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Chat with Ward II council member Neal Sawyer

March 6, 2012

Neal Sawyer

Ward II City Council member Neal Sawyer will answer reader questions from noon to 12:30 p.m. Friday, March 9, 2012, here at shawneedispatch.com. We encourage you to submit questions in advance, and tune in again Friday afternoon to chat more and read Neal's responses. Neal faces one challenger, Mike Kemmling, in the April 3, 2012, general election.

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Moderator

Hi everyone! This is Melissa Treolo, reporter with The Dispatch. Neal Sawyer has joined us today for an online chat. I'll start things off with our first question for Neal: do you think taxes imposed on Shawnee residents are reasonable?

Neal Sawyer

I think that they are reasonable. You can always say taxes are too high, but for the services that the citizens receive for fire, police and safety, parks, and street maintenance, compared to other cities, Shawnee Citizens get a good value for their tax dollars.

OpenShawnee

At the last council meeting your claimed that people are paying less in taxes than they were before the property tax increase that you voted for. Does that mean that you are taking credit for the drop in housing values?

Moderator

Sorry, folks, we're having some minor technical difficulties. But Neal will be back to answer your questions shortly. Stay with us!

Moderator

We are back on track. Neal will respond shortly. Thanks, readers, for your patience!

Neal Sawyer

I am not taking credit for anything, I was simply pointing out the fact that the property valuations in people's homes have gone down and that the dollars that they are paying are a little bit less than what they were paying in the past. While it is a good thing for the dollars taxpayers are paying to be down, it is a bad thing that the property valuations are down. I was simply stating the facts.

OpenShawnee

How do you justify forcing Shawnee residents to pay for recycling without regard to their desire to participate ?

Neal Sawyer

Recycling is just one factor of reducing the amount of trash that goes into the landfill. While we did it a little ahead of the mandate that Johnson County decided to impose, it is the right thing for the environment. However, the reason we went to pay-as-you-throw is that nobody has to recycle, it is still strictly their own call. There is a charge for it, and there was a charge for it even before we went to pay-as-you-throw. The individual can still choose to recycle or not to recycle. There has been a payment required for recycling since 1992.

sshepherd

Hi Neal, this is Sara Shepherd, the city reporter. Can you explain for readers why you voted against creating the community improvement district at 10 Quivira Plaza shopping center?

Neal Sawyer

As I said at every meeting we've had on CID, I do not believe that it is right to put economic development on the backs of the citizens who use the shopping center, especially because there is a grocery store in this particular shopping center. This is not, in my opinion, the way that CID was designed to be used by the State of Kansas; it was meant to be used for entertainment areas, not for necessities such as groceries.

Moderator

OK, Neal, I've got another question for you. What do you think is needed to revitalize Shawnee’s oldest neighborhoods?

Neal Sawyer

I think that we need to expand the KNRA (the Kansas Neighborhood Redevelopment Act). We've had this program in place in the Downtown area since 2002, and it has to be renewed this year, and we are looking at expanding some of the boundaries to include other areas around Downtown, because it has worked very well over the last ten years.

Neal Sawyer

I think that we need to expand the KNRA (the Kansas Neighborhood Redevelopment Act). We've had this program in place in the Downtown area since 2002, and it has to be renewed this year, and we are looking at expanding some of the boundaries to include other areas around Downtown, because it has worked very well over the last ten years.

5288

What responsibility do you take for the failure at Monticello South

Neal Sawyer

I take full responsibility for what we did. For development to happen in that part of the city, we will have to have a street network to get to it, and while I wish that the street had been completed, the reason that it hasn't is that we pulled the plug on it, because the economy hit a downturn. It wasn't the right thing to do to spend the other 12 million dollars for the project, and put the city in debt for that 12 million without the revenues coming in to pay for it. For growth to continue in that part of the city, we will have to look at continuing that street project in the future.

Moderator

Neal, your opponent says Shawnee needs to cut wasteful spending. In what areas, if any, would you cut spending?

Neal Sawyer

That's an easy statement to make- you need to look at every line item on the budget, as I have every year that I have been on the council. There is no one big item that you can automatically cut out, so we're down to having to look at every little item that we can cut out, and not affect public safety, and other vital services that the Citizens require from the city.

