Topeka City Council Wants More Public Input To Review City Government

TOPEKA, Kansas (WIBW) -- The Topeka City Council agreed that they will review the current form of government - and everyday citizens can have a say in the process.

The city is looking for more public input to review how the government operates in Topeka.

Council members approved a resolution put forth by Councilwoman Denise Everhart, who was absent at Tuesday night's meeting, to appoint a citizens committee. It will be made up of 5 registered voters in Topeka who would study and review Topeka's form of government, and make recommendations to city council.

Councilman John Campos pointed out that the committee can make the recommendations, but the council doesn't necessarily have to take them.

Mayor Larry Wolgast must appoint the committee members to council for approval by January 2014. A city ordinance requires the committee to convene on or before July 2015, and make recommendations within six months of being appointed.

It was agreed that the committee should work with council to address concerns, and make sure they're both on the same page. They discussed an open dialogue between the two to get different perspectives.

"The point-of-view from this side of the table, I think, is really important to share, and early on as well, because we see things that other people don't see in terms of challenges and the positives about the form of government we have," Councilwoman Karen Hiller said.

It was also agreed that the public should always be involved in the process.

Joe Ledbetter spoke in public comment and said he feels like the city has better ideas when the public is involved. He suggested "that they would notice the public of their meetings, have them in a public place and that public be invited and actually be allowed to have input."

The ordinance states the committee's meetings would be public.

"I see this as a very public opportunity," Wolgast said. "Certainly I would hope all council members, previous council members, mayors, city people who have lived through this, take the opportunity to write-out their thoughts and/or address this committee. I see this committee having public town hall meetings where I would think there would be certain groups who would want to share their views."

Campos agreed. "I see this committee working with NIA's or NA's to foster support or just to get the opinions normal people have, back up to us."

Citizens can nominate themselves or be appointed by a council member.

Wolgast said people are showing "very good interest," and 10 people have expressed interest in being appointed so far.

Also discussed in council:

City council approved a three-year leasing agreement to purchase 30 police cars that will cost $888,935. The police department had 30 cars before the approval.

The governing body approved keeping concealed weapons off several city properties for four more years. They approved the four-year exemption to the state's new concealed carry law for the Cyrus K. Holliday building, Topeka Municipal Court building and the Topeka Zoo.

Supporters say it gives the city times to consider upgrading security to continue banning concealed weapons, or allow them once the exemption ends.

The vote on all three buildings was 7-1 with Campos voting "no."

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