Carthage Council Ward 3 candidates answer questions at March 29 forum

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Carthage City Council Ward 3 Candidates Pictured from left, Robin Blair and Mike Daugherty. John Hacker / CNO

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Two candidates will appear on the ballot for the two-year term as representing Ward 3 on the Carthage City Council in the April 5, 2022 election, incumbent Mike Daugherty and challenger Robin Blair.

The two answered questions at a candidate forum hosted by the Carthage Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, March 29, 2022.

Here are their two-minute answers in the order they answered the questions at the forum:

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Briefly tell us about yourself?

  • Mike Daugherty

I originally moved to Carthage in 1989 and then I’ve been here off and on. More recently I’ve been here for the last 11 years. I love this town, I consider it my hometown even though I was born and raised in Lockwood, and that’s the reason I ran for council to begin with. I wanted Carthage to be a destination spot, not the town people drove through on their way to Tulsa or Springfield or Kansas City. I think we have the potential to have things here to draw people to our community and make them fall in love with the town we all love.

  • Robin Blair

My family moved here in 2019 because we wanted to have our girls go to the school system here and because we knew there were a lot of community events and family oriented events in the community that we wanted to be a part of. My husband and I will celebrate 19 years together in May. We grew up together in Seneca and we have two little girls, ages 3 and 6. I’m a licensed clinical psychologist and more recently I’ve been working at Pittsburg State as their director of the clinical masters program. Before I did that I worked for a non-profit in Joplin called Rapha International, it’s an anti-sex-trafficking organization. I was their after-care director helping with client services. I am running because in the few years we’ve been here we have really benefitted from all the many things that Carthage has to offer, the schools, the parks, we live between two parks that we frequent a lot and we have really enjoyed it. And I want to give back and help preserve what we’ve benefited from so much.

What makes you the best candidate to be elected to the office you seek?

  • Robin Blair

I firmly believe the best decisions are made when multiple perspectives are around the table and I bring professional training, my work experience from the non-profit sector as well as higher education as well as my lived experience of raising a family in the town to the table as my perspective. My job is to help people access and lean into their strengths and resources as well as to find solutions to their challenges. In the past five years in my different positions as director, I’ve applied these concepts to institutions as well as to individuals and I think my skillset is well-suited to serve the city.

  • Mike Daugherty

Ice breaker, I should be elected because I’m the baldest.

I’ve been on city council for three terms and I will admit, that’s a good thing and that’s a bad thing. For the people who think it’s a bad thing I can’t talk you out of it, for the people who think it’s a good thing, vote. Three terms, (to Robin) if you get elected just realize, when I was first elected there were things that this was a priority, this is something that’s wrong with the city. Then you’re two years in and you’re still hearing that come up at budget time, year three, year four, year five and at a certain time it’s like we need to start rethinking our priorities because it’s either important or its not important. We’re seeing some of that tonight, the bridges going north out of town, Baker Street, we have things that are going to be very high cost capital and I believe the number one thing we need to do is we need to get communication and engagement from the community. This shouldn’t be a decision made by 10 men, this needs to be made for the city by the people speaking through us. How that’s going to happen, I don’t have the answer yet. I[‘m passionate for this city, Carthage is a great city, we need to become a destination spot, people need to stop here. We need to boost Route 66 and that’s it.

A serious topic that is being discussed in the city is the replacement of the three North Garrison Street bridges. The projected price tag is $30 million to replace these bridges. Is this a priority for the city and how should it be funded?

  • Mike Daugherty

The bridges going north out of town are a good example of why you should be involved with your city government and speak to them and listen to what you see in the papers or on the radio or on the television because what happened year and years ago is to get extra exits, we said we would take ownership of the bridges away from the state. I still believe there’s a state employee with MoDOT who gets a yearly vacation to Jamaica for that. I’ve been on public works for five years of my six years. It’s something we’ve discussed every year. The state inspects those bridges regularly, I’ve been on inspections of them and looked at them and they scare me to death. At some point it’s not going to be us saying we’re keeping the bridges open, MoDOT is going to say the bridges have to be closed and we have discussed closing them on our own now because they are rated for single axel vehicles and every day employees from the city see semis coming across them as they’re going into town. It’s a serious issue, it’s more money than the city has, we need to look into everything everyone in here has said. But are they important to the city? The people need to tell us, and if they are important to the people to the city, then more than likely it will be a bond issue if we can’t get matching funds. But it’s going to be up to you to let us know if they’re important. They’ve got great history and historical value for the city and from when they were built they’ve lasted very well. But it’s just a matter of time before an inspector comes through and says no more traffic. And then we have to worry about the people on the north side of town for fire and police to get to them, if floods hit do they have ways to get out of the community and we have other bridges that are failing that have to be replaced but they are within our means to do so. Yes they’re important but you need to let us know how important when the time comes.

