This article is the third in a series profiling the six candidates for Hays City Commission
John Mayers said he decided to make a run for Hays City Commission because he doesn’t believe the board always makes decisions that “truly represent” the majority of residents’ opinions.
The 38-year-old said he often either attends commission meetings or watches on television from home.
“It’s kind of odd that so many of our stuff passes five to nothing, or even four to one,” Mayers said. “You take a lot of simple things, and it’s divided 50/50. There should be a few more no votes here and a few more yes votes here if you’re truly representing the community instead of certain groups or certain positions.”
Mayers has lived in Hays for approximately 12 years and works as a realtor for Landmark Realty in Hays and Westhusings Inc. based in Stockton. He also has worked in the oilfield for 10 years.
Q: Why did you decide to run for city commission?
A: I attend the meetings, and I watch — we’re lucky we’re able to watch a lot of them on videos — almost every meeting, they discuss how well they’re representing the citizens of the community. They make decisions for us, instead of representing us. I just find it hard, I know in my personal case, a lot of decisions they’ve made, I go that’s not what I would have done. And then when I start talking to other people, they disagree too. You’ve got five people who represent 20,000 people. … It’s kind of odd that so many of our stuff passes five to nothing, or even four to one. You take a lot of simple things, and it’s divided 50/50. There should be a few more no votes here and a few more yes votes here if you’re truly representing the community instead of certain groups or certain positions.
Q: If elected, what will your top priorities be?
A: The top priorities to me are the main functions of the city, to maintain the roads, water, trash, sewer. That’s the first thing. I do like the idea of getting more involved with the economic development. Just the city in general and trying to promote it for both growth for economic ways, money ways, residential people moving here. Those would be my two top priorities.
Q: What do you feel are the city of Hays’ biggest strengths? Weaknesses?
A: I think the biggest strength is the community in general. Overall we have a nice little city. It’s not too big. We’ve got low crime rate, several parks. Housing, it’s wide range. Good college, good hospital. It’s just a very nice community to live in. … The biggest weakness I think is our water. It is hard for some of the growth that we could be doing, some businesses that could come in, because of our water. Not agreeing that some of the businesses everybody would want or anything like that, but you can’t even entertain them. A good example would be like the Tyson chicken plant. Not saying the community would be all over that, but they’re going to use 700 million gallons or something like that of water a year. It’s more than what the community together uses in a year. And 3,500 acres and so on and so forth. Water’s the biggest weakness.
Q: Recently, the city commission discussed a concept to construct three roundabout structures on North Vine Street to help with traffic control. Do you favor this idea? If not, what would you propose as an alternative?
A: I’m very kind of neutral on it right now. I want to see it further develop, further plans. My biggest question I have for it is how much and how are we going to pay for it. At this point in time, I can say if it’s going to increase our taxes or mill levy, I would be against it at this time. There’s other things that are more important right now.
Q: There has been much discussion about economic development and new business recruitment within the city. What do you think the city should do to help move the local economy forward? What are some obstacles the city faces?
A: I think one of the major gripes is our city likes its ordinances. The more rules you put in place the harder it is to abide by them. … Our city goes out and asks companies to come here. When you ask somebody, you have to be willing to give. If they’re not knocking on the door, they're going to ask us for something in the form of TIFs, in the form of tax abatements. They’re going to ask something — free land, free infrastructure. Maybe not even free, but at a lower cost. They’re going to ask for these things. So it isn’t the commissioners. The community then would need to decide what they're willing to give up to get some of these businesses in. Some mean more than others. I think with economic development you have two sides to the coin. We need businesses for our sales tax. On the other side, we need something to replace the oil field. We don’t need $10 an hour jobs. We need $20 an hour jobs or better, or salary positions at $50,000 to $60,000 a year.
Q: Do you agree with the city commission’s decision to reduce support for the Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development?
A: I believe since they reduced funding to both of them, they should have also reduced it to downtown. I don't have a problem with it. One of the things is since we didn’t have to increase taxes, we were able to stay under budget. I was kind of a little bit indifferent on it. On the other end, if it came to a point where it came to either cut more funding to these to keep from raising taxes, that’s what I’m going to do.
Q: Speaking of the coalition, outside agency funding is often a topic of much discussion during budget planning. Do you support the decisions the commission made this year (reduce funding for FHSU scholarships and the coalition, leave all others at full support)? Would you have recommended any other additional changes?
A: I think the big three is you’re talking about FHSU, the coalition of economic development and Downtown Hays Development Corp. Since they cut two of them, I would have cut the other one, too, just as what was recommended. As a taxpayer, as a citizen, I’m kind of indifferent on that a little bit for the fact that since they didn’t have to raise taxes, everything was under budget. I understand the thought process behind it that they had to do some cutting to the city budget.
Q: Should the city give incentives to established businesses or potential new businesses to expand or move into the city? If so, what.
A: Yes. To the extent depends on ... lot of different things. If you’re looking at bringing in a company that’s going to employ 500 people, they’re probably going to want infrastructure and land, TIFs. If you’re looking at somebody who’s wanting a small shop with five employees, they’re not going to need as much, but you still have to offer them if you’re asking them. To me it’s a (case by case) basis. That’s where I want to be able to see it. Perfect example was the truck stop. I think truck stop was a horrible, horrible decision not to help that. It would have been, I believe, easily in the top three sales tax generators in the city of Hays. And you would have had to give up something to get it. I think in the long run, and in the short run, we would have felt the positives of that.
Q: Housing needs also have been discussed. Do you feel affordable housing, and/or housing availability, is an issue in the city? If so, how should the issue be addressed?
A: I think they need to define affordable housing. Do they want taxpayer-funded housing, HUD housing, or do they want people to sell their houses for less money. It’s not simple, but there’s ways to make this happen. But once again, you have to be able to give something. I don’t see the taxpayers helping other people out buying houses, when nobody helped them out. I think the biggest thing for affordable housing is we need better paying jobs in Hays, Kansas. You make $10 an hour, it’s going to be hard for you to buy a house regardless where you live. $10 an hour is not going to let you buy a house. You’re seeing it now too because of the oilfield.
Q: As you know, a legal process is in the works to secure future water rights to the city-owned R9 Ranch in Edwards County. What are your thoughts about that project, and is there anything else you feel the city should be looking at in terms of water resources?
A: We need to keep our options open and always be looking because that’s the biggest issue that we face.
Q: In the past, city commissioners have shot down ideas of using city sales tax to fund a potential school bond. What are your thoughts on using city sales tax to help fund renovations/improvements for Hays USD 489 school buildings?
A: I’m against using the sales tax to fund the school system. We’ve already used it to fund our general fund. Our sales tax still isn’t that comparable to other communities, but I think we need to be able to take care of our school systems within our own city.
Q: Are there any other issues you would like to discuss?
A: If you asked 100 people what conservative means to them, you would get 100 different answers. Conservatism to me means more of a smaller government, especially on the local level. We’ve heard the current commissioners say that we need to be aggressive and we’re very inviting. Well, over the years that’s not what outside businessmen and women think about Hays. They don’t find us inviting. They don’t like working with us. They think we ask too much and give very little in return. I think we need to reduce the amount of rules we put in place and have a little bit more of an open mind when they come to us or when we talk to them. And let’s see what develops before we start saying what won’t work and what maybe will work. I’ve kind of learned a lot of things in this world kind of take care of themselves if you just allow them to.