In the digital age where information can pass between hundreds of people at the click of a mouse, some still believe the best way to meet new people is a full pot of hot coffee, a plate of cookies and an old fashioned handshake.
“It’s called the ‘Meet the Candidates’ forum because some people don’t know the candidates,” said forum organizer and Haviland Mayor Robert Ellis. “[These types of events] are still important. I see people on the street and they ask me ‘who’s running?’ When I tell them they ask ‘who’s that?’ It’s important to get everybody up there in front of people.”
Ellis made personal phone calls to each of the five candidates running for the three open Haviland City Council seats, inviting them to the March 18 forum at the Haviland Grade School Auditorium.
“We did a forum for the last election in 2011,” said Ellis. “I think we had quite a few people running. The County Chamber of Commerce put that together and that was fine, but this time I figured I could do it just about as well as the chamber.”
Speaking on Sunday, Ellis said he had not found a moderator and planned to do it himself, following a simple format of opening statements and questions from the audience.
“If I’m the moderator it’ll be short,” quipped Ellis. “I don’t expect it to take more than 30 minutes. We’re also going to serve cookies, so people can stand around, visit and ask the questions they were afraid to ask in front of everybody.”
All of the candidates are expected to attend.
“You’ve got to meet someone face-to-face, so you can figure out what you think of the person,” he added. “You can read about a person or hear about a person, but you are much better off if you can meet them in person.”
The countywide spring elections will take place on April 2, with school board, mayoral and city council elections in all three of the county’s municipalities.
Looking towards the next term, Ellis said either the re-elected council members, or the new incoming council members will have issues to deal with including Main Street repairs and the nitrate levels in city drinking water.
“We need to spend some money on [street repairs]. Some of them are in pretty bad shape especially the heavy traffic areas near the co-op. I’m an infrastructure person. I worry about the streets, water, sewer and that sort of thing. We’re still working with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) on our nitrate levels. It’s an ongoing thing.”
Page 2 of 2 - Ellis did take a moment to praise the current city council’s hold on its mill levy, which has been steady for more than two years.
“ We are in pretty good shape financially, which is a whole lot better than most other cities in Kansas and the U.S. We’re allowed to increase it a little without an election and we haven’t done it. I don’t see any reason to raise it just because we can.”
Ellis said he wasn’t going to officially endorse any candidate.
“I was visiting with someone the other day and I told him he should come up to this forum and participate in election. The he asked me ‘who should I vote for?’ I laughed. I told him to show up and meet the candidates and decide for himself. That’s why these types of forums are important.”