City Commission candidates share views

Dave Shinall

Bowling Green voters will elect four city commissioners Tuesday from a field of eight non-partisan candidates.

Half of the candidates teach at Western.

Challengers Mike May, Ken Kuehn, Brian Strow and Brian Nash all want to improve traffic flow, city services and the local economy, if elected.

So do incumbents Jim Bullington, Joe Denning, Dan Hall and Alan W. Palmer.

May, Kuehn, Strow and Palmer all teach at Western.

The eight candidates differ only on one issue: whether to build the Kentucky Trimodal Transpark, a 4,000-acre industrial park between Bowling Green and Oakland.

Incumbents favor the Transpark, while their challengers oppose it.

Otherwise, the four incumbents and four challengers share the same overall goals of improving Kentucky’s fourth most-populated city in three major areas.

Waste and taxes are Mike May’s primary targets.

“We need to increase city services and cut taxes at the same time, and I think I know how I can do that, mostly by cutting out the waste that is existing already,” May said.

May teaches geology at Western. He serves on Bowling Green’s Storm Water Advisory Committee with fellow geology professor and Commission candidate Ken Kuehn.

Kuehn said installing more than 200 miles of storm sewers is a long-term issue facing city government. The EPA has given Bowling Green until March to come up with a plan for meeting federal storm sewer regulations.

Kuehn wants city government to put a halt on Bowling Green’s growth until commissioners can come up with plans to install storm sewers, improve sanitary sewers, improve streets and fix traffic problems.

“I would support an immediate moratorium on annexing any more land into the city,” Kuehn said. “We need to turn inward and develop our services.”

Trade, transportation and tourism, what he calls “the three T’s,” are incumbent Alan W. Palmer’s top issues.

“I think trade means economic development for this community,” said Palmer, who teaches public relations at Western. “I think we need to continue striving for better-paying jobs. One of the worst things that could happen to this community is for us to become a minimum wage hub.”

Bowling Green’s streets need a lot of work, but improving them will depend heavily on money from state and federal sources, Palmer said.

“We are getting a fair share of the state money and federal funds that are available,” he said. “We just need more.”

Palmer would like Bowling Green to attract more tourists, who he said would spend millions at local businesses and boost revenue from the city’s hotel tax.

For economics professor Brian Strow, who rounds out Western’s candidate list, fixing traffic and pedestrian problems tops his priorities.

“The two biggest things that I’ve focused on are trying to improve traffic congestion and getting more sidewalks, particularly near elementary schools,” Strow said.

Improving police and fire protection share the top of Brian Nash’s list.

“Through cuts in funding, we have programs at the Bowling Green Police Department that are no longer in existence,” Nash said. “Because of lack of funding we have programs at the Fire Department that aren’t able to be expanded.”

Nash said he wants city government to seek federal grants for hiring more police and firefighters.

Incumbent Dan Hall ranks traffic congestion as the city’s greatest problem.

“The bulk of our traffic problems are created by state roads that run through the city,” Hall said.

Road work already underway, the addition of turning lanes at key intersections, planned street widenings and synchronization of several key traffic lights should solve a lot of Bowling Green’s traffic congestion, Hall said.

Commissioner Joe Denning, a former state trooper, agrees with other candidates that creating jobs and improving traffic flow are the city’s two leading problems.

Denning and the other incumbents maintain the Transpark would attract factories that would bring many high-paying jobs to Bowling Green.

More jobs would mean more revenue through the city’s 1.5 percent occupational tax, the source of 60 percent of city revenue, which is why incumbent candidates support the Transpark.

“When we have prospects that come into the community, we need to have land that’s already available with systems already in place to where they can make a decision on one trip as to whether they’re interested in moving to Bowling Green,” Denning said.

As far as Commissioner Jim Bullington is concerned, jobs from the Transpark would more than replace those Bowling Green loses each year.

“We have had a net decrease in jobs over the past several years, and that has adversely affected our budget,” Bullington said. “I think the most important thing is to create an environment where these jobs can grow.”

An industrial park in Huntsville, Ala., similar to the proposed Transpark, created 12,000 new jobs with yearly salaries averaging $41,000, Bullington said.

The challengers oppose the Transpark, claiming it would cause pollution and is an economic gamble that could leave taxpayers paying off a possible $100 million bond issue.

Reach Dave Shinall at [email protected]