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Candidates strive for likeabilityTell North Platte what you think
Photo by George Lauby
All the city candidates except Barb Keller spoke at a forum Sunday. From left: Glenn Peterson, Andrew Lee, Dan McGuire, Dwight Livingston, Marc Kaschke, Tracy Martinez, Larry Campbell, Josh Welden and Brook Baker.
Photo by George Lauby
Brook Baker
Photo by George Lauby
Dan McGuire
Photo by Georgeann Wearin
Andrew Lee
Photo by George Lauby
Larry Campbell
Photo by George Lauby
Tracy Martinez
Courtesy Photo­Image
Marc Kaschke
Photo by George Lauby
Dwight Livingston
Photo by George Lauby
Glenn Peterson
Photo by George Lauby
Josh Welden

Council candidates Josh Welden quipped one-liners and Tracy Martinez called for the city to break its contract at the Iron Eagle Golf Course Sunday, as city candidates faced off for a radio audience.

The candidates fielded questions for two hours downtown at the Neville Center in a forum broadcast live on Husker Radio. About 25 people attended. Candidates from all four wards were there, plus Mayor Marc Kaschke and challenger Dwight Livingston.

Early on, Welden drew laughs when he said he was qualified for the Ward 1 council seat because “gosh darn it, people like me.” And at the end of the night, Welden said there are few differences between he and opponent Brook Baker, except “he’s a machinist and I’m an electrician.”

Baker calmly replied, “He has hair and I don’t.”

The candidates also seriously answered questions about taxes, spending, the Golden Spike, Planned Parenthood and Iron Eagle Golf Course.

For Mayor: Dwight Livingston v. Marc Kaschke.

For City Council: Ward 1 – Brook Baker v. Josh Welden. Ward 2 – Andrew Lee v. Dan McGuire. Ward 3 – Barb Keller v. Glenn Petersen. Ward 4 – Tracy Martinez v. Larry Campbell.

Election: Nov. 6.

Golf course

All the candidates except Martinez said it is time to give Landscapes Golf Group a fair chance to improve the financially troubled Eagle Golf Course. But Martinez said the contract should be broken because there is nothing in it for the city.

“The council didn’t have enough time to address it,” Martinez said. “The city will have to pay out more than the management company is worth.”

Kaschke, who fought for years to bring in private management, noted that Iron Eagle lost $18 million since 1993.

"To continue to do the same thing…is lunacy,” he said.

He said Landscapes has reduced salaries, improved the course and is developing a sophisticated marketing plan.

"I expect we'll look back in five years and be satisfied with the solution," Kaschke said.

Incumbent Dan McGuire said Iron Eagle's financial picture will improve in 2016, when the land will finally be paid.

McGuire and Larry Campbell, who voted not to hire Landscapes, said the city should have continued to operate Iron Eagle, but since the vote when the other way, they are willing to give the company a try.

Planned Parenthood

Moderator Nate Christopher of KODY asked candidates if they would support or oppose a move by Planned Parenthood to North Platte.

Martinez said Planned Parenthood was founded years ago by a white supremacist, who aimed to eliminate other races. He said that’s an historical fact, but Planned Parenthood is different now -- a good program for people who need it. Planned Parenthood has the right to go anywhere in the country.

Livingston said he’d have to do more research, but if Planned Parenthood were to offer an abortion clinic, he would be absolutely against it.

“I would do what I could do to keep it from coming to North Platte,” Livingston said.

Kaschke had the same view.

“If the question is about abortion, I don’t support it,” Kaschke said. “I believe in the sanctity of life.”

Brook Baker repeated a point he made often -- he would put his personal opinion aside and do what his constituents wanted.

Golden Spike

Christopher asked a long-standing question – should the city take the tax money (on motel rooms) that now goes to the Golden Spike and direct some of it to general city funds, after the mortgage is paid.

Welden said he is leaning that way. He said the Golden Spike is a good attraction, especially given the Rail Fest celebration, but the Spike loan should be paid off as quickly as possible.

Baker proposed a compromise – first, pay the loan, then give half the rest of the money to the Spike and put the other half into general funds.

McGuire said no. He said motel taxes are a fact of life, no matter where, and the city's ordinance designates that money for the Spike and he doesn’t have a problem with it.

Lee said after the loan payment (mortgage) is paid, the excess money should benefit the city.

Martinez said it’s important to pay the loan as fast as possible to save interest.

Budget waste

Baker said the city budget should be scrutinized. He said some departments spend everything they have budgeted in the last couple months of the fiscal year instead of putting it aside for a rainy day.

But McGuire said that’s not true.

“We carry over money every year,” McGuire said. “We are very conservative. I think the department heads do a marvelous job of that. We don’t try to spend everything.”

Baker said some departments have new equipment that he’s never seen used.

“They are basically wasting dollars,” he said.

“I disagree,” McGuire said. “If we buy equipment, we use it. There is some long range budgeting for equipment, but when we get it, we use it immediately.”

Mcguire also noted that the police department will get some new squad cars this year, more then the department requested.

But Lee said the police department has some bicycles and a motorcycle that are seldom used.

McGuire agreed the bikes are not used enough, but noted that hot and cold weather is big factor. The bicycles should be used at night, he said.

Mayor race

Kaschke said the city has prospered under his watch, with $200 million in existing and planned construction.

He said the city has reduced its debt and he proposed a budget each year for four years to lower the property tax levy, although the city council turned it back twice.

Kaschke said he’s fostered public-private partnerships to build the splash pad, improve the ball fields and Cody Park tennis courts. He said he’s organized a task force to improve downtown and the city's recreation center.

Kaschke said his experience counts, that he recently found $100,000 in the city budget that was put in the wrong category. And he said he has the courage of his convictions.

“I’m willing to make difficult decisions and take a stand,” he said. “North Platte is moving in the right direction.”

Livingston said he believes deeply in North Platte, and is available to anyone. His phone number is in the book, he said.

Livingston cited his experience as a police officer. He moved to North Platte in 1972, after a six-year stint in the U.S. Air Force, including a year in DaNang, Vietnam. He joined the North Platte police force and went on patrol. During his 39 years with the force, he worked his way to deputy chief to become the interim chief before he retired in June.

“I want to promote North Platte and help people come back,” he said. “There are a number of ways to create new businesses. I want to promote North Platte as much as I can.”

Livingston said he isn’t keenly aware of any neglected areas of the city, but said the city should build up its cash reserves.

He said he would govern the city by putting people in the right places and leaving them alone to do their jobs, offering leadership and guidance. He said the city department heads currently do a good job.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 10/8/2012
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