Moderator

Folks, because of technical difficulties, we're going to continue our conversation with Neal until about 12:40. He is responding shortly, and we'll post more questions.

OpenShawnee

If I remember correctly, you voted in favor of the abbreviated format for Council meeting minutes. This makes council meetings much less transparent, making it more difficult for residents to see what is happening in city meetings. Given the multi-million dollar city budget and the annual savings of only $27,000, do you believe this was the place to start budget cuts?

Neal Sawyer

Yes, I did vote for the change. While it is only a $10,000 savings ($17,000 of that savings was from cutting out pet licencing; $10,000 was for the change in minutes format) I believe that we have become more transparent- I've used it to go back and look up questions that I have had on minutes, and I don't find it that difficult- in fact, I find it more refreshing because you are actually hearing people make the comments, The way the minutes were before, people read the interpretation of what people said rather than what they actually said verbatim. I also believe *and* know that there are people who listen to council meetings live, and they did not have this ability to do so in the past, before we went to this new system. The State of Kansas, as well as other cities in Kansas use this system. As technology improves, we have to change in order to keep up with that technology. We have far surpassed the stone tablet and chisel in this regard.

Moderator

OK, we've got time for about one more question. From 5288: are you in favor of the current sign ordinance and why?

Neal Sawyer

Sign ordinances are always a matter of contention. Some people believe we are too liberal on signs, others believe that we are not liberal enough. I believe that over the last year, with the help of the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce holding several fact-finding meetings, we were able to make some helpful revisions to the sign ordinance that were adopted in the fall of 2011 because we listened to input given from the business community and Shawnee Citizens.

Moderator

With that, we're going to wrap up our chat. Thanks, Neal, for participating today, and thanks to our readers for submitting your questions. The general election is April 3. Until then, stay tuned to shawneedispatch.com for more election coverage, including coverage of the candidates for Ward IV.

Comments

OpenShawnee 5 years, 7 months ago

I am disappointed you sidestepped most of my questions. Unfortunately the moderator did not post my follow-up questions.

Follow-up: It sounds like you are OK with forcing everyone to pay for recycling, whether they use it or not. Do you support "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" (ObamaCare)?

Follow-up: Monticello Rd was a failure because you failed to secure the required utility easments before beginning work. Do you now have those easements???

Follow-up: In addition to making government more secretive. The full meeting content being available only in audio recorded also discriminates against the hearing impaired. Do you still support that?

Follow-up: You can record the meetings and broadcast live WITHOUT eliminating detailed written minutes. These are online too, hardly "stone and chisel" as you say

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sshepherd 5 years, 7 months ago

Hi 'OpenShawnee,' news editor Sara Shepherd here. Dispatch staff moderates each chat, selects which reader questions to post and sometimes posts some of their own. We try to give each reader a chance to have at least one question answered by the candidate in the allotted time frame, and we avoid posting duplicate questions (ie: if more than one reader asks about the same thing). The goal is to keep the chat moving while allowing the candidate to share his/her stance on local issues facing the city of Shawnee. Thanks for participating!

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OpenShawnee 5 years, 7 months ago

Thanks for the explanation Sara. As my questions indicate, I have strong feelings about the council doing away with the detailed records. The explanation that "everyone else is doing it" or that it is such an improvement that nobody needs to be able to search is not convincing. Without exception, everyone I discuss this with is shocked that this was allowed to happen and feel it violates the principles of the open government / sunshine act. There is nothing wrong with supplementing the old system with recorded and streaming audio, this is not an "either - or" situation however. Audio availability puts no limit on the availability of detailed searchable meeting minutes. Of all online content, an overwhelming majority is (searchable) text.

Regarding Monticello South: Mr. Sawyer was also misleading when he blamed the economic downturn for the wasted $6 Million. It is clear from the detailed minutes (before the current summary format) that there was opposition by some council members to prematurely proceeding with this project that forced residents from their homes and wasted so much money (enough for 600 years of written minutes). I have seen no evidence that this project will ever be completed due to the easement issues.

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