad, was defeated in the Feb. 28 primary race but has since announced he will seek re-election as a write-in candidate.
"It (the debate) was arranged before that was announced," said Hoffsommer-Brecheisen.