Independence mayoral candidates and current City Council members Jim Schultz and Eileen Weir, along with City Council candidates Karen DeLuccie and Scott Roberson, zipped through an array of questions during a relaxed forum Thursday at the North Branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library.
Candidates were limited to one-minute responses to questions, several of which were combined into two-part queries, and they received two minutes to make a closing statement. The event, organized by the League of Women Voters and moderated by Examiner staff member Jeff Fox, nearly filled the room with approximately 100 people.
DeLuccie, along with current member Chris Whiting, are the two candidates on the ballot for the at-large seats. Roberson and Roxann Thorley are the candidates for the final two years of the District 3 seat formerly held by Myron Paris. Thorley currently has that spot after she won a special council election last year over Roberson.
First, the candidates were asked how they considered themselves to be a forward thinker.
Schultz said he would draw on his past years of Council experience as well as time spent leading other community organizations – “It takes leadership and experience to be mayor,” he said – while Weir said she would consider her vision of a community for her two children.
“I’d like for us to be constantly evaluating how we can change,” Weir said.
DeLuccie, a lawyer for 30 years, said “When I see a problem, I don’t just sit and complain. I ask, ‘How can I help?’”
Roberson, a longtime dentist, mentioned how evolutions in his practice have made him look forward, and he talked of his willingness to consider all sides of an issue and listen to others.
When asked to state three goals for the city, Weir’s response was “Revenue, revenue and revenue,” and she also talked of wanting to reduced crime and perception of crime in the city. Schultz said he aims to improve communication between the citizens and city hall, work in concert with other leadership organizations in the city and make sure the city is hospitable enough for the growing elderly population.
DeLuccie said her top aim is increasing business and, by extension, improving the city’s image because “I’m sick and tired of being jealous of Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs.” Roberson said he wants to examine the budget in order to find ways to fund more police presence and assure the fire department is sufficiently funded, as well as make the city more business friendly.
Answering a question about possible incentives for businesses, Schultz said “ We need to use every tool in the box if it will help,” adding that he’s heard the city can seem a difficult place to operate for inexperienced business owners, but an easy place for those with experience. Weir talked of how the TIF (tax increment financing) plans have been a popular, and often effective, tool to bring in businesses, and DeLuccie and Roberson talked about streamlining the codes.
DeLuccie said she regretted how the city’s Planning Commission revised the unified development code during her time served there.
“It was the worst mistake I made in my 14 years on it, and I apologize for that,” she said. “We’re not business friendly.”
After the forum, Schultz said the questions were similar to what he’s often been asked after knocking on citizens’ doors.
“We all want the same things: a good place to live, raise families and give them hope for the future,” he said, adding of his desire to give back to a city he was blessed to grow up, work and raise a family.
“I owe this community so much,” he said.
Weir said she had no preconceived notions of what questions might be posed, and added the one-minute limit was hard to maintain even with off-the-cuff responses.
“I think there doesn’t seem to be a lot of burning issues, like maybe in the past,” she said. “I thought there was a really good broad overview of questions.”