Meet the candidates Q&A: Kennesaw city council
by Hannah Morgan
October 21, 2013 11:49 PM | 2190 views | 2 2 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KENNESAW — The candidates vying for a seat on the Kennesaw City Council have weighed in on a range of topics from county chairman Tim Lee’s proposed $1.1 billion bus system to whether they would support a tax increase. Kennesaw voters will decide who will represent them on Election Day, Nov. 5.

1. Would you ever vote to increase property taxes?

POST 3:

Leonard Church

No.

Bruce Jenkins (i)*

No. In my first term, the council was asked by the city manager to increase the millage rate by 1.5. This would give an increase in the budget to cover costs to open the Swift-Cantrell Park and to cover increased budgeted expenditures. This was the first tax increase in 16 years asked of the council. I voted against the increase. My belief is the voter-approved park bond that purchased Swift-Cantrell Park & Smith-Gilbert Gardens had already added to our millage rate 1.5 mils. With the proposed increase it made our combined tax rate at 9.5, (8 for the millage and 1.5 for the voter-approved bond). This was not competitive with other municipalities and increased the average home tax rate by nearly $175 per year. Since a portion of the increase was needed to cover costs of the new park, I felt the residents were already paying for the park in the bond’s inception several years prior. This tax increase could create hardship for many who were already on fixed incomes or beginning to feel the first pains of our recession with job loss or fewer job opportunities. In my opinion, the shortfalls should be addressed inside City Hall and not asked of the taxpayer to bear higher taxes.

Briggett Washington

Although a reason of great significance would be a necessity in order to determine the importance of a tax raise, I would consider raising the property tax as nothing more than a last resort if all else fails. I believe that raising taxes should never be in blueprint plans for the greater good on the community.

POST 4:

Matt Riedemann (i)

No, I don’t believe we need to raise taxes. We have a great tax base and we should strive for ways that taxes can be reduced. The citizens of Kennesaw deserve their tax dollars be utilized in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.

Debra Williams

No. Kennesaw already has the highest city millage rate, at 9.50, of the six surrounding cities (Acworth, Austell, Marietta, Powder Springs and Smyrna). In 2007, when the bond referendum was passed giving us the highest millage rate, the following year, that millage was supposed to have been rolled back .5. This demonstrates that once you start taxing the citizens, it’s difficult to get it back out of the hands of the elected. I believe a stricter look at where our focus is within our budget and making needed changes should support the decision of no higher taxes for the citizens. Wasteful spending across the board needs to be reeled in considerably, specifically in the area of travel and expenditures.

POST 5:

Jeff Duckett (i)

There would be many things to consider before raising property taxes. We would have to be faced with a reason to even consider it and then city staff would bring forth all the information and facts for us to go through. We would have to work together as a council and city to make a decision of this caliber and there is no cut-and-dry answer without all things being considered.

James Sebastian

There is historical widespread wasteful spending of tax dollars in the digest that, once corrected, will provide funds to correct neglected employee programs and other deficiencies without raising the millage rate.

2. Do you believe the city’s museum and gardens should be privatized?

POST 3:

Church

No.

Jenkins

No, however, I believe a re-visit of the bond structures should be evaluated by an independent financial entity, perhaps suggestions or alternative plans can be created. In addition, a Request For Quote (RFQ) and an Request For Proposals (RFP) giving a fair research understanding to determine if we are effectively getting the most effective use of our citizens’ investments. In certain circumstances “outsourcing” can be an efficient alternative to government operation of services, such as our recent decision to have our sanitation service done by an outside vendor. This being an option, it is clear that city services “outsourcing” can be a different product than city historic or recreational services. These are entities that are special and unique to Kennesaw, part of its heritage and people. Outside corporations or “outsourced” providers may not be aware of the cultural significance these two departments offer to the “halo” effect to merchants, residents and area visitors to our city. It is important that this be looked at to create every opportunity to save taxpayers funding of these operations if possible.

Washington

The city’s museum is Kennesaw’s most notable attribute and represents the heritage of this historical city and should remain a part of the city. As for the gardens, it is also a great attribute and with community issues, which require necessary solutions, I believe that delegating responsibilities to a professional management company would be the best solution for the upkeep and management of the gardens.

