“The Solution” Candidates Talk
Oskaloosa, Iowa – The parking lot of the old Whittier School, in the northern part of Oskaloosa, was full and often cars were forced to find room on the streets surrounding the former school.
Inside, candidates representing themselves as “The Solution” served up a chili supper to hungry individuals as they passed along in line. Smiles and jokes were common during this portion of the evening.
As attendees settled into light conversation amongst each other, the first of the candidates approached the microphone set up near the stage area of the gymnasium.
There, they introduced themselves and spoke briefly about themselves, their families and often touched upon the discussion over the proposed regional airport.
Oskaloosa 1st Ward Candidate Lauren McMahan said, “We’ve kind of lost our voice in Oskaloosa and I think it’s time we take back our government.”
“I believe it’s totally wrong to take land away from people,” McMahan added. She said that “I wouldn’t like it if someone tried to take my farmland.”
“These people worked hard and they don’t deserve this. They have no voice in this, so we have to be their voice,” said McMahan.
Beyond the regional airport concerns McMahan added that being good stewards of tax dollars is important. “We as citizens work hard for our money and when we give it to the city we expect them to use it wisely, and I’m not so sure it’s all being used as wisely as it could be, and I hope to change that.”
The candidate for Oskaloosa Mayor, Denny Doud, said that the biggest frustration he has heard from the community is that the people’s voice is not being heard “in our city government.” He went on to say that the people in office, at this point, “you can’t have any better people, but, unfortunately it seems like when they get into public office, they forget who they represent.”
“Instead of the city council, it’s almost backwards. We have the city staff, the management of the city, telling the city council what to do, and then voting 7-0 no matter what, because they’ve been convinced, and they’re not listening to the people. My goal is to turn that back around,” said Doud.
“To serve the people, just like we are serving the people tonight, we want to serve them in city hall,” said Doud.
When asked for an example of how city staff may be influencing the council in their vote, Doud responded, “Obviously, I truly cannot believe that the good people we have on the city council would vote to take people’s ground away from them.”
“These people support our community, the farmers around us. We’re going to say we don’t care about you? This airport’s bigger and more important than you are. Well, I think there’s better ways,” Doud said. “It’s not that were against the airport, it’s that we’re against the eminent domain.”
Doud, who worked for the City of Oskaloosa as a building inspector for 21 years, said that he is aware of several things that could be done to reduce cost for the city. He is looking towards city engineering as a place to start, based upon his experience in that department. He believes that the office is overstaffed since the time he was employed with the city.
Doud said he eventually left his employment with the city because he, “actually had an opportunity to go into the private business as a territory sales rep for a company out of Des Moines. So I chose to take that option and go that route for awhile, just to try the private sector.”
Doud said he is now semi-retired, after reaching the General Manager position with the company he moved to after his employment with the city.
Former Oskaloosa City Council member and local businessman Jimmy Carter is once again seeking the at-large seat on the council.
Carter said that having a balanced budget and holding taxes down would be a focus of his if elected to office, “and spending the dollar wisely on every issue we look at.”
“As we look at any project, cost versus benefit,” Carter said.
“Streets are always important,” says Carter. During his past years on the council, Carter talked about the 10 year street plans that would be developed. “We’ll be looking at that again when I’m elected.”
“It’s the taking of the land, the eminent domain factor,” that is Carters biggest issue with the proposed regional airport. “If the farmers want to sell the land to build a new airport, and we have the funding for it, I’m for it.”
If elected, Carter says there has to be a way through legal process. He spoke about the recent resolution by the Mahaska County Board of Supervisors to remove eminent domain, that was in turn voted down by the Oskaloosa City Council. “Me, and, I hope, the rest of the candidates [TARA-PAC Supported] after they’re elected can bring it back to the table and we can vote it [eminent domain] again.”
Carter said he believes that the farmers business, “is just as important as any other business, or any other local business, and I don’t think that’s been taken into consideration nearly enough.”
Infrastructure throughout the community is something else Carter mentioned, “Not just only streets but sewers and so on and so forth.”
Carter says that he is against the merger of the Water Department into the city government. “I think since 1929, when they was formed and voted on by the people, the water department was put in place.”
During Jennifer Doland’s address to those gathered, she touched upon her husband Mark Doland being a Mahaska County Supervisor. “Both of us will choose to take eminent domain out of the language.”
“I would like to see roads to get fixed,” says Doland, who is running for the Oskaloosa 3rd ward. “I would like to see that there’s a vote, if the public would like to keep that extra penny, you know, to keep going to the roads. I think it’s 67% of the budget coming from that penny. I’d like to see a vote on that.”
“I would like to take eminent domain out of the language. I think if the farmers want to sell, and the public wants to pay for an airport, then I think that’s their decision,” says Doland.
Doland says that the airport will not affect her either way, “I don’t have a plane, and I don’t know anyone with a plane. I won’t be going out there.” The taxes that could be potentially associated with a regional airport, “are the only thing I’m concerned about, if it would raise taxes, that we would have to pay for it,” says Doland.
Doland said something she’s looking to help improve is jobs in the community. “I’m absolutely for jobs. I’ve heard 3M was looking at coming here, and that some people you know, and you just hearsay, who is the one responsible for not letting them in, but I completely disagree with that. They could have been here, that could have been great.”
On her decision to run for city council, Doland says, “I’m doing it for the farmers.”
My final conversation on the evening was with At-large candidate Shaun Smith.
“I’d like to see Oskaloosa have a voice,” said Smith when asked about his platform. “That is my major push. We have lost our voice in recent years.”
“I’d like to see Oskaloosa grow also,” Smith added. “From the stagnant about eleven thousand people, ten thousand, somewhere in there. I’d like to see us go over and beyond that. Bring in some good professional people.”
When asked that a regional airport could potentially help in that growth, Smith responded, “I do not believe that, from the standpoint, that’s not just an off-the-hip type of thing. I do not believe, because, for a few different things, government always runs over what they say they’re going to deliver. Individuals always run over on projects.”
Smith said he’s not against the regional airport, “I’m against the taking of land for this project, because I do not feel that it’s a financial viable option.”
Smith believes that the taxpayers of Oskaloosa will be on the hook “for millions of dollars” if the regional airport was built.
Beyond encouraging businesses to move to Oskaloosa to help lower the tax base, Smith would also like to see tax incentives “and other incentives maybe looked at,” and also a review of regulations “that chokes out business” reviewed.
Smith is also a current employee of the Oskaloosa Water Department. Beyond the current discussion between the city and water department, Smith addressed those possible conflicts of interest he may be faced with. “We had done a lot of research before I even started my petition to make sure that I was going to be able to do this, this isn’t a conflict of interest.”
He says that any votes that post a potential conflict of interest, Smith said he will abstain himself from that vote.
Mark Doland took an opportunity to discuss with the crowd how the debate over the proposed regional airport has once again sparked.
The group of five candidates took questions from those in attendance for just over half an hour.
Also in attendance was Rob Hamman, Chairman of TARA-PAC and Drew Klein, Field Coordinator, from Americans For Prosperity.
The election is November 5, 2013.