Mason County Judge-Executive candidates were sent a series of questions dealing with issues the county has or likely will face.
Candidates responding to the questions include incumbent Democrat James L. “Buddy” Gallenstein and challenger Independent Joe Pfeffer.
Both NextEra and Duke Energy have abandoned plans for wind farm development in Mason County. There are currently no plans – at least of which we are aware – for wind energy development.
As a post mortem on what became very divisive and hotly contested issue for many Mason County citizens, what would you say about the wind farm projects? What did we do right? What did we do wrong?
GALLENSTEIN –Mason County has been determined as a “low wind” area. There are no present proposals to develop wind farms in Mason County, and under present laws and technology. With regard ti local siting of wind farms, I support the planning and zoning process, which I fought to enact over a decade ago. All of the evidence presented in the Planning Commission hearing favored a wind ordinance that effectively banned the development of large scale wind energy projects. As a supporter of smart growth in the county, I was a proponent of an ordinance which was consistent with the testimony and citizen statements at the hearing, We allowed this process to work. Yes, it was lengthy and yes, it was divisive but in the end it worked for the benefit of the whole community. The problem arose with the lack of transparency, not by local government but by the project developers. To alleviate this issue in the future, I fully supported the passage of House Bill 291 which ensured that future proposed alternative energy projects are required to be more transparent to the local communities throughout Kentucky.
PFEFFER – Wind Farm development became a divisive issue because honest straightforward information was not given to the citizens of Mason County in a timely manor. When in every state that has wind farm developments there has been litigation, it certainly should be the responsibility of elected officials to govern and protect the health, safety and welfare of citizens. It was apparent to concern citizens that sought guidlines for responsible development, that there was a lack of ability to govern effectively or a desire not to govern. At that point a request was made Jan 2014 by citizens for Fiscal Court to support Rep. Denham to sponsor a bill addressing “code of conduct” for businesses developing in Ky. When brought to the attention of Ky PSC and LRC, action began and was known as HB291. Amazingly HB291 drafted based on a Feb. 7, 2014 round table meeting I attended was signed into law on April 10, 2014. In just 62 days HB291 became law without 100 state representatives and 38 state senators casting a single nay vote! It was obvious the state legislators saw a need to govern. To the contrary our county officials were ask to act on this issue in 2011 and finally adopted a wind energy ordinance on Sept. 30, 2014 after many months of repeated pressure from concerned citizens. Local government failed to govern and the commissioners who wanted to govern were scorned. We failed at governing effectively. Need I say more?
JOBS, JOBS, JOBS
In a survey of Kentucky counties with a population of 10,000 or greater released in July, Mason County ranked 78 out of 100 with a net loss of 78 jobs in the last two years. While recovery seems to be underway in other areas of the state, our city/county seem slower to bounce back. The primary jobs generator for the area is a joint agreement between the City of Maysville and Mason County Fiscal Court operated by the Maysville Mason-County Industrial Authority. Is it time for a re-structuring of that agency that would provide a more effective way of attracting new jobs to the area?
GALLENSTEIN – The reality is that most of the counties le3ading Kentucky in job growth are served by interstate highways, ot a series of interstates, and all industry is not drawn here by our great access to river and rail It is for this reason that I initiated and requested the University of Kentucky Transportation Center to conduct a study examining the import/export feasibility for Mason County and this region. In addition, I have supported the restoration and preservation of our county’s history to enhance our tourism industry. Job development is a continual process, and it will never be pushed to the back burner because I understand that jobs are the life bread of our citizens. I work daily with state government and the city of Maysville for innovative ways to bring jobs here. I understand the rules of public financing and incentive programs that must be considered when determining the county’s commitment to projects that create jobs.
Continuing our work on improvement of highways here is critical, as are partnerships with high schools, vocational schools and MCTC to produce a quality workforce. To directly answer the question, it’s always time to be thinking about jobs and how we use our Industrial Development Authority, the Fleming-Mason Airport, the Port Authority,and other agencies or committees that enhance and encourage job creation.
PFEFFER – Jobs in our county is the most repeated issue I hear when campaigning. We have become a county in decay when it comes to jobs and career opportunities for citizens and especially our younger generation. It is time to make changes and become accountable for our performance. We should set objectives and develop measurable goals to reach our objectives. We must be able to measure our performance of reaching goals if we want to succeed at attracting jobs with career opportunities. We must obtain “Work Ready Community” status to compete for job creators to locate in Mason County. We must also be friends of small business development.
As county judge I will be in favor of application/interview process to fill any vacancy in the area of economic development. I see economic development as an investment rather than an expense, We must expect positive results and nothing less.
Attempts to enact a statewide ban on smoking indoors in public buildings have so far been unsuccessful in the General Assembly. That issue is expected to come up again in the 2015 session. I have two questions:
Do you favor a statewide ban on smoking indoors in public buildings?
If the General Assembly fails to pass a statewide ban on smoking in public buildings would you be in favor of a county ordinance that would address the issue?
GALLENSTEIN – I have served on the National Association of Local Boards of Health, as well as the State Board of Health and our local board. I am well aware of the real health dangers of smoking and other tobacco uses, as well as the effect of second hand smoke on the public and fellow workers. Smoking is prohibited in Mason County in all county owned buildings. I am also well aware that our farmers have relied and continue to rely on tobacco income, and our community is tied to the tobacco culture. I do not support an ordinance that prohibits smoking in all buildings open to the public in Mason County. This is and remains a divisive issue here, and one where the public cannot at present reach consensus. I believe the citizens of Mason County will be better served by a decision made by the Kentucky General Assembly in regards to indoor smoke-free regulation.
PFEFFER – Smoking is legal for adults. I do favor present “No Smoking” policy for places where one is required to enter to conduct business such as government offices. For businesses where one has a choice to enter or not to enter, smoking policy should be a decision of the business owner. In our area we currently have businesses that have made different policy choices. If you desire a smoke free environment there are smoke free establishments. The concern I have with a smoking ban in public buildings is where would we stop with imposing restrictions? Would we restrict smoking in vehicles with children on board? This certainly poses more of a health risk than smoking in a large public building. As a society we need we need less government not more government!
Now with this all said one knows where I stand, however a County Judge Executive should govern as the majority of the citizens see fit, not from his or her personal opinion on an issue. There are processes for citizens to voice their opinions and action to be taken on issues. That is how we should govern!