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Manhattan: Commission candidates vary with their top priorities for city

What’s the most important issue facing Manhattan, Kansas, over the next four years? Is it alleviating flooding? Improving infrastructure? Holding the line on taxes? Or perhaps it’s related to housing, such as increasing the amount of workforce housing or implementing a rental inspection program? Redeveloping Aggieville is also on the list of the possibilities.

When voters choose among eight candidates and send three to the Manhattan City Commission on Nov. 5, they’ll also likely be determining which of these issues might get more airing in the months and years to come. Candidates vary widely in their top priorities. With just one incumbent, Linda Morse, running, there’s room for new faces – or familiar faces returning – to play a big role in shaping the direction of the community.

Read more about each of the candidates in their own words below or click on the jump link to read the survey responses of school board candidates.

Your Local Candidates: In Their Own Words Nov. 5 2019 Kansas local election

Editor’s note: To help readers make their voting choices in the Nov. 5 general election for local offices, The Journal, the Kansas Leadership Center’s quarterly magazine, sent out a survey to more than 250 candidates in communities where our magazine’s readership is the largest. What follows is information from your local candidates, in their own words.

Click here to view survey responses of candidates for the Manhattan-Ogden USD 383 Board of Education

Manhattan City Commission

Maureen Sheahan, candidate for Manhattan City Commission

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

Born and raised in north central Kansas, I have lived in the Manhattan area for 40 years. I came to Manhattan right after high school to attend Kansas State University. After graduating from K-State, I was fortunate to be able to transition from student and part-time employee to a full time research position in the Department of Biochemistry. With the birth of twin daughters and then a son, Manhattan became not just a place to get an education, but a place to build a life. I am now the research manager for a research laboratory in the College of Veterinary Medicine. In recent years, with my children grown and off to raise families of their own, I have had time to invest in local social justice groups and actions, including Citizens for a Better Manhattan, the push for the Human Rights Ordinance, the Coalition for Equal Justice, and the renters’ union. It is this work that that fueled my decision to run for Manhattan City Commission. As we move into the future, I want to ensure that our city government governs with a conscience, acts with compassion, and implements policies that support fairness and equity. I want to see a Manhattan where all citizens have access to opportunities and the services that they need, where wages and the cost of living are in balance so that residents can live with dignity. As we move into the future, we must invest in sound, safe, reliable infrastructure and look for opportunities to attract business and to support local businesses. Business in integral to a vibrant economy. As city commissioner, I will strive to ensure that our policies are equitable to residents, to businesses, to employees, and to consumers. How do we all move forward together? That is the question I will ask myself as City Commissioner.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

I would like to see improvements in our infrastructure. Progress is being made on several fronts, but many issues remain. The condition of the roads has been a serious issue this year. Flooding is also a recurring problem. I want to take a close look at what has been done, what is being done, and what is planned to make sure the most critical needs are being met first and that the investments we make are yielding the expected results.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

Fortunately, much of the groundwork is in place to address these issues, for example 0.2% of sales tax goes directly to street maintenance. As commissioner, I would like to see a well-defined framework for prioritizing needs and clear processes for evaluating progress, as well as a mechanism that would allow for course changes in programs that do not perform as expected.

Aaron Estabrook, candidate for Manhattan City Commission

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I am motivated to run by a dedication to service. After graduating from K-State, I served in the US Army as an NCO in an Infantry company. Afterward I worked with homeless veterans and helped them find stable permanent housing. Later, I was elected to serve on the Manhattan-Ogden Board of Education, and recently worked to promote civic engagement in the legislature as executive director of the Save Kansas Coalition. Currently, I am the Business and Community Liaison at Flint Hills Job Corps, where I get to serve our young leaders of tomorrow by helping them acquire the skills to climb out of poverty and have successful careers in high-demand occupations. Our campaign is focused on fiscal responsibility, economic opportunity, workforce housing, and quality public services.

I am taking this opportunity to serve locally and advocate for families in our community while doing my part to ensure Manhattan remains a great place to raise my daughters. I was born into a family where public service was valued and important. My parents served as firefighters, social workers, and nurses. My grandparents served in the military. I served in the military and on the Board of Education and believe I can be a solution-oriented public servant for our city.

I love building coalitions and during my time on the Manhattan-Ogden school board and as Executive Director of the Save Kansas Coalition I learned what it means to be able to not agree on every issue but find each other’s strengths and focus on what can be accomplished as a legislative body.

I believe we can accomplish great things for Manhattan if we have the type of leaders on our commission that are willing to find the common ground and translate that into good public policy. We need municipal leadership to responsibly leverage our strengths for all of us to prosper as a community while also being good shepherds of our tax dollars and paying down our debts. 

