Dallke, Larsen participate in forum
At a question and answer forum July 16 at USD 408 Performing Arts Center, Marion, approximately 150 people heard differing responses from candidates.
There are two Republican candidates and one Democrat who have filed for the third district commission seat that represents Peabody, Goessel, and Florence areas.
Incumbent Randy Dallke and Peabody City Councilman Larry Larsen answered a variety of questions, primarily from those in attendance, regarding a new jail, management of the county road and bridge department, and micro-management by the commission.
Democrat candidate Aaron Allen of Florence will meet the winner from the Aug. 5 primary in the general election Nov. 4.
Here are the responses from the Republican candidates.
"If the jail bond issue does not pass, what solution would you recommend for housing county prisoners?"
Larsen: If the county doesn't have an adequate jail to house prisoners, they will have to be "farmed out." "We're going to have to hire officers, have more cars, more fuel, a higher risk." If a new jail bond issue doesn't pass, "we'd have to remodel the existing jail. You're at risk when walking between the cells. There is a liability." However, putting county funds into remodeling the jail would be a continual draw of those funds.
Dallke: There are only a few options — either transport prisoners to another jail or fix up the existing jail "the best we can. That to me is not a good idea unless we completely remodel and it will take shutting it down and transporting prisoners anyway." Part of the existing jail already has been remodeled to meet the state fire marshal's code. "We have to figure out ways to help us. Maybe the judge can help us with sentencing and a work-related structure. Regardless we still have to take care of the prisoners. We've been trying to look at different ways and nothing has fit our county."
"A permanent department head has not been hired in the road and bridge department. How should that issue be addressed?"
Dallke: The commission has tried three or four local ways to solicit applications. "My opinion was to try a professional service. We're meeting with our employees to hear their goals and how we can work with them. In the next month we'll look at other options."
Larsen: "As I understand, road and bridge department is one of our largest budget items. It's something that's our signature." Roads are the first impression of visitors. Costs of asphalt and oil continue to increase. "We need a supervisor with experience in budgeting, managing people, prioritizing, determine what needs to be fixed first, and what needs to be put on the back burner. It's our signature." He continued that the sheriff's department and EMS depend on good roads. If a department head can be hired from within the department, "that would be great."
"How do you balance managing/micro-managing county departments?"
Larsen: Department managers are hired to manage their departments. "We have to bring in and hire the right people." Those managers need to be educated and find the best way to manage. "There's no reason why I should have to be out with a pair of binoculars or peering around a bush. This is their expertise. The only time a commissioner should be involved with a manager is when that person is truly having problems. A commissioner shouldn't be micro-managing."
Dallke: "When department heads are hired, you expect the best, you expect the most. When the public reports back to the commission as so often is done, I think it's time to have micro-management. When reports come back to the commissioners, you have to find out what's happening within the department. Maybe employees will report to you that things are not going well. Most the time you don't have problems but there have been issues in the past. Micro-managing is not a good idea because the commission should work with them. But when things are not working and things are popping up, commissioners should help."
"What would be your number one focus?"
Dallke: Providing a quality of life that is best for Marion County people is his number one focus. "We're losing people. We need to keep what we have." The reason the population is decreasing is because there aren't any jobs in the county. "We finally hired a qualified person to come in and hopefully it will benefit us in a few years."
Larsen: There are many variables but county residents are the most important. "Where's our future? Does it correlate with our past? What can I do for you? By listening and observing I can determine how to best serve you and your needs and stay within the budget which will allow you to have a road to drive on. Ability to have a fire department and ambulance close by. Listen to you and support you and make sure your quality of life is good." He also included economic development as a focus and said the City of Peabody recently completed a comprehensive plan.
"Recently a sale was held in southwest Marion County because an owner was afraid that the county or state would remove his property. Do you support more strict property standards?"
