Editor's note: Kathy Valentine entered Tuesday's Newton City Commission with a prepared statement to read when the agenda item of “continued pool discussion” came up. Below is her statement, transcribed by Kansan staff from an audio recording of the meeting made by Kansan staff.
I would like to add just a few thoughts, if I may. This will be a little bit of a different nature, so I hopee that you will bear with me. I put my thoughts in writing so I will not get off track and that I will mention those things that are most important.
It centers around leadership and respect. I think I can speak for all of us. My hope is for a productive, respectful and continued dialogue. Respect is an important aspect of our discussions and I will begin with myself.
This commission is a team, and while we are five individual members who will on occasion have differing thoughts and opinions, our final decisions must be arrived at with respect for the process and for one another — even when that vote does not turn out as each one may have wished.
I will be the first to admit that I failed miserably on that when we had our meeting in August and commissioner (Barth) Hague was missing. I took my personal thoughts out on two of our commissioners who voted not to move forward. My deepest regrets to (Rod Kreie) and to (Leroy Koehn).
I did not demonstrate that, and I have really struggled with that because what is most important to me is leadership and an attitude of respect.
Most of all, too, my apologies to the public. When you elect somebody to represent you, you expect a lot out of those people. I want to deliver on that.
Let me just say, in regard to my own personal thoughts on this pool project process, I have thought about a point that commissioner Hague made during our budget process. He commented that we must show leadership and not fall prey to blaming previous administrations or previous commissions. So that point has fallen, I think, with much weight even in this pool discussion. Demonstrating leadership, and not falling prey to, in this case, a lack of respect, ownership and demandingness. I certainly can be that way.
I believe this commission did show leadership when we agreed that a survey should be done on the pool usage as well as the amenities that the community may want to see. That survey began on June 27 and closed July 6. There were 1,100 surveys completed and 79 percent of the people that completed that survey said that it would cause them to change their mind about the use of the pool. (Improvements) would cause them to visit more often is what that turned out. Those were very encouraging results to me.
I applaud those in this room who took the time to prepare that survey, the design of it, the oversight of it and much more.
In our discussions about this pool as we led up to this point we spoke a great deal about the public building commission as a funding stream. With the collaborative efforts of USD 373, the Newton Recreation Center and the city of Newton — who all, as of this day have agreed to renew the inter-local agreement.
This has been encouraging news. It is one step at a time.
My hope now, for the future, is each will agree to increase their mill levy contribution to 1.0 mills. I am still hopeful. I, personally, am still hopeful that this commission can find the means to make the improvements that we have discussed up to this point — the $1.7 million (pool) and $900,000 ball fields (at Centennial Park). That we can do this project, that we can find a way if we are dedicated and committed to it so that we do not have to put it under budget consideration and a potential tax increase.
This, I believe, is the leadership that the community has elected us to demonstrate.
In the near future we will be discussing the possibility of a more citywide survey to find out where our citizens are in regards to amenities and priorities. I will not that within that pool survey, those who completed it indicated that the pool renovations were the priority — understandably so — but they also followed that with a new library and new ball fields.
I think we already know what our major needs are in this community. I believe we can demonstrate the leadership necessary to tackle these needs wisely, respectfully, equally as important diligently, all the while, hopefully, avoiding the cost of another survey.
I appreciate commissioner Hague and his desire to look at that, I just cannot agree that a survey is necessary. That is just me personally.
We have challenges before us and aside from the budgets that we have had to deal with in the past I would say that this pool issue is probably one of the biggest challenges that we are facing.
I really want this commission to work together; I truly want to work together with each member of the commission for the needs of our community.
— Kathy Valentine is the current mayor of the City of Newton