My wife Dantia MacDonald and I live in Downtown Manhattan. We both co-Chair the Flint Hills National Alliance on Mental Illness chapter and serve on the NAMI Kansas Board of Directors. We have two daughters, Sophia (9) and Kennedy (4). We all love this community and want to continue to give back and serve others.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

When I think of housing in Manhattan I see a lot of symptoms to a core problem of a lack of “workforce housing” – and what I mean by that is housing that accommodates a workforce or labor force. Workforce housing is safe, affordable, and in a reasonable proximity to the workplace or worksite. It can be revitalized older homes or new homes and can come in all shapes or sizes, but it is what we are lacking. Transportation and housing are problems that growing cities face and how we plan, zone, and develop our workforce housing is really the bottom line for how we see success or failure going forward. Without the workforce we cannot sustain or grow.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

My background working as a Case Manager & Peer Mentor for Veterans Families struggling with housing stability and homelessness in our community and across Kansas opened my eyes in a way that will never change.

While on USD 383 Board of Education, I watched homeless numbers of students climb from 26 to nearly 400 in less than a decade. Our faith communities and stakeholders across the district developed the FIT (Families in Transition) Closet to help make sure our students have clothing and other basic needs to provide an education environment where all can learn. 

There are potential solutions on the horizon for our workforce housing problem. Solutions like an (AHTF) Affordable Housing Trust Fund to assist in the thoughtful development of a workforce housing plan. What is essential going forward is a dedicated municipal leader that will follow through on seeing movement and implementation of the tools necessary to make progress.

Our community has a real opportunity to be a leader in developing “workforce housing.” The Affordable Housing Trust Fund – is a model that works and incentivizes positive outcomes for both the private sector, non-profit, public, and government partners. I am committed to working with all stakeholders and begin discussions about addressing the “workforce housing” needs in Manhattan.

Kaleb James, candidate for Manhattan City Commission

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

My name is Kaleb James. I am an Army veteran and now work as a business analyst. I have a wife and three kids, a teenager and two toddlers. I am running for office because government spending is so out of control that the taxes are pricing young families out of the buying market in the city and forcing them to move elsewhere and commute or move elsewhere to work and live.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

I will not vote for any property tax increase and will work to bring the total property tax level down.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

The people of Manhattan have already expressed the desire to have lower taxes, the functional piece that is missing is government representatives willing to vote against any attempted increase in budget proposals. I will provide that vote.

Linda Morse, candidate for Manhattan City Commission

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

Life experiences are important to appropriately serve as an elected official in a diverse community such as Manhattan. I am a widow, mother of two sons, and a long-time volunteer with a passion for this community. I am a retiree from Kansas State University where I was the registrar for distance education and conferences/non-credit. 

I have given many years of time and energy to make Manhattan a better place to live. I have lived, worked, raised a family, and contributed to the community for many years. In a very long set of committees and organizations, my experience involves working with budgets, zoning and land use plans, Chamber of Commerce projects, local, state, University and Federal programs and service on numerous boards and committees. 

It has been an honor to serve a first-term as a city commissioner and as mayor in year three of the four-year term. All five commissioners serve in at-large positions. I work hard as a commissioner, do my homework and bring people in the community together. Manhattan is known as one of the most transparent cities in the state of Kansas. Our meetings are broadcast on a local cable channel and the same information provided to commissioners as background information for agenda items is placed on the city’s website for the public. Kansas citizens look forward to coming to Manhattan for conferences, football games, the Flint Hills Discovery Center, the huge zipline, an antique car museum, Colbert Hills Golf Course, the University and Ft. Riley. 

I am running for re-election because I continue to believe I make a difference, with my gender, age, life and work experiences, and advocacy for our citizens.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

The core of Manhattan is situated in a low-lying area near the convergence of two rivers. Historically there has been flooding but the level of flooding continues to rise with each successive year. After the 1993 flood, the elevation set by community consensus and FEMA as the lowest level for new residential development continues to be inadequate. A new community standard is needed to raise the elevation to permit development. That is difficult to achieve due to the many competing interests.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

We are already working with government and private partners to find solutions. For example, we are partnering with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers to ‘reconstruct’ the levee system that currently protects the Downtown core and central housing district, the wastewater sewage treatment plant and the city’s critical water wells. The City also continues to partner with FEMA to buy-out three to four flooded properties per year. 

The flooding on Wildcat Creek (to the north and west to town) continues to get higher each year. A current study group is working to develop a number of detention ponds. Two such ponds are located on Fort Riley training land and there are discussions taking place with the Army. In the past it has not been easy coming to a final agreement. 

In addition, there are another 16 detention ponds on private agricultural lands that would be critical. Together the ponds would detain approximately 30 percent of the water on the Wildcat Creek tributary that currently flows unimpeded into the Kansas River. 

Flooding clearly disproportionately disadvantages low-income citizens and residents of mobile home courts. We are also working on the creation of more affordable housing options in Manhattan. We must increase our efforts in the affordable housing arena, if indeed one of the solutions to flooding is to remove or relocate low-income and moderately low income housing areas. 

