Editorial: New city commission should avoid factions, closed meetings

November 03, 2004

Even though his name wasn't on the ballot, Danville Mayor John W.D. Bowling was thoroughly repudiated in Tuesday's election.

The two commission members - Chester Kavanaugh and Ryan Owens - who have consistently voted with the mayor were resoundingly defeated. Owens came in dead last in the eight-candidate field and Kavanaugh came in sixth.

At the same time, the two incumbent commissioner members - Jamey Gay and Terry Crowley - who have often been on the outside looking in for the past two years, did well in Tuesday's voting. Gay was the leading vote-getter and Crowley came in third.

If that wasn't enough - as if to emphasize even more their displeasure with Bowling - the voters returned former mayor Alex Stevens to the commission. Stevens was one of two people (Pat Smith was the other) that Bowling defeated in winning the mayor's office in 2002.


Coming in second in the commission race was Kevin Caudill, who served briefly on the commission a couple of years ago when was appointed to fill the unexpired term of his mother, the late Nancy Caudill.

While we are pleased that the Bowling bloc has been broken, we would urge the new commission to work with the mayor to do what is best for the city of Danville and to avoid the kind of factionalism that has plagued the commission for the past two years.

The best thing the new commission can do to restore confidence in city government is to open up the decision-making process as much as possible. The issues facing the city should be discussed in public session - as required by law - and decisions should be made in public. Furthermore, the commissioners should fully explain the reasons for their votes to the public.

The current commission has set a record for holding closed meetings, and the holding of discussions behind closed doors certainly played a role in giving the public the impression Mayor Bowling was pulling all of the strings at city hall.

The new commission faces some major challenges, including the downtown parking garage issue, the takeover of the Junction City water system, construction of a new sewer line, and a dwindling financial surplus. The commissioners will need public support if they are to meet those challenges. The best way to get that support is to be open and honest with the public even when it may not be easy or convenient to do so.

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