  • Robin Blair

I think my fellow candidates are on the right track with this. I think compared to what our operating budget is and what the price tag of the bridges is, without state cooperation, without learning from you all what you care about, we can’t do it with what we currently have. There has to be some fairly big decisions that have to be made and some input from the community. I don’t know what I don’t know, I’m new to this and I have a lot to learn. I would want to start with what have we already been exploring. It sounds like there’s already been a lot of hard work and a lot of time spent on this. And I would be curious to see what are the options we’ve been looking at, what are the pros and cons of all of those options and making sure we communicate that clearly to you all so you all can make an informed decision because ultimately I think it does land with the constituents and what matters most to them.

Our community has a very low stock of single-family and multi-family housing. There is also a need for child care for families in our community. With these limitations, this impacts our work force and many of our businesses are struggling to fill positions within their company. What do you think is the city’s role in helping solve these issues and what do you think is a top priority?

  • Robin Blair

I think with both of these concerns, the word for the city’s role is partnership rather than leadership. We don’t have a precedent for getting in housing, that’s typically been left to the private sector and I don’t think the city should be in competition with that. We already have low utilities, low cost of land, and I think what our role should be is to really be strategic, as people have already mentioned, with where we’re developing and thinking through that. Then I think it goes along the lines of partnering with the private sector to see how we can help with that when it comes to affordable housing. Similarly, I think with child care, R-9 is far better equipped to respond to that. I think the city may have some assets that we could share that we could partner, again, to help them, and I would absolutely support some kind of synergy between those two but I don’t think it’s the city’s role to take the lead in either of these issues. It’s to come alongside already existing systems and help.

  •  Mike Daugherty

I have to piggyback 100 percent, we are not the providers of the housing. But here’s where we are involved because every year we have people come to us asking us for a letter from the city that they can apply with their paperwork that they are taking to the state or federal government for the project they want so they can build affordable housing in Carthage. Affordable housing, and just housing at all, is very important for economic development because every says we need more businesses, we need more businesses, but what’s the purpose of building 20 new businesses if there’s no one in town that can work there. And businesses before they will come to your community, look at how many of my employees percentage-wise are going to be commuting and will possibly leave this job when they get something closer to home and how many people will be living locally. People driving into work don’t make as much money for us as people who live here and spend it. Everybody’s hit on these points. Whereas we don’t build the housing we do help people hopefully get approved to come to our town. And here’s the other thing, and I’m going to exaggerate here, everyone says housing is important, but everyone says not in my neighborhood. If housing is important and you want to see Carthage grow, we’re going to need apartments, we might need duplexes. We’re going to need housing for people and that does come through zoning. So if you say housing is important, when they start building in your neighborhood, please realize it’s important and you’re not being punished and it can be a great thing. It can bring growth to your neighborhood. You might get the convenience store where you don’t have to drive halfway across town because now there’s people in your neighborhood.

 Every year during the budget process, more money is requested by our city department heads than the city can fund. In other words, there are typically more needs than there are funds. If this were to happen, as an elected official, how will you or how do you decide funding priorities within the city?

  •  Mike Daugherty

When it comes to the budgeting process, if you’re on council, ironically the only committee I’ve not been on is budget. You go to monthly meetings and you meet with the department heads and the department heads say this is what I think is important. You’ll have people from the community come, they’ll speak their mind, department heads will say hey, I’ve had people calling about this, so you listen to all that. You don’t have to trust your department heads, but after six years, I do trust Carthage’s department heads. Up until the time of COVID, almost every time they received their budgeted amount, they would find ways to take what we say, hey you can have this, and they’d go get it cheaper than what we budgeted. They are very good with your money people. I know most of you don’t know me from Adam, but if Adam was here, he’d tell you you’re department heads really fight for you, they fight for this city and they do a very good job. For us to know what’s important you can call us, you can reach out to us, reach out to the departments of the city to tell them what you think is important because everything we hear through the year, that department goes through the budgeting process and they make their fight, they say this is what’s important to us but you have all these different departments saying this is my prize cow, no this is my prize cow, so then it becomes we have to go with what we’ve heard, what we think is important then the Budget committee brings that to council, council votes for it. If there’s something you think is important you need to let us know but if you’re on council you listen to the department heads you listen to the people who contact you, but for me I trust our people, our city employees who do an incredible job.

  • Robin Blair

By living in a community we are all agreeing to compromise, that’s the way all of this works, and I anticipate that many factors are at play in making decisions on budgets and part of that challenge we need to weigh the greater good against the needs on the margins. I plan on keeping an open line of communications with constituents so I know what matters to them, I have a good pulse of what they care about most, what they prioritize. In psychology we talk about behavior having a purpose, that there’s always a reason why we do what we do so my plan is to be a good student of process and history in order to have a clear context regarding past decisions and current status quo so I understand why city operates the way that it does. Only then will I be able to make an informed positive contribution regarding funding priorities.

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