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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • At forum, candidates agree to...agree

  • While a candidate forum provides a stage for city commission candidates to outline black and white positions on important issues, attendees at Saturday’s City Commission Candidate Forum saw more shades of gray when candidate answers seemed to parallel each other, leaving the question...who to vote for?
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  • While a candidate forum provides a stage for city commission candidates to outline black and white positions on important issues, attendees at Saturday’s City Commission Candidate Forum saw more shades of gray when candidate answers seemed to parallel each other, leaving the question...who to vote for? 
     The 2014 City Commission election has kicked-off with more candidate involvement than in recent years. Candidates who took a seat at the morning forum were incumbents Kent Smoll and Rick Sowers, and challengers Jeff Turner, Joe Peters, Liliana Zuñiga and Jan Scoggins. 
     Chris Guinn and Margaret Butcher who served as moderators, opened with questions to much-anticipated answers including the potential for a water park, plans for downtown development, and how does Dodge compete with Garden City? 
     All five candidates stated they were in favor of bringing a water park to Dodge City. How it will be funded is still an open question. as far as how it will look, Scoggins and Smolls are in favor of a Western theme, true to Dodge City heritage. Scoggins suggested having water slides named in honor of individuals such as the late Jim Sherer. 
     Smoll addressed questions about budget. “I’ve been hearing this project will cost us about $21 million. There's no reason why ours would cost so much," he said. "Salina built theirs with $8 million. We should be able to build ours within our $10 million budget." 
     Sowers agreed with Smoll, adding he was "lost" on comments referring to the water park project being "rushed,"  Stating the Community Facilities Advisory Board has been discussing the project for six years as a "generality" and what the city is in need for now is an answer to the real question, "Is the water park project worthy or not?" And if it is, it's time to move forward. 
     Zuñiga's answer was simple and to the point, "We need to make our city more attractive. Then we need to invite other cities — and they will invest." 
     Moderators moved forward with a question about the streets of Dodge City:
     “Do you have a plan for investment in secondary road construction, expansion and rehabilitation? Would you raise taxes to do so?”
     Scoggins and Zuñiga were clear about their stance, stating they both were not in favor of a tax increase.
    Scoggins said she'd like to explore other avenues. 
     "Look at the people of the city to preserve our roads and infrastructure and keep from raising our taxes if at all possible,” she said. 
     Smoll and Sowers coincided in their position, agreeing that the answer was in growing the city. "Growth in sales tax stream is where we need to be headed," Sowers said. 
    Page 2 of 2 -  Two other candidates agreed on a different topic, plans for downtown development. 
    Zuñiga and Turner said tax incentives need to be created. 
     "We need to continue creating incentives while preserving downtown," Zuñiga said. "As a downtown business owner, I know how important it is, we need to make it more attractive . We need to create tax incentives."
    Turner encouraged the idea saying, traveling to Topeka to get tax incentives would be an option. 
     In conclusion, the candidates answered a question that has been debated for decades. “How do we compete with Garden City?'
     Sowers said, Dodge City is geographically challenged and Garden City has a momentum going that's a "tough nut to crack." But the grass isn't always greener on the other side, adding Garden City is envious of Dodge City's convention centers. 
     Turner agreed, saying instead of looking to what Dodge City is lacking, why not look to what Dodge City already offers. Dodge City has strong manufacturing and from that, retail will come.
    "Overall, I would rather be in the position we are in now with strong manufacturing because that supports retail," he said. "Garden City has retail but retail does not support retail. 
     Smoll's idea was simple, "shop local and shop often.””
    Every retailer looks at sales tax collection," he said. "Reports show what ours are compared to other communities so it only make sense developers choose Garden. They know there's a lot of money going west. We need to improve on this and shopping local is a start." 
    The next City Commissioner Candidate Forum is scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m., Thursday, March 27, inside the Louis Flanagan room at the Dodge City Public Library.
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