Archive for Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Letter: Council making progress

March 20, 2002

To the Editor:

Our council and mayor will choose the right city manager for the job. They have made a giant step forward in the selection of our interim manager, Carolyn Hobbs, who will orient this new manager to his or her job. The permanent city manager needs to be an individual who can land on his or her feet, "making decisions which coincide with this council's goals and budget guidelines" and who will be able to pass the council's six-month probationary period followed by the council's positive annual review. Hobbs will very ably assist him or her. The severe rancor will need to be seriously curtailed to make this happen.

Right or wrong, this mayor and council appear to have been micromanaging the city for the past 11 months. Mr. Padgett has been forced to work in this atmosphere. I am unaware of the contents of the executive sessions regarding his work. However, since Oct. 9, 2001, every request I made of him has been courteously and efficiently handled.

I believe we should be pleased that the Padgett family lived in our midst. They took perfect care of their home, setting an example for those of our entire community who like neatly manicured lawns. It was a delight for our neighborhood watching Mr. Padgett spend time with his son, who mimicked his father raking leaves and mowing grass. I found Mrs. Padgett to be an outstanding, enjoyable individual with whom to converse when I walked around our neighborhood.

Henry Chamberlain III described two kinds of interaction between councils. His textbook examples describing real world interactions don't agree with real-world situations. He feels "it's good that we bicker"; he equates bickering with interpersonal communication.

During the past 11 months, I have come to know what appears to me to be predictable behavior of each of our council people and Mayor (Steve) Breneman in real-world view. Dan Byers, council president, has obviously had a hard time adjusting to a council that questions every recommendation from the city manager. He has adjusted and settled in very well. Archie Sanders, mayor pro tem, is always a gentleman, expressing common sense answers derived from his lifelong experiences. He too has made an excellent adjustment. Doug Clements had a very hard time adjusting to this new type of council, but he has tried to communicate with people who favor both the former administration and the current administration. When his frustrations have boiled over, he learned to quickly apologize, and he does a good job of that. These three council people never go on the personal attack mode. They ask questions but never get personal. Jeff Harrington, new to the council, (Area Chamber of Commerce issue aside) has done a lot of good work with the council and usually does not take part in the bickering. Connie Steele has worked very hard questioning things that need to be questioned in an acceptable manner. Her work on the city's insurance is notable.

I am concerned about the atmosphere permitted in the audience at both the city manager's contract renewal (they had expected him to be fired) and at the meeting when he resigned. They were like a pack of dogs salivating and waiting for the kill. I am not sure the mayor was aware of this.

Mayor Breneman's leadership style in the real world was not accurately portrayed by Henry Chamberlain. The mayor came into office with many dreams for our city. I am sure that he truly wants every citizen treated the same and he wants taxpayer money handled as if it were the council's own. He occasionally loses sight of those two aims. In spite of the past four months of extremely serious personnel problems, which has dominated the council, this mayor and council have reduced the mill levy and plan to reduce it again this year and have worked to save our local ambulance service so that we have an excellent ambulance service (1.3 ambulances for every 10,000 people, better than Kansas City, Kan., provides for its people). They have worked to expand the police traffic division and hope to get the court system expanded so that our laws can be enforced. When there was a threat of the Board of Public Utilities taking over our water supply, they have been able to keep it local. Our recreation services have been good, and it took this council and mayor six months to get our park problems corrected. The revitalization grant for downtown Bonner is in place. An effort has been made to have the codes department treat all citizens alike, whether it's Wal-Mart or the lowliest landowner. This mayor has tried to provide open government by encouraging volunteers to become involved in local civic affairs. There are new utility, parks and community center committees. While these committees may unearth other problems to be solved by the council and mayor, hopefully this council is blending the old with the new in such a way that real progress can be made. I believe that the relatively new council people, who are eager to make sure that our government is responsible, will learn to tone down their rhetoric so that the continuing council people and new council people will be able to serve their constituencies. In this way, Bonner Springs will benefit from the very hard work and long hours of volunteer time these nine people have given to this community.

Doris Elliott-Watson

Bonner Springs

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