Larsen: Public nuisances also are addressed in Peabody but when infringing on another person's "thought process that says, 'This is my life, my heritage, my privilege to run my business as I see fit' can overstep boundaries." Laws have been created and most residents are law-abiding and try to do the right thing. The country is based on rights as individuals and as a community to be free. People should not encumber on their neighbors.
Dallke: The guideline is to not trespass on people. Rules are rules. "We can have a lot of rules We can have too many rules." Some think seven (inoperable) cars on a farm site are too many, some think one is. "We have to stand up and say we're causing problems for the rest of us. We shouldn't impose on others but set guidelines people can live by so we don't impose on others."
"What is your stance on countywide mandatory recycling?"
Dallke: "I sat for four years on Peabody City Council and recycling came along to Peabody. I had never done it before. I thought it would be difficult. As it went on, I found it wasn't that bad of a deal." Recycling is a plus for the whole county and the world.
Larsen: It costs less than 1/10th to remake an aluminum can than it does to create a new can. "We have already closed a landfill in this county and went through the process to find a place to put our waste." Instead of mandatory recycling, he wishes people would do more on their own. At some point, there is not going to be any more room for trash.
"A former commissioner once said that the worst part of the job is handling late evening calls from disgruntled citizens. How well would you be able to handle those calls?"
Larsen: "I've dealt with a variety of people in different situations. It comes with the job." A commissioner should be firm, graceful, forgiving, attentive, and most importantly a good listener. He has learned to deal with people when they have not been at their best. He said he has learned to be a quiet listener.
Dallke: As a police officer in the 1970s, he has learned how to handle people. "When people have a problem they want you to solve it and you'd better solve it to the best of your ability." He said he has found meeting the individual a second time helps to resolve the situation. "Irate people have something on their minds. They have one goal and that is to have you help them. It helps to listen. Some have called at 1 and 2 a.m. I've talked with them the next day. I find out if it's true."
"The commission currently is looking at ways to reduce expenses such as utilities and fuel. What ideas do you have to accomplish that?"
Dallke: "We put it out to department heads first. They are the managers of their departments. They are the ones who are going to tell us how to save fuel and costs." After department heads, we may need to look outside the box. He said that Gove County has gone to a four-day work week and should listen to other counties and see how they do it. The commission needs to research it and see how we can do it.
Larsen: He also agreed that obtaining information from department heads was important. "We need to ask them where they see waste, neglect, and other ways to reduce costs. Also look at duplication of services. Are departments doing the same thing? Is there someone in one department who might be able to help in another department? We need to look at everything and ask everyone in the department."
In closing, Larsen said the bottom line was elected officials are here to serve constituents. "We need to take charge of our budgets, look in areas of consolidation, conduct research, visit other commissioners, and become more educated. You deserve a commissioner who works for you, listens to you without a doubt. We're here to serve you, make important decisions, and help this county move forward."
Dallke said, "If you, the public, tells me and the majority feels that way, that's what I will do and that's what I will strive to do. I will continue to help Marion County grow, economic development, law enforcement, jail, whatever the situation. Listening is my job."
On paper, the three Marion County residents, and Republicans, vying for the seat of Kansas Representative of District 70, appeared to be quite similar.
Attorney J. Robert "Bob" Brookens and abstractor Roger Hannaford, both of Marion, and retired microbiologist William "Bill" Spangler, of Burns, expressed their views by answering questions, most of them posed in writing by those audience members in attendance.
The first question that was asked was "Do you support a coal-fired plant, specifically at Holcomb?"
All three were in support of a plant but had differing ideas of the concept.
Hannaford answered first.
"Yes, I do support it. Energy is one of our biggest needs," he said. "Holcomb would be the cleanest coal-fired plant in the world."
He continued that Kansas has a chance to make a difference and become self-sufficient.
Brookens was the next to answer.
"Good technology is being proposed for the plant. New untested, untried technology which deserves to be tried," he said.
However, Brookens said he was not in favor of building two generators and then discovering the technology doesn't work as planned.
Spangler said he, too, was in favor of the plant but wanted to see other alternative forms of energy developed.
