House candidates on the issues: Should the Legislature leave more decisions with local government?

Dan Blom - October 19, 2016 11:00 am

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We sent questions last week to candidates for state representative in Kansas House Districts 19, 21, 24 and 25, all of which cover sections of northeast Johnson County. The questions we selected came from the large number of questions submitted by readers.

By the deadline to respond to the third question, we had received the following responses that appear below. Today’s question is:

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Municipalities have complained that the legislature is meddling in issues that should be within the purview of the city: elections, gun laws, sign ordinances, utilities in rights-of-way, rental inspections to name a few. Do you agree this authority should stay with the cities?  Would you favor repealing any of these recent directives?

House District 19

Stephanie Clayton

Stephanie Clayton
Stephanie Clayton

I believe that the government most responsive to the people is the government closest to the people, whether it be the city council, county commission, school board, fire district, or community college.  Local units of government, their leaders, and their residents are right to be displeased with the recent actions of the legislature regarding local control.  I would support exploring the repeal or reform of legislative measures that improperly interfere with the relationship between local elected officials and their communities.

I represent three unique cities in Northeast Johnson County (Overland Park, Leawood, and Prairie Village), and my constituents are very engaged at the local level, building their communities to match their shared visions.  Local governments are in the best position to manage their own local elections, to decide how their streetscapes and rights-of-way should be utilized, and to determine how to best protect the safety of their residents, businesses, public servants, and school-children.
I look forward to working with my colleagues, both in the state legislature and in local government, to reestablish proper boundaries and spheres of authority between our respective bodies. I would appreciate your vote on November 8.

Elizabeth Meitl

Elizabeth Meitl
Elizabeth Meitl

Government authority is a nuanced issue with competing interests, priorities, and power dynamics always at play. It is convenient for policy-makers to act as if there are easy answers to hard questions, but it is rarely true. This question, for instance, asks us to think about the role of our state government, city governments, and a whole slew of complicated issues which, taken as a whole, represent a tremendous set of value systems that are both personal and public. A comprehensive answer to this question could fill a book.

The Cliff Notes version of my answer, though, is this: local control is generally better, and yes, I am in favor of repealing many of the directives listed.
Our state legislature has let some horrible things happen because of a few “leaders” who have led us astray, and this is the heart of the question. Sam Brownback and Kris Kobach have overreached in dozens of disastrous ways, and the legislature let them. Elections should be free and open, and registering to vote has to be easier than buying a firearm. Guns, in fact, should be very hard to buy, and we should have to prove that we are trained and capable in order to be able to own them. Further, no institution should be forced to allow guns on their grounds, most especially institutions of higher education. The state has gone far beyond meddling on this – it has completely ignored the voice of the people. Issues like signs, utilities, and rental inspections are cases in which the lobbying power of organizations was used to buy and leverage power in ways that also ignored the best interests, and voices, of the people. This is not what Kansas is all about – we are a people who can come together and figure these issues out in productive ways on a local level.

John Taube

John Taube
John Taube

As a Libertarian, the belief is that Local control is best for handling most issues in policy. But when Constitutional Rights are at threat, the State Government is to be setting the standard that the citizens follow. So there are some directives that would stay, such as 2nd Amendment Laws. But directives that should change would be the removal of the local cap in education taxing. All policies must line up with Constitutional placement.

 

House District 21

Dorothy Hughes

Dorothy Hughes
Dorothy Hughes

The state has seriously overstepped its bounds regarding local control. Our cities and counties ought to have the autonomy to do the jobs we elect them to do. I have reached out to our city and county officials to listen and understand how state action has interfered with local decision making. I support repealing the property tax lid. This policy wrongly takes authority away from localities and, put simply, does not allow our communities to benefit from economic growth and rising property values. This is particularly detrimental for maintenance of city and county infrastructure, which is critical not only to the area’s economic health but also our quality of life. We have great amenities here in Johnson County, and we ought to be building upon those, not endangering them. It does not make sense to me that the state is interfering in city and county budgets when it needs to focus on balancing its own budget.

The changes to gun laws at the state level directly contradict what majorities locally wanted, and instead of working to understand the concerns and interests of communities around the state, the legislature went over their heads. As someone who has spent many years as an employee and graduate student on the KU Med campus, I strongly support repealing campus carry, reinstating training requirements for concealed carry, and revisiting additional gun-related provisions that have infringed on local control.