The biggest barrier is bringing all of the possible partners together to fund these necessary projects at a time when local budgets are stressed. I will continue to work to bring everyone together to benefit the citizens in Manhattan by reducing flooding.

Mark Hatesohl, candidate for Manhattan City Commission

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I am a previous mayor and commissioner and would like to refocus the commission on the important things that need to be addressed. Tough decisions need to be made and are being kicked down the road. I feel that I can bring experience and leadership to the commission and get the city moving on stalled projects.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

The Aggieville improvement initiative. There has been talk for 15 years about “redeveloping” the area and it is time to get started

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

Communicate the benefits that will result from addressing the problems and sell the vision to the citizens.

Vincent Tracey, candidate for Manhattan City Commission

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I am running as an experienced volunteer in public service wanting to be the working class representative in the city commission.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

I feel that the infrastructure (and its maintenance) of the city has been overly delayed, People outside the city joke about how bad our streets are and the damages caused by this.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

I would work with the city manager and the appropriate department heads to find ways to repair rather than patch the issues that have been identified to the city.

Mary Renee Shirk, candidate for Manhattan City Commission

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I have lived in Manhattan, Kansas, for more than 20 years and worked in media and entertainment here. My experience in local journalism has provided me with knowledge of the inner workings of the city. As an entertainer I have had the pleasure of interacting with thousands of citizens over the years giving me an excellent view of what is important to people in our community. This year, as the youngest of my four children heads off to college, I decided it is time for me to give back to my community by serving as a city commissioner.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

We live in an amazing city and the most important issue is improving the quality of life for everyone. That includes examining our current property and sales taxes situations and determining ways to keep those down while working on safe housing, and walkability/bikeability for everyone.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

Manhattan needs a rental inspection program to protect our most vulnerable populations from unsafe and substandard housing, and to keep our property values stable. Our public transit system (ATA bus) and our bike share program have both experienced incredible growth showing the desire to increase these forms of transportation and shift our dependence away from cars. We need to review our budget and be sure it addresses our plans for the future and push our state legislators to enact an internet tax to provide more revenue.

The Journal did not receive responses to its survey from Manhattan City Commission candidate Sarah Siders.

Your Local Candidates: In Their Own Words Nov. 5 2019 Kansas local election

Manhattan-Ogden USD 383 Board of Education

 

Kristin Brighton, candidate for Manhattan-Ogden USD 383 Board of Education

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I’m Kristin Brighton, a co-owner of the marketing firm New Boston Creative Group, parent of two students in USD 383, and a product of USD 383 schools. As a leader in the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, I’ve been very involved in efforts to grow our community and build stronger relationships between the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, USD 383, and Manhattan Area Technical College. I’ve also been very involved in local workforce and talent recruitment initiatives. As a Board of Education member, I will draw upon these many community experiences and relationships to help improve the quality of teaching and learning we offer in our classrooms.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

While I’m passionate about many aspects of our schools, the one issue I’m perhaps the most concerned about is recruitment, retention, and reward for teachers and paraprofessionals

especially on the elementary level. Last year, our state as a whole had more than 600 unfilled teaching positions, and our local district has had a problem for several years filling many specialized positions. As a society, we must look for new ways to incentivize young people to enter education, and explore how school districts can make changes to help retain and reward teachers so they stay in the field long-term. The cost of a bachelor’s degree plus graduate credentials has skyrocketed much faster than salaries, making it hard to justify taking out student loans to earn an education degree. While no one goes into teaching to get rich, teachers still need to be able to live on their incomes and pay off their school debt. I’ve met many young teachers who cannot afford to live on their salaries and make their student loan payments, forcing them to take on second (or third) jobs or give up teaching entirely for more lucrative careers. If we can’t recruit and keep quality teachers and paras in our district, how are we going to offer a quality education to our students in the future?

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

With new state funding allocated for this upcoming school year, USD 383 has been able to increase base salaries and create some new positions. Locally, with a new elementary school coming online in Blue Township in a few years, class sizes will soon decrease in 383, lessening the load (and hopefully, stress) on each individual teacher. But there is more to be done! As a state, we must get creative and develop programs that make teaching a more attractive option for young people. As a BOE member, I’d like to work with our state legislators and the Kansas State Department of Education to explore programs that reduce a teacher’s student loan debt or provide financial incentives for more training in exchange for years of service. I’d also like to see the state address teaching shortages through marketing efforts to promote teaching as a potential career with current K-12 students. Kansas has many institutions of higher learning with rich histories of producing quality teachers but we need to fill their pipelines again with more students to train! If the state can create an environment where we have more competition for teaching jobs, we’ll increase the quality of teachers hired to work in our classrooms and elevate the overall learning experience for our students. As a parent, that idea gets me excited about the possibilities!

The Journal did not receive responses to its survey from Manhattan-Ogden USD 383 Board of Education candidates Joseph Dasenbrock, Curt Herrman, Brandy Santos and Darell Edie.

 

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