Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Candidate Questionnaire: Tom Cooley, Unified Government Board of Commissioners

We continue looking at political candidates across Wyandotte County. Here is today's questionnaire, featuring current Unified Government Board of Commissioner Tom Cooley. 

1.    What in your background (or what experience) makes you believe you are qualified to serve on the Unified Government Board of Commissioners?

UG Commissioner Tom Cooley
I have over 40 years of experience in public administration and local governments, including the last 13 years as the 7th District Commissioner.  In 1998, I retired after six years as the City Manager of Bonner Springs.  Prior to that, I served as the first City  Administrator for the City of Edwardsville for four years.  Over the 29 years as a public administrator, I have worked for all three cities in my district, plus the city of Lawrence and I bring a solid background in local governments, especially municipal finances budgets to the Unified Government.

2.  As a candidate, what would be your top three priorities as a commissioner in Wyandotte County?

My first priority is to work with my fellow commissioners and the new mayor to continue the positive growth we have experienced in the past decade.  With the completion of the Cerner complex just around the corner, it is important for all of us to encourage good affordable housing for the many Cerner employees that will be coming throughout the county, including Bonner Springs and Edwardsville.

My second priority is to follow the strategic plan the UG governing body spent 18 months developing.

My third priority is to develop stronger partnerships with the other government organizations in the county including the other two cities, the four school districts, the BPU, and the Community College.  All of these organizations have a vested interested in the viability of this county.

3. A two-part question - What distinguishes you as the top candidate for this position and what differences should voters in Wyandotte County look at before making their choice?

As stated in question #1, I bring many years of experience and a vast amount of knowledge to the Unified Government and to my district.  There will be some new faces on the UG Board of Commissioners with at least half the board having two years or less of experience.  I believe it is important to have an equal balance of experience on the UG Board.

4. In the next three to four years, millions of dollars will become available after the city finishes off paying bonds that were issued to increase the economic development in Western Wyandotte County. As a commissioner on the Unified Government’s board, how would you encourage that money to be spent?

This money will not be available until 2017, but it will be budgeted in the summer of 2016.  A lot can happen between now and 2016.  We sure don’t know what the economy will look like in 2016 and we sure don’t know what the State of Kansas will do to local governments’ revenues by then, but having said that, it will be a top priority to use the revenue to take the pressure off real estate taxes.  

5. What in your opinion are the three biggest challenges facing Wyandotte County? If you feel there are more than three to list, feel free too.

Challenge #1 is always to try to keep the taxes down while providing the citizens with the government services they expect and deserve.  It is nothing new and it is and always has been the #1 challenge.

Challenge #2 is to maintain, replace and improve the old  infrastructure in the older parts of the city.  We can’t afford to let them deteriorate any longer.

Challenge #3 is to replace the revenues that the State of Kansas has taken from local governments and appears will take more in the near future.

6. Do you feel the Unified Government can do more to increase growth in areas outside of Western Wyandotte County, particularly the northeast part of Wyandotte County?

Absolutely!  There are many tools available to local governments to encourage economic development.  Each tool has a special application and not all fit each situation.  There is no cookie cutter approach to these areas.  The key is to find which tool will be the most effective.  I will work with all of my fellow commissioners, especially those in the urban core to develop the partnerships and incentives for success.