"We don't like nuclear but sooner or later we're going to have to research and build more," he said. "Solar power and air power are free."
He continued that Kansas was the third leading state in the nation for having wind available but Kansas is the 11th in developing the resource. Spangler would like to integrate the two power sources.
"Should state taxpayer dollars be used to support the creation and production of alternative energy?"
The candidates had differing points of view.
Brookens: The state's resources would be appropriate for exploring and encouraging new technologies such as wind, solar, and bio-diesel.
Spangler: There is pollution even when nitrous oxide is eliminated. He was in favor of using cellulose instead of cereal grains for an ethynol plant.
Hannaford: Holcomb plant developers were going to invest their own money. He said tax dollars are needed to encourage development and private enterprise will step up to the plate. Tax money can be used on something else.
"What funding options or alternatives do you propose for smaller school districts with declining enrollments?"
Spangler: Current funding needs to go farther. Peabody-Burns school district did this, Spangler said, when he was a member of the school board. The quality and number of courses taught need to be increased and hire better teachers. He continued that children do not receive enough rearing and nurturing at home. It is important to have more money and make it more equitable for smaller schools.
Hannaford: He related to his eight years on the Marion-Florence school board and the tough decisions because of declining enrollment. Most of the state's money ends up in Johnson County and Kansas City, he said. School financing needs to be tweaked to take care of smaller districts. One area communities can improve is economic development with more people, families, and jobs. He also noted that Marion County has had a reduction of more than 300 people.
Brookens: Funding categories for smaller school districts come in two categories. A category like Chase County is a part, which is one of nine in the state, where the entire county is integrated into one school district. When those school districts lose students, they are considered to become more wealthy. No one is interested in forced consolidation. He suggested co-oping superintendents and budget work among the districts.
"What is your position in regard to illegal immigrants, specifically the issuance of Kansas driver's licenses, lower college tuitions, and remaining illegal in the state?"
Hannaford: He was in favor of a program to help illegal immigrants become citizens. He is not in favor of giving them driver's licenses or in-state tuition until they are legal. "We need to work with them or give them a little easier formula to help them become citizens before giving them benefits."
Brookens: "The key word is 'illegal'." He noted there was a difference in coming to the U.S. legally and illegally. Lower tuition is not appropriate. Other issues that have to be addressed include a child who comes to the state illegally and grows up to be an illegal adult. There needs to be a path available to becoming legal. Kansas also doesn't have the responsibility of educating illegal immigrants for free.
Spangler: He is against financial aid for any of the areas previously mentioned. If they can't become useful citizens then they need be off the welfare rolls and free medical care lists. "They're getting more than we are. I'm for sending them back." He doesn't agree with making them citizens because the U.S. and Kansas needs people who are loyal to the country and respect the flag and many of these people are not.
"How can health insurance needs be met for uninsured and under-insured Kansans?"
Spangler: He said he didn't know but the state needs to have better insurance programs that are paid by employers. Also, he didn't think those who provide insurance to residents should be so "free to grant insurance to those who do not deserve it." He continued that welfare reform needed to occur so people are more responsible and work and earn their own insurance. "There's not a whole lot that can be done because of the politics."
Hannaford: Another difficult topic, he said mandates could be lifted from insurance companies or get the state involved, which is not what he would do. "At least 10 percent of uninsured people are between the ages of 18 and early 20s." They either have jobs that don't provide it or are college students. "What we need is a catastrophic insurance plan with a high deductible that is cheap enough for individuals to afford." He wants to more people insured.
Brookens: Meeting health care needs is more than one issue, with people in different age groups needing coverage. HealthWave has been very effective, he said, in assisting those who meet the income guidelines, and keeping it funded is appropriate. "Those who are older need one program and those older yet need another program." He continued that his children are in the 18 to early 20s age groups and have been able to get a policy for $83 per month. He said medical professionals should follow the practice of some attorneys and do some pro-bono (without pay) work.
