Sunday, October 10, 2010

Taxes among items of disagreement between candidates at Woman's Club political forum

By Rachel Bryant
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Candidates in the Nov. 2 elections gathered Thursday night for Midway’s political forum, presenting their views on controversial issues.

There are three contested races with special interest to Midway. Running for the state House in the 56th District are incumbent Carl P. Rollins of Midway and Republican Lyen Crews of Versailles. The district includes all of Woodford County, the northeastern third of Franklin County and the southwestern part of Fayette County.

There are two candidates for magistrate of Woodford County’s First District, Democratic incumbent Larry Craig and Republican challenger Curt Savage, both of Midway.

The race for Midway mayor is between incumbent Tom Bozarth and write-in candidate Scott Hayes. There are six candidates for six seats on the city council, making it a popularity contest.

Education and taxes were the major points of disagreement between Crews and Rollins, who faced off first.

Crews, vice president for business and financial affairs at Midway College, is for charter schools, which are tax supported but may have different curriculum and philosophy than other schools in the area and don’t have to follow the regulations governing ordinary public schools, but do have to meet certain standards. He said parents deserve a choice.

Rollins, chairman of the House Education Committee, is against charter schools. (He said at an Oct. 12 forum in Frankfort that studies had shown charter school were unlikely to improve instruction for students.) He said the effectiveness of teachers needs to be improved, by changing the evaluation process, because 99 percent of teachers rank as effective. He also said the best teachers need to teach the students who need the most help.

Crews called for eliminating both personal and corporate income taxes, saying lack of an income tax had helped Tennessee outstrip Kentucky economically. Rollins opposed the idea, saying if income taxes were eliminated a fifth of the state’s budget would be lost and programs would have to be cut.

The candidates also disagreed on the state retirement system. Rollins is for the defined benefit plan, the current approach, while Crews is for the defined contribution plan because he says it’s cheaper and would save the state money.

The magistrate candidates got into a heated debate over taxes. Savage, a retired businessman, said that if elected he would not raise taxes and accused Craig of raising taxes on Woodford County residents the last three years in a row.

Craig denied ever raising taxes. He explained that property values had dropped and he voted for the compensating rate to keep the county’s property tax revenue the same as the year before. He said the compensating rate has to be passed or income will be lost that the county will not ever be able to get back.

Savage criticized Craig’s vote for a project that would have hired out-of-state contractors to analyze and retrofit county buildings to reduce energy costs. The project, which did not pass, would have cost $890,000. Savage said Craig’s vote for the project showed that he is too quick to borrow money. He also said “green engineers” from Kentucky should have been given the job. Craig said the project would have saved the county money in the long run.

The candidates for mayor (Hayes seated, Bozarth standing) were on stage for only a short time because just two questions were posed to them.

A Midway citizen voiced concern about cars speeding on West Stephens Street, where children play, and asked what the candidates would do about it.

Bozarth said he was aware of the problem and had sent extra patrol cars to the area. No tickets have been issued, he said, but police will continue to patrol the area to slow down the cars.

Hayes lives on West Stephens. He said the patrols are not working because they aren’t there when the speeders are.

“The biggest problem is it’s in the morning and afternoon when they’re on shift change,” Hayes said of the police. “If we could see if they could get federal overtime during those times then we might be able to get the cars to slow down.”

Hayes was asked why, if being mayor was so important to him, he had missed the January deadline to get on the ballot. He said that when he decided to run, he had missed the deadline.

About 50 people attended the forum at Midway College’s Anne Hart Raymond Center. The event was held by the Midway Woman’s Club.

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