Candidates seek election to two seats on the Nevada City Council

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Herald-Tribune

Nevada, Mo. -- On April 3, Voters in Nevada will go to the polls to choose the next members of the Nevada City Council. Two of them -- Jim Rayburn and Mike Hutchens, are candidates for a three-year term. Joe Kraft and Tim Wells are candidates to fill the unexpired term left vacant when Dick Meyers resigned in December. One year remains in that term. We asked each candidate a set of questions. Here are their responses.

What should Nevada do to encourage economic development in the future?

Rayburn:There are several things we have to think about when we talk about Nevada's economy. First, we have to make sure the industry and business that is here already is healthy and growing. Whatever we can do to help them grow should be our first priority. After that we should try to bring in industries and businesses that create jobs and expand the community's tax base. I think several businesses that create a few jobs each is better than one large business that brings a lot of jobs. If the economy goes bad and a large business has to close, it's real hard on the entire town. In a bad economy some of the smaller businesses will survive and the town won't be hurt as badly. In either case we can't have industrial growth until the sewer plant is rebuilt and expanded. We have hired engineers who are designing the new plant. It should be completed next year. This will help our economy a lot.

Hutchens:There are already some good things at work such as the Enhanced Enterprise Zone offering tax incentives and abatements to new businesses; however, we still need an active recruitment of business.

I personally would like to see an assessment or reassessment completed on the strengths and weaknesses of Nevada as well as the surrounding area. What do we, as a community, have to offer to attract new industry or additional small businesses? What do we need to improve or develop that could help support our strengths? Also, we need to develop a plan based upon the findings of this assessment with realistic goals and objectives that will bring more jobs into the area. We need to be honest with what we have to offer as a community and work together to build and strengthen that image as we grow.

In addition to the city council, we have to have the involvement of other individuals within the community. We need a group of community leaders past, present, and future who will come together with a common goal of making Nevada a healthy, thriving community. We need their experience and expertise to continue what was started. We need to strengthen the partnership between the city and county leadership to build and move forward together. One area will not effectively grow without the other.

As far as what type of economic development should be encouraged, that depends on what is assessed that the city and the local area have to offer.

Kraft: Nevada has serious image problems in and out of the state of Missouri. This not just my opinion. It is the opinion of others who I have talked to, including business executives and a former resident associated with a national news agency. The things that have happened in this town in the last six years have not been kept a secret from others. We must work hard to overcome these adverse opinions and it can be done.

People are looking for locations for new and old businesses. My experience over the years has given me the ability to answer their questions and to ask the right questions. We can get the development we want and can handle, but it has to be done in a professional manner, which they will respect.

There are sources that we can contact to find start-up businesses and those which want to locate here. I can make one phone call and start the ball rolling. Over the years, as an entrepreneur, I have made contact with business men, bankers and investors who can give me possible leads which I would share with the city and pursue to the best of my ability.

Wells: When I talk to young people about the type of employment they are looking for, I hear things like, I want to be a nurse, a paralegal, I want to work in construction, I want to get a job welding, or work in landscape. These answers don't reflect the nature of economic development as most of us see it. Not many people talk about "When I grow up, I want to work in a factory". Yet, manufacturing is one of the largest employment opportunities in our community. We do have a large health care industry. We offer employment in education. Economic development has to cover many areas. I believe that we as a community must look toward the future of employment in areas of high-tech.

We need to cultivate a climate where Biotechnology and research find our community attractive. We have to improve our relationship with the state level department of economic development. These things can be accomplished only if we begin to work together as a city and our council is unified. The days of fighting and grandstanding have to come to an end, and we must work as a team. The future is bright, we can grab on to it with gusto if we put differences behind us, and move on toward that future.

Nevada's population has been stagnant for many years. Do you think the population needs to grow and how large do you think it should become?

Rayburn: I think our population will grow if our economy grows. We don't need more people if there's no place for them to work. I want to keep working as hard as I can to grow our economy. If we're successful the population will grow. I don't think it makes sense to set a population "goal" if it isn't a prosperous population.

Hutchens: Yes, I would like to see the population of Nevada and the surrounding area grow, but in a healthy way. While I do not have any particular size in mind, I do think there are other factors that have to be considered before any population growth would be beneficial. I don't think our focus should be on increasing the population but on the health of the community and the surrounding area. That means focusing on the needs of the present population first while setting objectives and goals to bring in more business to create more jobs. This will bring a natural increase to the population and also require a need for more housing in the area. If we improve the quality of life in our community, there will be a corresponding increase in the population. What we need is a healthy community that attracts not only new business but new people.

Kraft: My answer to your second question is also my answer to the first question.

