City commission candidate Michael Yates responds to Buzz election questions

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Michael Yates is running for McPherson Commissioner of Finance. The Buzz sent out a questionnaire to the candidates for city commission. Here are his responses:

Please give a biography of yourself so the voters can get to know you on a personal and professional level.

I am a husband, father, business owner, and landlord here in McPherson. I have started eight businesses over the last eleven years, and I have spent over $1.2 million renovating six different buildings in our downtown district. I enjoy working on new projects, tackling new challenges, and making a difference in this community.

Do you think our main street/downtown is healthy and successful? Why or why not?

We have two organizations, the McPherson Chamber of Commerce and the McPherson Main Street Organization, that have worked tirelessly to ensure our downtown in vibrant, healthy, and family-oriented. We are very fortunate to have the downtown district that we do, but there is room for the city to play more of a supportive role to the number of small businesses that call Main Street their home.

What’s the one major issue you plan to address?

There are a number of issues we need to face as a city. Most of these issues, such as rainwater drainage and affordable housing, have simple solutions, but require the funds to resolve them. We need to revisit our city budget to ensure we’re being conservative with the funds we already have available to us. We should also take a second look at industry tax abatements, housing incentives, and a number of other programs to see if they are still necessary and if they are producing the intended results.

What makes you stand out from other candidates?

I have worked with the city on a number of projects from the perspective of a landlord and business owner. This has, at times, put me in position of disagreement with the city and how certain situations are handled. It is because of these experiences that I have witnessed first-hand the potential “blind spots” in some of our city’s policies. I can use this unique perspective to help ensure those issues are better handled in the future, and help to create new policies that will help landlords and business owners to work with the city and not against it.

How do you plan to involve residents in the decision-making process in our town?

To be objective, the city has already made significant improvements in transparency by recording and posting every planning session meeting and city commission meeting online. Citizens that would like to attend these meetings but are unable to do so in person only need to watch the videos online. However, I have had an “Open-Door” policy on many of the different projects, boards, and committees I have served on over the years, and I will continue to make myself available to citizens to answer questions to address concerns.

If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

I would use $250,000 and invest in a new plaza and stage downtown, $250,000 in immediate rainwater drainage development, $250,000 in neglected infrastructure repairs, $200,000 to the McPherson Parks department to update some of the older play equipment that is out of safety compliance, and the remaining $50,000 to split between the Police Department and Fire Department.

What neighborhood do you live in? Why? Where are your favorite places to spend time in our town?

I live in the Liberty Drive addition in a home that used to belong to my grandparents. It’s a wonderful neighborhood. My family and I enjoy taking walks all around town, including to Lakeside Park, Wall Park, and various stores and restaurants downtown.

What do you know about how councils work? 

I have been attending the City Council and Planning meetings since the spring, and have witnessed first-hand how our city conducts them. I have served on the McPherson Main Street board for seven years, the Downtown Development committee for five years, and have served as a volunteer on a number of other projects over the last decade.

What are your ‘red-line’ issues when it comes to budget votes?

Tax abatements granted to industries with no contractual economic milestones or commitments, tax dollars spent on maintenance and repairs in a disproportional manner based on neighborhood and not need, sales tax collected on groceries and fuel, and any budget items that involve spending more for an out-of-town product or service than it would cost to have to get that product or service in town.

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