There are many other ways the state has gone overboard. The government closest to the people governs best, and it is disappointing to see the state treating localities the way it says it does not want to be treated by the federal government. I am optimistic that those of us who favor common sense and bipartisanship will be able to reverse this disturbing trend in Topeka.

Jerry Stogsdill

Jerry Stogsdill
Jerry Stogsdill

To the greatest extent possible, there should be local control of government. Kansas citizens should be able to direct their local representatives to address education, social, health and other issues that those citizens are willing to authorize and fund. Local municipalities should be able to deal with local issues without being hampered by legislation enacted at the state level on behalf of tax avoiding, politically motivated, or power-seeking special interest groups.

I would favor repealing any legislation that hampers legal local control of elections, gun laws, sign ordinances, utilities in right-of-way, rental inspections and any other issue that does not need statewide uniformity. The present Administration in Topeka seems to believe in local control only as long as that control is dictated from Topeka. Kansas has a diverse population located in diverse communities which favor diverse priorities, laws and codes. The needs and wants of those communities are best determined and implemented by citizens at the local level without the interference of state government.

House District 24

Rob Johnson

Rob Johnson
Rob Johnson

Together we’ve watched Topeka become as toxic as Washington, D.C. passing legislation that has negatively impacted our local communities. Topeka doesn’t know ‘what’s best’ – you do. I will listen to you and with you by my side, I’ll approach each decision with common sense working to ensure that Topeka does not overreach into areas that are best decided by local governments and school boards.

Yes, this authority should stay with the cities and counties. We elect city and county officials to manage issues at the local level, Topeka should not be micro-managing those issues that are best decided locally.

Yes, I would be in favor of repealing those recent directives.

Jarrod Ousley

Jarrod Ousley
Jarrod Ousley

After meeting with local mayors and city councils, I voted against moving our spring elections to the fall.  Municipalities and County governments had a system in place that worked for them, and did not want to implement a change that would cost local dollars, and potentially lead to partisan fighting over local issues.  City Councils and School Boards must be free to make decisions without the rancor that can occur with partisan bickering, and local officials were concerned that moving elections to the fall were only a first step, and that the next move by the State would involve consolidating local elections into State office elections in addition to making them partisan.

I also voted against overriding local restrictions on where an individual could carry a weapon.  Prior to making this vote, I spoke to police chiefs and local officials regarding the safety of their officers in responding to calls.  Another concern I heard repeatedly related to the elimination of training requirements for gun owners before they could carry their weapon in public spaces, such as public parks, pools, and libraries, where a combination of a lack of training and large numbers of children could lead to tragic accidents.

Local officials are very aware of their community’s needs and how a policy will impact their neighbors, and what types of policy are necessary to make their communities vibrant spaces for the families that live within them.  While historically there have been instances in which local control needed to be overruled (such as discriminatory restrictive covenants that prevented minority home buyers from purchasing in certain areas), generally local policy should be allowed to reflect the values and priorities of their citizens.

House District 25

Melissa Rooker

Melissa Rooker
Melissa Rooker

I am a strong supporter of local control and have the voting record to prove it. The state constitution enshrines the concept of home rule in Article 12, Section 5. Here is a link https://kslib.info/838/Article-Twelve-Corporations

Kansas has a long tradition of honoring home rule and successful communities to show for it. Home rule recognizes that the needs of Johnson County, and our densely populated cities differ greatly from the needs in rural Kansas. I support keeping this authority rooted with our local elected officials who are best positioned to respond to their communities.

My legislative district encompasses all or part of 8 different cities in Northeast Johnson County so I have had the privilege of working with a dedicated group of mayors, city councilors and law enforcement officials to assess the impact of all legislation that has usurped their local authority. They work diligently to gather public input, include citizens in the process and communicate their concerns effectively with me.

I would welcome re-examination of any of the laws passed that have usurped local control in the hope that unintended consequences can be fixed, that burdensome state restrictions can be lifted and the will of local citizens can be honored. We will be returning to Topeka with a legislature that has changed significantly offering us a terrific opportunity to restore the balance of power that has long existed in Kansas.

Matt McCann
Did not respond.

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