Of course, all but a few of the citizens want to see the population grow. All the market studies in the world will not get national retail chains interested in Nevada until we have more growth and raise our average income. People get mad at me when I tell that, but marketing studies by national retailers will bear me out.

If you are in business in Nevada your income and growth depends upon Nevada's growth. Several people in the past actually lost money in their own businesses in order to take their time to help Nevada grow, but in the long run their efforts paid off handsomely. This spirit of unselfishness has to be revived.

Our residential area must always look its best. You never know when a business or industrial prospect might drive around Nevada just to see how much pride people have in their town.

There have probably been times when "locator scouts" have driven around town and no one ever knows about it. Large companies hire people to do this type of work for them and report back.

One of the most unattractive features of our town has been brought to my attention by travelers. Approaching the Camp Clark interchange and looking west on Austin St., the brightest lights you see are a truck stop. West Austin is so poorly lit that it is not much of an exaggeration to say that you need some one ahead of you with a flashlight to show you where to turn off. How about beginning a dialogue immediately with MoDOT and the buyers of Aquila about the problem? Let's light up Austin Street from the interchange to Cottey with the same type of enhanced and energy saving lighting that Cottey uses. This will take phone calls and meetings, but by the time everyone agrees we will probably have the money to do it.

The parks department has an item in its budget: From General Fund-Main Street Mowing, $10,000. If this is to remove grass from the sidewalks around the Square and North Osage, the parks department should be sure it is done; especially on North Osage. City parking lots need attention, too. Communicate with the property owners and tell then what the city will do and what the commercial property owners are expected to do. Most businesses will probably cooperate as long as they know what the city is responsible for and what they are responsible for. It only takes polite communication, which has been woefully lacking for the past several years.

Wells: What can the city do to help reach that goal? The key to population growth lies in quality. As we move toward the future, we must increase the quality of education, jobs, entrepreneurial opportunities, environment, homes, and services. When any of these areas are neglected, population growth suffers. Nevada lies geographically in the optimum location for an explosive growth. We are halfway between two major cities, and offer the perfect place for business, industry, vocational education, and higher education. As quality moves forward into the future, so will our population. We will have to be prepared to meet the growth.

The city is awaiting a decision from the Vernon County Prosecuting Attorney about a potential Missouri Sunshine Law lawsuit. Briefly, what does this law require governments to do and do you think these requirements benefit the public?

Rayburn: I fully understand the Sunshine Law and strongly support the public's right to know what their governments are doing. I can't comment on the lawsuit, but I can assure the voters that I will never knowingly violate the Sunshine Law. Not only the council, but also all of our boards and commissions are very aware of our responsibilities of being open to the public.

Hutchens: The Missouri Sunshine Law is basically about "openness in government." Section 610.011 of the Sunshine Law says, "It is the public policy of this state that meetings, records, votes, actions, and deliberations of public governmental bodies be open to the public unless other wise provided by law."

Although there are exceptions, the Sunshine Law also says, " these exceptions are to be strictly interpreted to promote the public policy of openness." If government is to be of the people, by the people, and for the people; then it must be open to the people. Open government creates public trust.

Yes, this law does benefit the citizens of Nevada as well as the government that serves them. This is why the citizens have to make sure that the requirements of the sunshine law are followed.

Kraft: All candidates, when filing for city council, receive a copy of the 80 page Missouri Sunshine Law. It is very easy to understand and no one will have trouble interpreting the law. Copies are available at city hall for anyone who wants to read the law and become well informed as to its requirements. There is no reason for me as a candidate to take the time and space to explain it. Of course it benefits the public.

Wells: The Missouri Sunshine Law was written to make sure that the people who are governed know what is being done in their name. According to section 610.011 of the Sunshine Law, "It is the public policy of this state that meetings, records, votes, actions, and deliberations of public governmental bodies be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law. Sections 610.010 to 610.200 shall be liberally construed and their exceptions strictly construed to promote this public policy." The law prefers open meetings. Closed meetings have to meet very strict exceptions as stated in section 610.021 of the law. These include legal actions that might contain privileged communications between client and counsel, leasing, purchase or sale of real property where public knowledge would adversely effect the transaction. Hiring, firing, discipline, or promoting of particular employees, state militia, etc. I could go on but there is too much to deal with here. Suffice to say, the Sunshine Law allows closed meetings, but doesn't demand them. They are only to be used to protect confidential issues that might cause harm. The law favors open meetings. The public is definitely benefited by openness. Decisions made in "smoke filled rooms" should be a thing of the past, and open government for the citizens should be the rule. When citizens are allowed to know and to give input to decisions, the community benefits because the decisions are made with better information.

Editor's note: Answers to additional questions, too lengthy for this format, can be found at www.nevadadailymail.com.

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