BY ANGIE HAFLICH
Interesting, intense, overwhelming and cool were among the words John Doll used to describe his first official week as a state representative.
"I was tired as could be by Wednesday, but you just keep going. You remember it's 90 days and you make yourself go," he said.
Doll held the first of what he plans to be weekly town hall meetings Saturday morning at Patrick Dugan's Coffee House, 301 N. Main St. Doll spoke about some of the items on the agenda in Topeka, including taxes, immigration, gun control and transportation, and said he found it interesting that many of these topics weren't divided along party lines.
"It's more urban vs. rural, and that's going to be play huge because there's only like 15 of us this side of Salina. And so we have to form coalitions, we have to form friendships with our colleagues and that's going to be extremely important," he said to the approximately 20 people in attendance.
In a separate interview, Doll said one of the main reasons he ran for state representative is because he wants to be southwest Kansas' voice concerning property taxes.
"All taxes to me are evil, but the Lucifer of them is property tax," he said, adding that it is his concern that they will have to be increased in order to offset having the lack of income tax revenue. "Out here, I hardly ever heard anyone complain about Kansas income tax, but when you get to the city, you hear about property tax. And to me, income tax is a more fair tax than property tax. I don't like any of them, but I've got a good feeling (the offset) is going to come from property taxes, which out here kills us because most of us own a home or farm."
In terms of immigration, Doll said that he observed rural and urban differences in perspective, as well, and reiterated the importance of coalitions.
"They (urban representatives) see it as a drain on our society. We (rural representatives) see it as a necessity to our economy. So that's going to be huge. So what we've been trying to do, at least what I'm trying to do, is build coalitions with some people from eastern Kansas, so they can surely understand where we're at on this," he said, adding that he wants to ensure that immigrants are able to obtain driver's licenses and insurance. "And we can do that at the state level."
Doll also shared his views on gun control as another topic circulating among legislators.
"I think so far, at the very start, there's been 15 bills introduced. There, again, that's going to go to the committees and such before I get to see it," he said. "I'm a western Kansas dude. You know, I believe in the right to bear arms, for the most part, completely and entirely, so we're going to be fighting the east."
On the subject of transportation, Doll said that the state is looking to combine the Kansas Turnpike Authority and the Kansas Department of Transportation and that Gov. Sam Brownback said that this combination would mean about $14 million for the general fund.
"There's pushback, of course, from the people in the northwest. There's pushback from people who are involved with the KTA, but personally, I need your guys' opinion on it," he said. "I feel like we can help Garden City in ways that might not ever have anything to do with the state Legislature. And I want to guarantee you, the passion I have for Garden City is huge, and anytime that we can do anything to help Garden City, whether it's at the Legislature or just the people that you meet, the lobbyists and those sort of things, I'm going to be all about that."
One way he already sees an opportunity to do that is by working with Mark Hutton, a Wichita representative who owns Hutton Construction in Garden City. He said that Hutton has been in contact with Garden City City Manager Matt Allen about housing development in Garden City.
Lona DuVall, president of the Finney County Economic Development Corp., said that Hutton Construction typically does industrial work.
"They haven't done housing out here. Now, they're thinking maybe they should look at some housing projects. They're really aggressive guys," DuVall said.
Doll also made an announcement regarding his wife, Janet Doll.
"She filed to run for the city commission (Friday) afternoon," he said, adding that current city commissioners Chris Law and Melvin Dale, who filled in to serve the remainder of Doll's term, also have re-filed.
The election for city commissioners will be in April, and in a separate interview, Janet Doll said she feels she has a pretty good feel about the direction the city wants to go in.
"I'm very excited about Garden City. I care deeply for it. We are set to grow greatly, and I am very appreciative of the economic stability we have here, and it's just home," she said.
Janet Doll serves on the city's planning commission board, the housing authority board, the Capital Improvement Project board, the Downtown Vision board, as well as the auxiliary board for the Garden City Regional Airport. She said she hopes to see more efforts toward bringing in out-of county tax dollars and promotion of events in Garden City.