The meeting had dragged on, as everyone there listened to a city manager and lawyer for nearly an hour go through a document outlining projects, concerns and possible goals for the city.

The list was long. Multiple pages. There was very little time for discussion of the items on it. Some drew a moment of two, but for the most part those in attendance spent the bulk of their time listening.

A little conversation kicked up when the need for more childcare options was brought forward. In 2017, one of the largest providers of daycare closed. Parents and the community have been left reeling and wondering about options. 

Commissioners wanted to know what challenges there were, why the community was struggling to keep daycare options. They openly wondered if national and regional chain style providers could be attracted here — and who could reopen the center that closed.

But they did not, in our opinion, ask the right questions for that particular meeting. That meeting was a  work session, and it was designed to help the city commission set an agenda and goals for future years. 

The right question, we believe, was to ask "what is the city's role?"

That question right there does not seem to be asked enough. 

Is it the role of the city to recruit a daycare — or to assist in making the business conditions right for a daycare to succeed? We know it is not the city's job to regulate daycares. That falls to the state. The question at hand is what role the city should play to help those businesses open. Should they be treated any differently than commercial or industrial businesses wanting to open in Newton. For that matter, what should the city be doing for those?

They have identified the need. Now, what job should they do to help address the need?

We looked through the list of goals and projects and saw many that the city could do — help with broadband development, development of marketing partnershps, helping with vacant commercial sites, attracting upscale senior housing options and dealing with Newton Public Library issues to name a few — but we are not asking if the city could do these things. 

We're asking if they should. That question goes beyond looking at the budget and deciding if the money is there for it. That question goes to heart what the mission of the city government is.

So we are asking. You, the taxpayer, should be asking as well.

— Kansan editorial board