POST 4:

Riedemann

We, as representatives of the citizens of Kennesaw, are charged with overseeing many aspects of government; including assets that are considered “quality of life enhancements.” The museum, gardens, parks, and many other assets of the city provide for the great quality of life that we have in Kennesaw. It is typical for government entities, nationwide, to contribute to the budgets of museums and the like. I believe that the city’s Southern Museum, Smith-Gilbert Gardens, Swift-Cantrell Park, Adams Park, et al. are assets that need to be overseen by the city. However, we should always seek ways to improve and better manage the assets we have.

Williams

Before we jump to (the) decision of privatizing, or any other decision, we need to take their budget, their contracts, the partnership with the Smithsonian, etc. and see what changes need to be made, what the benefits of being a Smithsonian affiliate is and are we taking full advantage of that. What’s happening with the marketing and advertising program and the business who was granted the contract? What is the foundation doing to support the operations of the museum? We need to be careful of making a quick, drastic decision until we have all the information needed to make an informed one.

POST 5:

Duckett

No, I don’t believe they should be privatized. I have said before that these are quality of life attractions and bring a great economic impact to the city. These two venues will most likely never make a profit, but if we close all venues that are fully or partly funded by a government entity, they would have to close these two, Kennesaw Battlefield Park, Yellowstone Park, the Grand Canyon, all the Smithsonian Museums that are totally funded by taxpayers with no admission fee, and many, many others.

Sebastian

Over one million in taxpayer dollars are spent annually supporting the Southern Museum and Smith-Gilbert Gardens. Both entities have foundations and raise funds that should allow each to be self-supporting. Outsourcing operations management is one of several options to consider in eliminating the tax drain on Kennesaw citizens.

3. Do you support a complete ban on smoking in Kennesaw?

POST 3:

Church

No.

Jenkins

As a non-smoker, this is an issue that affects me very little. However, health services and many communities are finding this another way to promote a healthier lifestyle in their communities. We must balance the education, informed promotion of this “healthier” lifestyle with non intrusive legislation. Many health insurance companies charge extra premiums for smokers, i.e. higher costs passed on to those who choose to smoke. I clearly support the removal of all tobacco product usage in all city property; currently we permit smoking in the parking or asphalt areas of our city parks.

Washington

An individual has his/her rights to do whatever they please as long as it doesn’t affect the other residents within the community. With this said, I support a public smoking ban in a majority of family oriented environments. For example, government facilities, restaurants and recreational environments would be just a few of the locations where the ban is enforced. On the other hand, private properties such as homes and vehicles would allow the comfort, privacy, and convenience.

POST 4:

Riedemann

No, I do not support a complete ban on smoking in Kennesaw. While I am not a smoker, I do believe that the rights of the citizens of Kennesaw should be kept intact. I believe there is probably a midline approach to handling smoking in and around public places.

Williams

I believe we need to make sure government is doing their job in running the city and not stepping over its bounds and into our personal lives. I support a ban on smoking in government buildings, but most are already smoke-free environments. Having designated smoking areas around government buildings is completely appropriate. Discouraging smoking in public parks is understandable. On any given day, you can visit Swift-Cantrell Park in Kennesaw and find where smokers have not thought twice about dropping their cigarette butts on the ground rather than putting them out and simply taking them with them to their car ashtrays.

POST 5:

Duckett

No, I do not support a total smoking ban.

Sebastian

Government has numerous legislated laws protecting individual’s rights to a smoke-free public environment. As written, a complete ban will infringe on the rights of citizens to have and businesses to offer private environments for those that choose to smoke. When do we say, “Enough is enough?”

4. Under the leadership of county chairman Tim Lee, the county has spent millions on the study of a proposed $1.1 billion rapid transit system that would connect Kennesaw State University with Midtown Atlanta. Do you support such a bus system, and if you do, how would you pay for it?

POST 3:

Church

No.

Jenkins

Currently, the voters spoke clearly on the failed TSPLOST, not supporting a tax increase to pay for this improvement. If this measure is going to have a revisit by the taxpayer, it should be through corporate or private/public partnership, with stipulations on local job creation, environmental impact and measurable success markers for evaluation.