"Is homosexual practice a lifestyle we should be silent about?"
Hannaford: "It's a lifestyle and situation I don't understand." He knows homosexuals and doesn't understand it. "I think God probably knows but it's a difficult situation. It's coming out in the open a lot more. I wished it wouldn't. I'm not for homosexuality. That's not what God has created for us." Homosexual marriages are totally wrong, he continued, but in this society we are going to have to deal with it. "I don't think it's going to go away."
Brookens: "No matter what we think or say, there are things we have no affect on." He noted the stance Boy Scouts of America has taken on the issue. "It's not what a person feels or does on their own but the advocacy. If it gets in the way of my family or home, then I have to take a stand."
Spangler: When it was his turn to answer, Spangler made a gesture with his hand and fingers. He then responded. "I'm totally against making a public spectacle of homosexuality. It doesn't have its place and never will have its place. If it can be kept at a low level without encouraging it, it should be." He's against legislating rights for homosexuals. "If you encourage them and give them more, they'll become more blatant and they'll be coming out of the woodwork. As a God-fearing nation, we don't need homosexuals. Some of it is environmental and some is genetic. We have to recognize that these people have certain problems and we shouldn't ridicule them for it and put them down but we shouldn't make them feel that it is something normal."
"Would you vote in favor of an issue that the clear majority of your constituents do not support?"
Brookens: America is a democracy, he said, and the purpose of electing a candidate is to seek the common good. "As a matter of conscience, I am held to that. I am compelled to vote for what is right under the circumstances. I am not a purveyor of information but here to represent you."
Spangler: "I can't say that there would be many times I would vote against the consensus of my constituents but there are times that I may have to. In those cases, I would." He continued that he wouldn't be popular for it but if he felt he was right and just for doing so, he would. Most people are well-informed about the issues and a few are not. "You have to talk to them and use your web (site) and communicate with the people to find out what they feel. You have to make the decision yourself. I like to be on the side of the right."
Hannaford: "I stand on high principles and values." He said he would look at the situation and as a representative, would do the wishes of the people. "That's why we're elected. There is always going to be two sides to every issue. Sometimes it's hard to determine the majority. I have to look at my own principles and values, consult others, and come up with the best decision."
Spangler instructed audience members to his web site for more information. Being retired and working only part-time, he said he has the time to represent the district.
Hannaford said he would make a good representative because he's a good listener. He recalled when his grandfather, Lawrence Slocombe of Peabody was a state representative and he would listen to constituents, taking their ideas back to Topeka. He wants to do the same.
If Brookens is elected, he said he would do his best to make himself available to listen to constituents' concerns, bringing strong analytical skills and skills of persuasion to the table.
Two Republican party candidates are competing for the sheriff's position — incumbent Lee Becker and retired Kansas Highway Patrolman Robert "Rob" Craft.
They answered a variety of questions, primarily from those in attendance, regarding a new jail, child predators, and concealed carry gun laws.
Here are their responses.
"How would you deal with underage drinking and illegal drug use?"
Craft: He acknowledged that they both are serious issues. Educating parents to help get the behavior stopped before it gets out of control can halt future problems. "If we can get drugs slowed down, stopped, or prevented before teens reach their early 20s, it would help since it seems to be more of a pattern for life after they're in their mid-20s." He said he wants to work at educating and training officers with "what's going on," work with school and church officials, and community members, and give guidance to those who may be going down the destructive path.
Becker: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I have maintained a zero tolerance for illegal drugs and underage drinking." He continued that there has not been an alcohol-related vehicle fatality accident in Marion County since 2002. His department has gone after drivers who are driving under the influence, deputies have been trained, and currently working on investigations from the north end to the south end of the county. "We'll have an interesting summer before it's all said and done."
"What can we do to protect our children from child predators?"
Becker: He said that he and his officers have been trained to work with other agencies to make sure information is gathered correctly from victims. "We have a child-first policy." Of the child predators currently incarcerated, he said there was one who is "home grown." The others came into the county.
