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City decision making needs more transparency E-mail
Tuesday, 02 September 2014 13:53

By John T. Smith, of Liberal


Does it seem like the city doesn’t want to be bothered by the people who pay the bills? Is there an attitude, “Just trust us, we know what’s good for you.”

Most recently, it’s the ball fields.

After a recent land sale that the city ran through under the radar, and still haven’t made public what’s going on, the city put a spin on it that it was a way to replace the ball fields.

People can understand there is a place for a certain level of confidentially surrounding property acquisition or disposition; that is even allowed to some extent by statute.

But the handling of that land transaction and the aftermath has been something to behold. Have the citizens been asked for input in the spending of those land sale dollars? Assuming ball fields are warranted, is the number right? Is the location right? (It’s rumored east 15th is too small for enough fields, may require temporary outfield fencing for some games, but suggesting it will be “nice.”)

Are the sales proceeds sufficient to cover the cost? Do the citizens see this as an opportunity to make a first class sports complex or are they satisfied with just a “nice” ball field replacement?

We may never know because the city seems to have taken its lead from a school board that didn’t listen to a citizen voice on a football field carpet because that board knew better than the voters.

The city seems to know what’s good for us here in telling us what we get.

Back up a little and look at the rec center. It’s been pretty evident for years the community wants a rec center with a swimming pool. The city went through an exercise to essentially say to the community, “You can have a rec center as long as it’s this, this and this, but no pool.”

It was voted down. I don’t believe that was as much a vote against a rec center as a vote against the plan offered, which wasn’t what the citizens wanted, and the way it was offered.

What about the water park? No question that it’s “nice,” is an attraction to the community, and far better than what it replaced. But is it what the citizens wanted?

I think I recall talk of a competition pool, a lazy river, a wave machine. Don’t believe we got those, or know if we ever will.

How about addressing our housing needs? A reasonable proposal by a commissioner for a housing advisory board and/or building board (for community input) was squelched by other commissioners. Filing of an ouster complaint for alleged internal meddling.

Adopting incentive programs has been without welcoming outside input, even shutting down comment at a public hearing because they don’t want to hear what you have to say.

Is there more we don’t know about?

Published notices without sufficient information to understand what is being noticed.

Adopting vacations all of the sudden for “housekeeping” purposes that have existed for maybe 20-plus years.

Not marking, or allowing marking of, veteran’s graves in the cemetery.

It would not surprise me to be challenged with some error in my reporting, which is one of the points of my writing this – for the most part one can only knows or can comment on what circulates in the community conversation or on what one has experienced.

I don’t believe the city in their decision making is candid and open to the citizens, or similarly, believe that the city attempts to engage the citizens in meaningful input, participation or feedback.

The second point for writing is I believe the community is on the brink of an opportunity that all taxing entities, businesses and the citizens can capitalize on.


By contrast, the current school board learned by its mistakes. By engaging the community in the process and decision, a $127 million bond issue was passed that can be a tremendous boost to the entire community.

Can the city learn from this?

The jury is out on that. How much more might this bond issue be a catalyst for in the community?

Hopefully a lot – I believe the entire community can be better off with more openness and engagement by all the entities that we pay taxes to support. Let’s have a conversation on what we want for our community and build a consensus; not just sit back and be told what we get.



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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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