Political sound bites

Lee's Summit JournalMarch 7, 2014 

The Lee’s Summit City Council election season is off and running.

But not necessarily with a roar. More of a slow hum. Maybe even a purr.

Everyone was nice and polite at the first of two city council forums sponsored by this newspaper and the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce.

And, perhaps, it needed to be that way to start off.

In contrast to how our council acts on some Thursday nights, a more civil presentation of thoughts and ideas was probably appropriate here.

All seven candidates in the three contested races were on hand: Diane Seif and Joe Spallo in District 3; Diane Forte and Robert Dye in District 1; and Tim Denker, Trish Carlyle and Craig Faith in District 2.

Generally speaking, everyone is overly nice at the first political forum of the season.

Ideas are presented at a very high level, most people avoid specific details and the smiles and laughter are mostly genuine.

Playing it safe doesn’t mean hitting a home run with each response, however.

One of the biggest whiffs of the night came when former councilman Spallo was discussing the sewers associated with the upcoming bond issue to improve the bridge at 50 and southbound 291.

I hope Spallo plans on voting yes for this no-tax-increase issue. Perhaps he may need to bone up on the topic a bit, though.

In response to possible council re-district plans, Spallo also said he was in favor of splitting Lee’s Summit into eight districts. Other options were leaving the districts as-is or changing to four and four at-large seats.

Eight districts are a dangerous game in this town, with such a measure sure to narrow the thinking of the representative and create mini fiefdoms around Lee’s Summit.

Most of the candidates also swung and missed at the question regarding building consensus at the council level.

That’s an important topic, too, based on some recent activity we have seen at the dais.

Working with city staff as a council member was also in the mix at the March 4 forum. Each candidate had a different view, although many were along the same lines, about how elected officials and staff should work together.

Seif noted it was city staff that makes the city work, while Spallo said that it was staff’s job to provide enough information to council to make a decision.

Respect for staff was brought up by Forte and Carlyle, while Dye said the council tends to “nit-pick” and waste time. Faith said city staff provides the “expertise” needed on the ground, while Denker noted they are part of the “cycle” in the process.

Council decorum and public-private partnerships were also discussed at the opening forum.

In a few weeks, the candidates will convene again to drill down on topics like the arts, economic development and other issues.

Several of them need to come far more prepared.

 

John Beaudoin is the publisher of the Lee’s Summit Journal. To comment, call 816-282-7001 or e-mail jbeaudoin@lsjournal.com.

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