Washington

A bus transit would be an extremely beneficial addition to the beautiful city of Kennesaw, yet it would also raise quite a few eyebrows once the price is revealed to the public. In my opinion, opening up a public transportation system for Kennesaw is something that is not only necessary at the moment for those commuting to school and work, but it would also cause an evident change in the hectic morning traffic. I believe that once we’ve outsourced the gardens, as stated before, the money saved would be flexible to focus on necessities of the community, and the bus transit system would be a necessity. Along with the new focus of money, setting some money aside within the city budget will allow the city to save enough money to create the busing system without creating new taxes for the individuals living in the community.

POST 4:

Riedemann

I believe that transit is integral to the greater metro Atlanta area. I would support a rapid transit system that would not increase the taxes of the citizens of Kennesaw.

Williams

Millions have been spent on studies of proposed solutions. Had those monies been used to make improvements on the roads we already have, we may be having a different conversation. Studies, charts, artists’ renderings and town hall meetings to have discussion after discussion about it has not, to date, resulted in any progress other than, studies, charts, artists’ renderings and town hall meetings. Until there are significant discussions on how this type project is going to be funded, I believe time would be better spent on solutions to improving the roads currently needing significant repair and expansion.

POST 5:

Duckett

I would like to see more transit plans and opportunities, especially to benefit business and universities, although this particular study does not have any connections within the city limits and we would not be involved in the construction and/or funding.



Sebastian

Since moving to Georgia in 1976, millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on study after study of rapid transit systems with not one being funded or implemented. In the end, more and wider roads are always the result. Voters spoke, and said, “NO” on the last SPLOST that would have addressed a small select portion of the transit opportunities in the Atlanta area. A bus system will not make a dent in the transportation needs for Cobb County.

*(i) is for incumbent

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Bruce Jenkins
|
October 31, 2013
A recent article published highlighted the desperate need for a "per diem policy" in our city, as a resident for 23 years and homeowner. Questions, great questions are needed to be asked and answered I personally draw from the article. Some facts are left dimly lit and are haunting, strained from view in many cases that are sited in the article. I personally understand a budget and wasteful spending. I voted against the recent budget because of the increased revenue usage? I voted against the only tax increase in nearly 20 years.

Some examples of purchases mentioned:

1.) $113.00 at PaPa Johns for Pizza, this was for lunch for our City's eight member Youth Council, their three sponsors, administrators on a visit to the State Capitol with Senator Tippens and Rep. Setzler allowing them to save money by having lunch in their office rather then going to a local restaurant, (in this area, more expensive and less personal time with these elected officials).

2.) Dicks sporting goods for shirts summer and winter shirts for again for the eight member City's Youth Council and their sponsors with monograming their names with the city logo, their "uniform" for this year long leadership training.

3.) At the National League of Cities Conference in DC, The purchase at the Pink-berry Ice Cream shop mentioned, after dinner, along with many others in attendance was purchased by another City official from Denver, I felt Kennesaw's hospitality should be shown to the other guests in attendance and purchase their ice cream, a $25.00 investment.

Why was I attending the NLC convention and looking after the Youth Council, or going to the Dairy Queen to meet a ailing Council member to update him by the giving of care with city business, simple answer. If you notice and take time to see, hear and understand the facts...in many cases, its simple, I cared for a fellow council member, Bill Thrash and many others. In his case, I tried to care for a dream that we didn't want to see die with him. His legacy of being named to the NLC's Youth Education & Families Commission, etc. The list goes on, in this parade of specters, but to stop, point out that even in this season of ghosts and goblins, this is not a "which hunt"; it is a need for clarity, team work. Our community needs to gain the facts and grasp what we are doing with their funds. For those who take the time, their are reasons I do what I do, it is not for personal gain, personal consumptions, it is simple. My mentor taught me that simply breaking bread with someone was the greatest clear sign of acceptance. My mentor demonstrated this with the simple act of inviting himself to Zacchaeus's home for dinner. Just mediate on the mission, discover the reasons and purpose for expenses, these can usually be found or should I say demonstrated in something as simple as what I call "Character".

Fond regards,

Bruce
Be Careful
|
October 22, 2013
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