Candidates field questions at forum

rpulley@lsjournal.comMarch 28, 2014 

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    The Journal is publishing candidate’s written responses to submitted questions in editions leading up to the April 8 elections.

    This week, District 1 candidates Robert Dye and Diane Forte responses are on page 12. The other district’s candidates will be published April 2 and 4. School board candidates’ questions and answers will be April 2.

No real surprises or drama emerged this week during the second forum for candidates running for Lee’s Summit City Council.

The March 25 forum at the Gamber Center was well attended, with over 80 citizens in the audience, and sponsored by the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce and the Lee’s Summit Journal.

Questions covered topics from the proposed Summit Place shopping center to what to do with Arnold Hall.

All the candidates in the races participated: Robert Dye and Diane Forte in District 1, Trish Carlyle, Timothy Denker and Craig Faith in District 2 and Diane Seif and Joe Spallo in District 3.

Perhaps the most radical idea came from Dye, who wants the city to explore building a waste-to-energy plant on the site of the current landfill when it closes.

Other candidates said they support the city’s recycling programs.

On the high-profile issue of the proposed Summit Place shopping center (off Chipman Road), Carlyle said she wasn’t sure what that project was, but she was in favor of developing idle areas of the city.

Denker said it should be considered. Forte said she supports the project. Faith said it would enhance the city, but tax-increment financing should be looked at closely and shouldn’t be used for private infrastructure.

Dye said the city should be cautious about adding too much retail in the Interstate 470 corridor because it might cannibalize business in other areas of town.

“If it’s not done properly, it’s going to be a disaster,” Dye said.

Spallo said he doesn’t think the city should subsidize buildings for the project.

“I believe it deviates from the past policies that development pays its own way,” Spallo said.

The panel agreed tax incentives should be weighed against results and benefit for the city.

On Arnold Hall, Faith said he’d wait on the recommendation of the Lee’s Summit Arts Council. Dye said it would be better to replace the old building with a new facility for an activity center. Forte said she said it would be important that the Arts Council plan be one that is successful five years down the road. Spallo said he’s not sure the city would have the money needed to renovate it and could support selling the property.

Carlyle said she didn’t think putting more money in Arnold Hall is a good idea, if the long-term plan is to redevelop that entire block eventually. Seif said voters had endorsed bond issues based on the city’s cultural plan, so it should implement the plan with Arts Council recommendations. Denker said he thinks using it for a “white box” and possibly renting part of the building is a good option.

Moderator Carl Chinnery offered some questions where the candidates could show their creativity.

Chinnery said Lee’s Summit is known for good schools, public safety and quality of life. He and asked the panel what were they saw as top assets, excluding those he’d mentioned, and how they’d use them to promote the city.

Dye mistook the question to mean his top three priorities, replying with advancing the Lee’s Summit 360 strategic plan, waste management and council cooperation with the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council, Chamber and Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street Inc.

Forte said she believed Lee’s Summit’s downtown and the city’s neighborhoods are top assets.

“That sets us apart from everyone else in the metropolitan area,” she said.

Spallo said community involvement and great city employees. He said that when the city wants residents to contribute to planning for the city, such as in Lee’s Summit 360 or task force on building a new City Hall, they step up.

Seif said economic development and the city’s educated work force, excellent parks and recreation and cultural arts and infrastructure. Carlyle agreed on that point.

“Our city has a great cultural arts plan...I feel that can draw people in, knowing we’re open to the arts,” she said.

Denker said the many community leaders who volunteer to serve in groups like the Chamber, Rotary or schools.

“You have a lot of people who want to step forward and give back,” he said.

He said another asset the city should exploit is its access to major highways thorough the region.

Faith also said the city should rely on its location and the arts as drivers for economic development. He noted that arts are a $270 million industry in the region.

“We need to make sure we’re a destination city for this industry as well,” Faith said.

Another question was: how would candidates help build consensus on the council?

Forte said she’s always been able to get along with people, approachable but able to stand her ground. Spallo said his philosophy had always been to present his ideas and not criticize other ideas.

Seif said each council member should, “Remember it is their duty to communicate wth each other and get input from citizens they represent...listen with an open mind and see everyone else’s point, and we can work together.”

Denker said each council member should act with professional courtesy; Faith said his strength is he’s diplomatic and wouldn’t take issues personally.

Dye said it hinges on personal experiences and creative thought each can bring to the council.

Candidates agreed the city needs to promote cultural arts so Lee’s Summit is a well-rounded community.

Denker said the city should continue its supporting role because cultural arts enhance the community with entertainment that makes for better quality of life for residents.

Chinnery also asked if candidates had $500,000 to invest in the city, how would they spend it?

Dye understood the question to be how he’d invest his personal money, so said he’d look for sustainable business, check its books and outlook for future growth.

Forte said she’d put gateway monuments at each highway into Lee’s Summit to help promote the city. Seif seconded that idea.

Spallo said he’d add to the budget of the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council, with the intent of it increasing outreach to businesses in different regions. Carlyle said she’d split it between monuments and the LSEDC. Denker said he’d use the money for economic development, getting input from the Chamber, LSEDC and DLSMS.

Faith said he’d use it for expanding efforts to build citizen leaders by education students and residents about Lee’s Summit government and their community.

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