Archive for Thursday, February 17, 2005

Primary is just around the election corner

February 17, 2005

With the first of two election days just around the corner, voters are anxious to learn about the candidates. To this point, the Baldwin City Chamber of Commerce hasn't scheduled its usual candidate forums, but that's still a possibility.

But, there won't be a forum before the March 1 primary, where six candidates will square off in the race for the No. 4 position on the Baldwin School Board. The primary will narrow that field to two for the April 5 general election.

"That's correct," said Connie Ingle, deputy clerk for elections in the Douglas County Clerk's office, about two candidates advancing. "You've got it right."

The six candidates for the position are Ruth Barkley, Toby Ebel, Nathan Feldt, incumbent Chip Hornberger, Doug Mead and Barbara Tucker. The Signal sent candidate questionnaires to those six at the first of the month. As of Wednesday, four of the candidates returned their questionnaires and those answers are in this week's Signal.

Questionnaires were also sent to the candidates in the other races, which include three more school board positions, the mayor's post and two city council positions. There are contested races on the school board for position No. 2 and No. 6. In position No. 2, incumbent Lonnie Broers faces David Norris. In position No. 6, incumbent Ande Parks squares off against Jay Hundley. In position No. 5, Bill Busby is unopposed.

On the city council side, incumbent Mayor Ken Hayes will be challenged by Gary Walbridge. There are three candidates for one council position -- incumbent Amy Cleavinger, Doyle Jardon and Jason Mock -- after a fourth, John Frazier, withdrew. Running unopposed for the other position is incumbent Tony Brown.

The questionnaires have provided a glimpse into where the candidates stand. Those answers on the four who returned them for position No. 4 -- Barkley, Ebel, Feldt and Mead -- appear in their entirety in pages A-6 and A-6 of today's Signal. But, here's a quick peak at some of the answers.

"I want to address the budget concerns that our district has endured for countless years," said Mead. "Considering the tax dollars we pay, I am hard pressed to believe there is not enough money available to properly educate our children. It's time some hard questions are asked and honest answers are forth coming.

"I want to start right here in our district and follow the trail to Topeka," he said. "We need to hold our elected officials accountable to provide the tax dollars with which they have been entrusted."

Faced with those budget concerns, the candidates were also asked where they stand on building a new auditorium at Baldwin High School.

"The auditorium was originally a part of the new high school design," said Barkley. "If the new auditorium is built as this design indicates, there will also be additional needs for the displaced baseball and softball fields. While the auditorium is a desirable, needed and overdue addition, the timing of this bond proposal and the likelihood of its passage will hinge on a variety of factors.

"It is important to recognize that the dollars spent from our budget to pay for salaries, supplies, utilities, etc. are from a different funding source than the "bond issue" dollars spent on capital improvements, such as the new auditorium," she said. "This is obviously an issue that all patrons should inform themselves about, before they decide."

Candidates were also asked about their stance on closing either or both of the rural elementary schools, Vinland and Marion Springs, in light of continued budget pressures.

"I know that many communities bus students to a central site and do so with great success," said Ebel. "However, closing existing schools is not something to take lightly and all information must be weighed and an objective conclusion reached as to their viability. We have some research that can be done. Schools in the Lawrence area and in the Kansas City area have recently been closed and others left open that were under consideration.

"We should be able to take a look at their results, both financially and with regards to the educational value, and use that data to help us reach a sound decision," he said. "The administrators and school board members have to understand that emotions run high with regards to school closings, and they must resist the urge to make decisions based on their own motivations and to not be swayed by those who are emotionally charged."

Candidates were also asked what problems in the district they'd like to see addressed if elected. Feldt listed three.

"The lack of funding for art and music studies," said Feldt of his No. 1 problem. "Music and art usually suffer first when funds are scarce. I have observed out-dated computer technology at Vinland and a general lack in current computer and teaching technology. I would assume that this problem is district wide.

"(I would also like to see) inclusion of the rural elementary schools in the discussions about the present and future of the school district," he said.

All candidates had opinions and answers on these examples which are in this week's issue. If answers are provided by the remaining two candidates, Hornberger and Tucker, they will be included in next week's Signal, along with additional candidates for school board positions.

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