Old Drum Network
An Alternative News Source for Warrensburg and Johnson County Missouri
Candidate Interview, April 6, 2004 Municpal ElectionPrimary
City Council - Donald Earney Burchard
Transcribed interview, basis for Warrensburg Free Press article March 11 issue
Interview was conducted on 2/27 at Modern Mud. Burchard was armed with the city budget, city goals and other documents he’d been researching. Please see Burchard's website for more info on his campaign.
1. What do you see as most important qualifications for a council person?
2. How long have you lived in Warrensburg?
- To be passionate about goals of city, to be able to do the homework to make sure understand city issues,
- Should be open and friendly to provide a face that citizens can approach.
- Should have a vision of what Warrensburg should be like, not next year, but in 10 years, 50 years.
Came here in 1988 to go to school, left intermittently but came back to stay in 95.
3. What’s your educational background?
Originally from St. Louis, attended Union HS. Have BS Ed from CMSU & am certified teacher in English, drama, speech, journalism. Have MA in Teaching English as a Second Language and working on Specialist in Secondary Administration.
4. What civic or other organizations have you served in?
Individual involvement: volunteered for Blind Boone Park, appeared in Old Drum play at JCHS, worked with Free Press. Part of reason for running is to see how the average citizen can get involved in city government
5. What do you see as the 3 main issues facing burg and how address?
- Public Relations – The city provides valuable services for its citizens, but unsure if the average citizen knows much about them. Don’t know if employees have sufficient PR focus. Not certain if average citizen knows where to file complaints, ask about services, or for entrepreneurs to get help. Need to advertise better, make things clearer, have services open to public vision and get workers to care.
- Accountability – Concerned on how city government goes about performance reviews and writing job descriptions for employees. Appointments to key positions seem to last for a lifetime with no job-specific reviews to make sure they are meeting the city vision. The city must evaluate workers; the public needs to know what employees are doing so they can tell if they’re doing it.
- Vision – Groups have visions – WAEDC, city manager each councilperson, Main Street, chamber of Commerce, etc. Not certain people share & publicize their vision. The city vision ought to be right at the top of the website. It is good that the city has adopted goals and posted them at the website, but goals ought to come from the vision statement.
Eevryone has a vision, but it doesn’t appear to be coordinated into one vision for Warrensburg; the individual visions should be shared so they can be debated. A coordinated vision helps determine budget priorities and other matters, such as development north of US-50, the industrial park, etc. They should be agreed upon and be a template from which Warrensburg grows.
Would you support additional taxes for city services?
The recently-passed 3/8 of 1% tax should provide room to maneuver, so don’t see any need for new taxes now. Perhaps a “buy Warrensburg” project could help grow revenues. Haven’t exhausted the possibilities, but it’s certainly not the first thing that should be suggested whenever a new need comes up.
What do you believe is the maximum sustainable sales tax rate for the city?
Currently voted rate does not seem excessive or too low.
Should the city support the Old Drum Bus Service? At what cost?
Public transit is vital, especially for students from places with it and who are used to it. Warrensburg is becoming a place without adequate sidewalks; it’s difficult to get around without a car. Right now the cost is about $35,000, which doesn’t seem overly burdensome, but the question is how to do better. Not sure that people know enough to use it. There’s no benches, not clear where it stops, don’t think the elderly know how it works. Shouldn’t grow substantially but should be supported.
Are Warrensburg’s parks needs properly addressed? Elaborate.
The 3/8 cent tax suggest that people support funding parks & recreation. The Community center shows what Warrensburg could accomplish if it has goals – Senior citizens have a place for meals, kids have physical activities. It’s a success story.
Do you support a skateboard park – how should it be funded?
If someone would bring forward a good proposal, is all for it. It would bring tourism. Further, there’s hope that it would consolidate a place for skateboarders to congregate so they’d have no excuse for riding downtown with the resultant damage. The answer to skateboard damage is not to outlaw skateboards but to provide them a place – and expect them to use it.
In the past, relationships with the County have sometimes been strained. What’s best way for governmental units to work together?
Research shows that it wouldn’t raise insurance rates particularly, as the risk factor is similar to tennis. The unused horseshoe pit area of Grover Park, as suggested, might be a good place.
This is a unique community; we have federal, state, county and local people all in the same place, and they all must work together. There’s no reason for a vision that doesn’t include all of the groups and no city goals conflict here.
To what extent should CMSU influence governmental decisions?
There’s no need for hostility. CMSU is a community of its own and a vital part of Warrensburg since 1871. CMSU is good for local business and expands the sales tax base. Does it make city decisions? Don’t see that problem existing. The city shouldn’t have an inferiority complex when relate with CMSU, as the governing and budget structures are different.
What degree of oversight should the City exercise over non-governmental entities that receive tax money:
They should (and do) report to the City Council. Every group must appear before the council, which should ask “what are their goals” and “what is accountability for them.” Need to ask what the entity does for Warrensburg. The city provides funding and money is power.
Would you support mandatory curbside recycling?
- Main Street – what’s view on how (or if) downtown could be best revitalized in long run?
