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Examiner
  • Blue Springs mayoral debate forum gets heated

  • You would have a difficult time finding two people who differ more than Carson Ross and Michael Freeman.


    But both share one thing in common – they both want to be mayor of Blue Springs, one for a second term and the other for the first time.

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  • You would have a difficult time finding two people who differ more than Carson Ross and Michael Freeman.
    But both share one thing in common – they both want to be mayor of Blue Springs, one for a second term and the other for the first time.
    On Thursday, both candidates let it rip during a forum sponsored by The Examiner and the Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce.
    Freeman, who ran and lost in the City Council District 3 race two years ago, came out first and forceful, leveling criticism at his opponent for dishing out tax incentives, ignoring Missouri 7 and dismissing residents when they want to speak at City Council meetings and special sessions.
    “You want to build in Blue Springs? Fine, here’s a (tax incentive), which all that does is reduce the tax rate for all our costs,” Freeman said early, calling tax incentives, or TIFs, 50 percent-off coupons for developers.
    “It doesn’t just affect the city,” he said. “It affects the school district, it affects Central Jackson County Fire Protection District, and then they need to come forward and ask for additional funds.”
    With significant and growing debt, Freeman said he feels like the city has “sold out our children’s future for immediate gratification,” a reference to Adams Dairy Landing and the millions of dollars the city has backed.
    Freeman was also critical about what he calls the city’s decision – notably Ross’ – to not allow resident input during meetings, specifically when the City Council voted to back and issue bonds for the Adams Dairy Landing project and during a recent forum meant to discuss a trash service overhaul.
    “I believe there is a serious lack of citizen input in this administration,” he said, adding: “Only a true leader can stand before critics and answer their questions.”
    Ross in his introductory comments was point-blank and appeared to establish the tone that he would use against Freeman during the course of the debate.
    “I won’t even dignify my opponent’s nay-saying comments with a response,” he said, launching into a list of accomplishments during the last four years, specifically work on the proposed Missouri Innovation Park, the opening of stores on Adams Dairy Landing and the 600 news jobs created throughout the city – not to speak of the revenue that comes with it all.
    Ross spoke of road improvements completed ahead of schedule and the ongoing water/ sewer plant addition, both tied in with voter-approved issues that passed by a large majority.
    Both candidates fielded questions submitted by Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce members, the first of which asked how each would confront economic development in the city and what each would do to create and improve it.
    For Freeman, development lies not only in the Adams Dairy Landing area but on Missouri 7, an area he feels has been ignored for too long.
    Page 2 of 3 - “I drive down Missouri 7 and all I see are tattoo shops, tobacco stores and empty buildings,” Freeman said.
    The claim elicited a spirited reply from Ross later in the forum. Ross listed several stores – Jack in the Box, Legend of Asia, Hy-Vee, and others – as being signs that the city has not ignored the city’s main corridor.
    Freeman took issue with the city’s recent decision to spend approximately $170,000 above a minimum bid to hire a Kansas company to build the Woods Chapel Road project. Freeman said the city brushed aside a capable and local company, KAT Excavating, a company that had constructed other projects in the city over the years.
    Ross took issue with the statement.
    “KAT is out of Bates City, it’s not a local company,” Ross said, adding that city staff must be trusted when making difficult decisions regarding contracts.
    Both candidates responded to a question involving bringing consensus among staff and City Council. Ross, who served as a city alderman in the 1980s and later as a state representative, said he is a consensus maker – unlike his opponent.
    “You don’t bring consensus by being a naysayer,” Ross said.
    Freeman admitted his lack of political experience, instead comparing his skills as a father of twins with operating a city. He said he wants to begin his education and his experience by holding a town hall meeting in late March where he plans on fielding questions from citizens and taking those questions to City Hall while he is mayor.
    Freeman said many people question the time he’ll have available if he does become mayor.
    “I have a flexible job,” he said. “I will dedicate myself to the position of mayor fully.”
    For top priorities, Freeman wants to allow more resident input and more police visibility. He said he and neighbors are concerned over the number of vehicle break-ins in the city.
    “We need to be proactive on this,” Freeman said.
    Ross said his priorities include working with the University of Missouri in establishing the Mizzou Center and, in the future, building a community and aquatic center, one of the few attractions the city has, he said.
    “We want to make sure the city isn’t lacking in anything,” Ross said.
    How the candidates differ philosophically was also vastly different, with Ross proposing that he would like to change the city’s existing charter which allows the mayor to vote only when there is a tie between council members.
    “I’d like to see us be (like other cities in the area) where the mayor can vote on every issue,” Ross said.
    Freeman was shocked and wasn’t afraid to show it.
    Page 3 of 3 - “I can’t believe Mayor Ross stood before you and said he wants more power,” Freeman said. “He already has too much power. It’s not the mayor’s job to set the agenda.”
    Such power, Freeman said, should lie only in the hands of the legislators, or in this case City Council.
    The election is April 3.
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