Craft: By ensuring that the department is staffed with well-trained and educated officers is his way of protecting residents. He wants long-term staff members who can develop relationships with communities. He also wants families to be comfortable in coming to his office to report crime. Officers also need to be trained for Internet threats and crime and would rather work with other groups and individuals to prevent crime but is willing to prosecute.
"If a new jail bond doesn't pass, what do we do then?"
Craft: He would want to know the final cost to update the current jail facility and bring it within the mandated guidelines. A second option would be to transport prisoners elsewhere. "We need to look at those options and consider which is best." Both have pitfalls and will cost the county. "We must do something because we'll have to deal with it again." Hiring additional officers and vehicles would be required if transporting prisoners. Commissioners will have ultimate decision.
Becker: Voters will address the issue and he said he would work within those guidelines to either update the existing facility or transport prisoners. Currently, the existing jail has sewer problems which need to be corrected. An updated facility will work for jail personnel instead of personnel working for an outdated facility.
"Do you support the current concealed carry gun laws?"
Becker: "I absolutely support it. Guns in the right hands do not scare me. It's people who create the problems."
Craft: "I, too, am in favor of the law. Citizens don't worry me being in possession of firearms. It's the individual who has never made the attempt to comply with the law or the criminal who is not concerned with the law. Law-abiding citizens will follow the law."
"With skyrocketing fuel costs, what actions could you take to reduce fuel consumption?"
Craft: Reduced fuel consumption means reduced coverage. These days, patrol cars are getting better gas mileage. He said he would continue purchasing those vehicles that do get better gas mileage. "If we cut back on patrolling, it's a disservice to the public and that's the last thing we want to do." He said he would look at the budget and see what areas could be cut. Instead of officers working traffic, they could work in specific areas to keep costs in line.
Becker: There are deputies positioned around the county. Department cars get 20 miles per gallon. Two SUVs are needed within the department and the fuel economy for cars and trucks are about the same when they are patrolling towns or the reservoir. He encourages his officers to get out of the "steel and glass" and do door checks in the smaller towns.
"Inmates are used for various county services, even cutting thistles in pastures. Should this practice be expanded or cut back, and how can public safety be maintained?"
Becker: Those inmates who are given the privilege to work for the county are those serving sentences for DUI, drugs, or some type of crime that is not considered to be a risk to the public. "They haven't run off yet. They're glad to do it." Last year inmates painted the county shop and the lake hall. "I will not let people who commit crimes against children get out or those who are dangerous to the public." Those who work for the county then are not charged those days for incarceration which is $11.02 per day and it helps the county, he said.
Craft: "I firmly believe that inmates should be utilized in some capacity. They should be screened or determined if they are a risk factor." Inmates can assist with community service projects and the county but he wants them to be supervised. "I don't want them on their own or running equipment."
"The severity of offenders is shifting to include more serious offenders. What does that mean for the operation of the jail?"
Craft: More intense crimes will result in longer sentences. "A jail with 10 inmates serving a short period of time will be filled with those serving nine months to a year. Eventually, you're going to run out of room." With the number of inmates and longer sentencing, consideration may need to be given to transferring long-term inmates to other facilities to make room for county inmates serving weekend sentences. "It's going to depend on whether we can curtail the activities that are bringing them to jail. Then we can make-do a little longer."
Becker: A child molester's sentence is similar to a murderer's and those accused of those crimes can draw out the process so their jail stay is even longer. The more serious offenders change the whole tone of the jail.
In closing, Becker said he started the K-9 and DRAGNET programs. His focus is on the person who is making the methamphetamine instead of just the end-user because they are the ones who are stealing four-wheelers, copper wire, and breaking into homes.
Craft said his goal was to develop a long-term sheriff's office with officers committed to the community. By bringing in those officers and keeping them well-trained and well-staffed, the department can provide Marion County with a professional sheriff's office, and "we can go a long way to develop this county."