My vision is that a downtown entertainment district is vital. Downtown must incorporate the belief that downtown is worthwhile. We should invite entrepreneurs to improve downtown. For example, Fitters remodeled an existing place to make a good attraction for younger adults (21-40). Heroes expanded. Java Junction is a success on the corner and their La Sous Terre is classy. The city can facilitate entrepreneurs. Can also expand the vision to include opportunities for students in the 18-20 age groups. There are few non-drinking places open in the evening – Teehaus and Modern Mud are about it. People here seem to have the Carry Nation concept, a “fear of beer.” Economic development is important to build tourism, and the entertainment district should be foremost.
The Phase II continues up Holden Street, rather than down Pine Street. If cleaned up, Pine St. would look much better. Don’t see why we need a $500,000 grant to fix sidewalks or get businesses to fix up. People won'’ spend their own money if the city doesn’t put in money to start with.
- Chamber (room tax) – What should (or can) be done to increase Warrensburg’s desirability as a tourism destination?
Accountability! We must ask what they’re doing with the funds and what they’re doing to promote, They must try to sell us as a destination, so we must have places and activities for people to come to. Not sure if this has been developed as much as it can be. Now that we have more rooms available in town, we should be able to host functions. We have good facilities but don’t see what is being done to attract them.
Celebrations! We need them; they help break down divisions when people of different gender, race, religious affiliation, town-and-gown meet and celebrate together & invite the world to come in. Right now, Blind Boone Festival is the only local celebration. Is the problem the “fear of beer?”
- Warrensburg Area Economic Development Corporation (WAEDC)
They have goals but don’t think the performance goals are as visionary as we’d like, e.g., 500 jobs by 2008 doesn’t sound very ambitious. WAEDC is 2 people funded by the city at around $60,000. Filling empty space in the industrial park should be at the top of the list. What happens if the goal is not met? Do we keep giving them dollars? There’s no accountability.
Also need to expand the industrial park and tell business who we are and what we have to offer. Don’t know if businesses know who to contact for city functions & don’t know that the city is set up to help them.
WAEDC represents cities throughout the county, not just Warrensburg. The Council needs to understand that Warrensburg is in competition with other entities served by WAEDC.
- What’s your view on using TIF or commercial/industrial tax breaks?
Question not asked.
- Should government use eminent domain for economic development purposes?
Question not asked
Depends on costs. Recycling doesn’t pay for itself; recyclers charge money to do the work. This needs study – whether the public wants it, that costs should be kept down and it should be made as easy as possible. Don’t see a reason to go to a single trash collector if the current system of private haulers is efficient.
Would you support smoking ban in businesses?
I’s silly to outlaw smoking in bars. Businesses should make their own decisions. When they decide to ban smoking in their businesses, it’s a benefit, but see no civic need for a ban.
How should city employees be compensated?
Cost of labor is a normal part of the budget. If there were valid job descriptions & standrads, it would make sense. We should pay workers on a par with other similar municipalities – if they’re doing their jobs well, no reason it shouldn’t be comparable, taking into account the fact that cost of living here is lower than in the larger suburbs of Kansas City – we can’t compete dollar for dollar with Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit with larger tax bases.
Would you support employee unions?
A key difference is fire and police personnel. Police in Warrensburg start at around $25,000, while the county starts around $18-19,000. Can’t compete directly with the larger cities, but we need to offer wages that will help retain them. If you ask the citizens what they want most, good police and fire protection are on top.
I’m a union man; we shouldn’t fear them.
What should be our public works priorities? Streets? Sewers? Development?
Streets are terrible; we need to increase attention. This goes back to the vision – people get tired of not seeing results of taxes. Sidewalks are bad in much of the city, there’s no clear sewer map of downtown. We won’t get development without good streets and sewers.
What should be done about the West Pine Street bar situation?
We need to know and make public how our sewer system complies with EPA and DNR requirements.
The Public Works department should be as responsive to businesses as possible. They need to streamline the system so businesses can get answers quickly an things can get done for business needs.
There should be stricter penalties for the minors caught in possession – a lot higher fines. We allow them in the bars at 19 and after the doorman lets them in they’re not checked often. However, the focus should be more on the kids who violate the law rather than the businesses – they’re subject to pretty strict penalties as it is.
Our goals could include examining a different form of city government, since state law allows some degree of flexibility. We now have a council-manager form where the city manager provides the vision, supervises all the departments sets the agenda, writes the job descriptions. It’s a lot of pressure and responsibility for an unelected person. The form is supposed to keep politics out of city management, but it hasn’t. There’s no way for the people to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.
Will you give me a quotable statement on why we should elect you?
Under the mayor-council form, the city manager does his current job, but the mayor is responsible for vision, leadership and accountability, as well as providing a face to the government.
Would also like to see true debates among council candidates, to people a chance to see the candidates to talk about what’s necessary in a format without the really tight time constraints of what’s now available.
"Voters have a special opportunity to choose someone truly different. I don’t think any candidate in this race better represents citizens between the ages of 18 and 40 or with incomes under $60,000 a year. I think I’m a candidate who will not stand for the status quo. I believe Warrensburg needs to change and grow to provide more services to her citizens."
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