Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Blatant Blog Theft- Evansville Mayoral Post

Mason has had some luck with questions and answers for the Evansville Mayoral candidates over at Chasing Ambulances In My Nightmares. Karen Aikman has engaged with Mason and with Mark to answer some of the questions we are all asking. I have, shamelessly, stolen and brought them over here. For the entire discussion at the source click the title of this post.

Also Mason has posted the following times for Mayoral meet and greets.

(1) Open house at Mike Anderson's on Jan. 31 at 7:00pm.
(2) Lion's Club hosts an open forum at Bauer House on Feb. 7 at 6:30pm.

The Exchange:

At 5:34 PM, Karen Aikman said...
# Why should I vote for you? Because I am contributing to your blog.
# Why do you want to be mayor? So I can work with you if you should become an alderman
# Quien es mas macho Ambulance Fugo o Jeff? No Se.
# What do you think of the skatepark? Maybe the next AFV $10,000 winner will be one of our own!
# How do you feel about Evansville going blog crazy? Far be it for me to criticize the medium that allows folks to sit around, in the comfort of their homes, sipping their cold beer and arguing over facts that are as often as not inaccurate anyway.
# Evansville needs a hotel (or probably more important a bed and breakfast), how will you get one here? Done. We granted "The Coffee House Ladies" a conditional use permit to run a B&B out of their home. Perhaps you can check in and tell us how it is!
# My kids are perfect...don't you agree?Of course.# Do you have an idea on how to get these taxes down? yes
# What is the biggest problem facing Evansville Today and, follow-up, how do you solve it? One problem is not more problematic than any other. You solve them one step at a time.
# I like a nice cold beer...Discuss. One should never discuss a man's wife, his dog, or his choice of beer.

At 6:19 PM, Jeff said...
Thanks for posting. It's good to see you have a sense of humor.

At 6:21 PM, Mark Schnepper said...
Karen,Probably one of the most pressing issues in Evansville is the high taxes. Please elaborate on your plan to lower taxes. As mentioned in Mason's post, you would be considered the "insider," in this race. As I am sure you are aware, some people on the Observer sight are calling for change.
Please explain if you intend to take the city in a different direction or if you feel that you would like to follow Mayor Ringhand's leadership example. Many people who have "adopted" Evansville feel excluded (I will admit it is better than it was when I moved here in 1998, but I think that is partially due to the influx of people). Any thoughts on making Evansville feel more inclusive?

At 8:57 PM, Karen Aikman said...
First I would like to say that I considered Mason's line of questioning to be somewhat SNL-esque and so after some thought, decided to answer with tongue in cheek responses. I do appreciate your more considered question and will attempt to answer it.I find a few questions presented here.

Let's take them one at a time.Taxes:The level of property taxes is indeed high in Evansville. This problem is multi pronged. As I understand it, it has much to do with County demands as well as the local school district. It is my understanding and observation that the City of Evansville has not raised the city's percentage of tax levy in some time. We have been relying on growth in number of houses as well as appreciation of those house values to increase revenues. This has been working for the short term. I also have to applaud the efforts of the various city department heads for their sacrifices in keeping expenses down. These may be drops in the ocean, but one look at the police department phones will illustrate how hard these people work to save the rest of us money and how dedicated they are to any amount they can save. Pick a department and I can give you a list of how they scrimp and save. I Chair the Finance and Labor department so I am well informed on this.

So what do we do?It's Econ 101. We can either cut costs or raise revenues. We don't feel we can cut costs especially, so it's raise revenues. How do we do that? Bill Connors has been driving an effort to have residential developments contain higher valued homes. This is being done but will only go so far. I believe the key will be with Commercial development. Commercial property tax is a great source of revenue. We have a few existing commercial areas, Downtown, North on 14, (Union St.) and the East Side. All of these areas represent an opportunity for increased revenues.

For Union Street and downtown, we have created a TIF district. Despite some recent concerns expressed on the blog, when this TIF was created, public hearings were provided for and it was agreed there was a need and benefit to encouraging private property improvement with the use of public funds. The very general idea being that over time the city would recover it's investment with the increase in property tax generated by the increased value of the properties. We are seeing some movement in this direction and are encouraged by the increased interest in improving the properties in this area.

For the East side, we can all see the development that is going on over there. While it is hard to see valued stores leave the convenience of the downtown, they nonetheless have not left the city limits and they continue to not only contribute to our property tax revenues, but have increased their contributions. In short our tax base is rising as a result. One addition spurs another and hopefully we will see additional commercial development out there. The hope is for commerce in the form of incubating local business as well as attracting new investment. It is widely agreed that incubating is a better bet for growth than the off chance of recruiting some giant outside interest like Epic. LandsEnd is often used as an example of this type of homegrown success. You certainly are aware that taxes are a complex and delicate issue and I don't pretend to have the answers. As pointed out, I do ask questions however, and I get answers from people who know much more than I do, so that I can make the best decisions I can. I welcome any suggestions from yourself or readers of these blogs.

On making Evansville feel more inclusive... and...Please explain if you intend to take the city in a different direction or if you feel that you would like to follow Mayor Ringhand's leadership example.

I too moved here in 1998. November I recall. Like you I can remember a difference, an atmosphere if distrust and exclusion. My husband and I were actually turned away from a meeting that had been posted in the paper to discuss the fate of the lake. As we walked in, all conversation stopped. We were asked why we were there. When we said to participate in the lake discussion, they said there would be no such discussion. I showed them the notice in the paper, they said they would take note of our position and asked us to leave. Which we did.

Times have changed and I do indeed attribute most of it to the leadership of Janis Ringhand. To the extent that she allows everyone in her meetings and provides the opportunity to voice opinions, I will continue with that. I plan to improve upon it. I think I can do a better job of communicating with the public to keep them better informed. I already try to participate in these blogs when I believe it is appropriate to do so.As to the direction...that's hard. So much gets laid out beforehand. I can tell you that I do not intend to lose focus on the entire city. Every corner cries out for attention and it can be given. We need to monitor the rain water runoff of the West side. We need to continue promoting the TIF. We need to prepare for the Main Street reconstruction. We need to not let go of the lake. I would like to see commercial development on the East side. There has been housing development plans that need to be monitored. And, we have traffic flow issues. So whatever that direction is..that's where I plan to go. I hope this answers your question.

H/T to Evansville Observer

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