Four run for BPU, 1st District at large

Forum moderator Murrel Bland, center, talked with David Gonzales, left, before a forum on the Board of Public Utilities, District 1 at large. Candidate Kevin Braun is at the right. (Staff photo)

Three candidates are challenging incumbent Mary Gonzales for the Board of Public Utilities, 1st District at large contest.

The three challengers are Kevin Braun, Bryan Messmer and Nikole C. Owens.

Braun attended the candidate forum July 19 at Kansas City Kansas Community College, and Gonzales sent a representative. The forum was on the same night as a BPU meeting. Messmer and Owens did not attend the forum.

Braun, who also ran last year for state representative, 36th District, said he has been a Kansas City, Kansas, resident for 10 years and a Kansas resident for 20 years.

Braun said he has a bachelor’s degree in business, and a master’s degree in business law. He served in the Army Reserves with two overseas deployments. He said all his experience, except military service, has been in the private sector.

“I’m running for the BPU as a service to my community,” he said.

He said affordability should be considered in everything the BPU does.

He also is in favor of removing the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) from the BPU bill, because it is a city tax and does not fit on the BPU bill.

Braun said he would vote against all rate increases on the BPU bills until reductions are considered. He also said he would only support green energy if it lowers the bill. He also said all fees should be in line with their true costs of the service it represents.

In addition, Braun answered a question about the T-Bones’ bailout saying the free market had to handle it and the T-Bones had to sustain themselves. In addition, he said the underground utility lines along Leavenworth Road were not in the best interests of the community, because of the cost. It could have been done less expensive with poles, he said.

Mary Gonzales, the incumbent, is a retired teacher who has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Montevallo (Alabama), and a Master of Arts from Emporia University. She is a member of several community organizations.

David Gonzales, speaking in behalf of his mother, Mary Gonzales, said she has worked tirelessly to make the utility the best it could be.

Gonzales outlined these goals: Continue to partner with community leaders, business customers and others to support community goals and foster economic development; continue to update electric and water master plans to identify growth potential and mitigate aging infrastructure concerns; monitor and comply with legislative and environmental concerns; and the BPU must try to improve communications with customers.

Gonzales said more than 500 BPU employees live in the community, are top givers in the United Way campaign and have raised more than a half-million dollars for children’s charities.

Braun answered other questions, and more of the responses are on a video of the KCKCC forum July 19, posted online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_i-ewSNPBNI.

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