Chat with Ward III candidate Dennis Kissinger
February 26, 2010
Dennis Kissinger, candidate for the Ward III Shawnee City Council seat, will take questions during a live chat at 2 p.m. Feb. 26, 2010. Kissinger, a former city manager in Salina, is running against incumbent Kevin Straub and candidates Jeff Tollman and Jeff Vaught to make it past the March 2 primary.
This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.
Hello, and welcome to this afternoon's chat with Ward III candidate Dennis Kissinger.
The Dispatch offered the opportunity to participate in a pre-primary chat to all four Ward III candidates, and Mr. Kissinger took us up on our offer, along with Jeff Vaught, whose chat is at 3:30 p.m. We'd like to thank in advance all who are participating for submitting questions as we approach the primary election in Ward III. So let's get to those questions!
How will your time as a city manager in Salina help you on the Shawnee City Council?
First, I will have a very short "learning curve". By having spent 17 years as a City Manager in Kansas I have great familiarity with Kansas local government laws, finance and services. Salina also had a budget size very similar to Shawnee's, and there is really nothing Shawnee is facing which I have not already dealt with in my career.
Speaking of your time leading a city, what do you think defines a good leader, and can you share your leadership qualities with us?
I think a good leader can look at each situation on its own merits, without a lot of preconceived notions. What may have been the best answer in the past, may not be appropriate for new problems. A leader doesn't automatically get that way by his or her position or title; respect as a leader is eaned over time. It is important for a leader to show trust and respect for those around them, whether they are peers, coworkers, or others which they have contact with. I was fortunate throughout my career to be able to work with many elected officials I considered to be excellent leaders, as well as those who did not meet those high standards. I would hope to model my behavior after the best of those officials/leaders. As for my own qualities, I am most concerned with solving problems, and finding good, practical solutions which can move an organization and a community forward. I love being surrounded by a good, solid team which can find ways to work together and find common ground in a trust-based environment, even when we have disagreements.
Most of the candidates have said that Shawnee needs more Economic Development but few have suggested any specific ideas for both short-term or long-term solutions.
Could you name a couple specific ideas?
I wish I had the answer to gaining more economic development, but there is simply no "magic bullet" for it. I do believe that a community which builds strong partnerships with other public agencies,e.g. county, school districts, etc., as well as business group partners, such as the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council will be more successful in speaking with "one voice" to those considering locating in the community. The City must also ensure that it has its comprehensive planning, land use, zoning and capital improvement plans in top form so that it can show it is positioned well to serve future development. Tax rates and fees must be in a competitive range with other nearby communities, and the city must demonstrate its efficiency and ability to provide services over the short and long term. An understanding and willingness to use (when appropriate) all the tax incentive and financing tools under state law is also important. Again, I don't think anyone has a sure-fire method to solve this. I'm sorry if this isn't specific enough.
In what ways do you plan to work with the De Soto School District to ensure positive communication?
First, I would encourage the City's professional staff to meet with their counterparts in the School District on a regular basis, even if it is only for a cup of coffee and discussion of projects, finances, etc. The City Council should also follow suit. I think it would be excellent to have an occasional joint meeting, if not with the full Council and Board of Education, at least with representatives of overlapping areas. I would also want to attend public meetings sponsored by the district to keep a good knowledge of their projects, programs, and challenges. It would be ideal if the Council and Board could come together to agree on common goals, especially as it relates to future development, (residential and commercial) and especially tax incentives and other tax policies. The time when a decision needs to be made should not be the only time the groups get together to plan for success.
Some are wanting to repeal the recently enacted franchise tax. Is this a good or bad idea and why?
I think this would be a very bad idea. The franchise fee change was an essential component to bring structural financial stability to the city government's long-term finances. Without that stability, the City would get further and further behind in essential street maintenance and other projects, likely costing far more to the taxpayers later. The franchise fee change will not solve the full city budget challenges; continued cost-cutting work is still required. The full impact on the budget will not be seen until 2011. At that point, in preparing the 2012 budget the City Council and staff will have a much better handle on the economy, revenue trends, and city service needs. I spoke in favor of the franchise fee change. It was the right thing to do and I still support it, especially as opposed to the alternative of raising the property tax mill levy in order to protect services and the city's excellent bond rating.
I think we have time for one more question, which I'll ask: to help our readers distinguish you from your opponents, what methods have you used to campaign? What are the most common concerns about the city you have heard from constituents as you’ve been out campaigning?
My campaign has to this point been the "non-politician" method. I have spent very little money, but have concentrated on getting my information to interested citizens through two primary methods. I have asked supporters to forward my information by e-mail to other Ward 3 residents they think may be interested. Also, I have been busy going door-to-door talking to residents myself, and giving them a one-page, inexpensive information sheet about me. By this weekend I will have visited personally over 2,000 homes. When citizens are home and want to talk, I most often hear that they are concerned with the appearance of constant bickering and unproductive fighting on the City Council. They seem to want elected officials who can work together, with their neighborhoods, schools, and getting quality western development their predominant concerns. This low-cost campaign suits my style.
Well, that concludes our chat. Thank you to Dennis Kissinger for taking the time to answer questions, and thanks again to those who submitted them. Once again, we'll take a moment to remind our readers that the primary for Ward III is March 2 and the general election is April 6 and encourage them to get to the polls and vote.