Blue Springs mayoral candidate Michael Freeman will run into government red tape and have a difficult – if not impossible – time changing the culture of the city.

Blue Springs mayoral candidate Michael Freeman will run into government red tape and have a difficult – if not impossible – time changing the culture of the city.

So said one resident at Freeman’s town hall meeting Tuesday night at Moreland Ridge Middle School. Freeman called the meeting in late February as a way to introduce himself to new people and get the word out, as well as debate incumbent Carson Ross, who declined to attend.

Freeman, who ran for the District 3 City Council seat  two years ago and lost to Grant Bowerman, hasn’t been short on punches, at times clobbering city policy, the city’s attitude toward debt and, as he has criticized numerous times, Ross’ reluctance to let citizens speak during public and special meetings.

“The number one reason I’m running is because I don’t want to burden (residents and my family) with debt,” Freeman said.

The comment drew applause.

While he admits that the city placed some tax-raising issues before voters, one issue that may cause fiscal problems in the future and may cause the city to resort to additional taxes: Adams Dairy Landing, a retail project that has commanded too many promises in the form of bonds, he said.

“The city simply cannot borrow money on its future,” he said, a reference to prior claims that the city’s debt has increased 200 percent in recent years, notably because of Adams Dairy Landing.

“Not everything went to the vote of the people,” he added. “The vote to back bonds for RED didn’t go to a vote of the people. The city took a $17 million vote in five minutes with no discussion. That’s a travesty.”

Some other highlights from the meeting:

Freeman doesn’t believe the proposed commuter rail plan will work, and he fears that such a line from the urban core to the suburbs will only increase crime, as he believes evidence has shown from other cities. He also questioned the City Council’s approval to give the county approximately $17,000 for educational purposes concerning the proposal.

“Where was that money budgeted and where did it come from?” he said, adding that one council member asked for a breakdown on how the money would be spent and received nothing.

“I don’t think the government should be in the education business.”

One audience member asked about police visibility. Freeman applauded the public safety sales tax for putting more police on the streets, but he criticized the city for freezing pay raises – not only for city staff but for police officers.

“We pay for their education and, after their contract is up, they move to other departments,” he said.

Another audience member asked how Freeman would balance the city’s budget if he were elected.

Freeman said he would act fiscally responsible, which could include eliminating training expenses for council members and examining the supposed economic benefit of the Adams Dairy Golf Club, which received in the current budget a significant infusion of funds for upgrades and repairs.

“You just have to be responsible,” Freeman said.

Freeman focused on small issues, too, like improving operational expenses in the IT department, a department that he is familiar with through his profession.

“I’ve seen the budget for the IT department,” he said. “It’s astronomical to me.”

He mentioned cuts in the city as a way to bring back fiscal responsibility, but he did not elaborate on what the cuts would be.

Freeman was also critical of the lack of information coming out of City Hall.

“The city wants as little out there so you ask as little as possible,” he said.

n Regarding Missouri 7, Freeman said the city can do better by getting out there and attracting businesses without offering tax incentives. Along with others in the audience, he expressed concern about the number of loan businesses and thrift stores, which don’t collect sales tax monies. He also criticized businesses like 7th Heaven and others, which sell an assortment of paraphernalia directed at a culture he would rather not see in the city.

If elected, Freeman said he would hold town hall meetings like the one Tuesday on a regular basis. It would be a venue where regular citizens could come and express their concerns.

Toward the end of the meeting, Freeman was asked if he would be a good delegator.

“There are six people on that City Council, and if they got proper leadership, they would do a great job,” he said. “I think there are a lot of followers on the City Council, and I think they need someone to cut the strings and let them come up with ideas on their own.”