October 30, 2008

Eastern District Commissioner Candidates Voice Opinions

Scotland County voters will elect a new eastern district commissioner November 4th. Denis Clatt emerged from the Republican primary while Chipper Harris claimed the Democrat primary in the race to replace current commissioner Win Hill, who did not seek re-election.

Both candidates were presented a series of questions from Memphis Demcorat readers and the following are their replies.

What experience or training makes you a good candidate for this position?

CHIPPER HARRIS Ė I was raised in Memphis and graduated from Scotland County High School in 1964. I attended both the University of Missouri and NMSU majoring in business management with minors in accounting and English. In 1970 I joined my father and grandfather in the family business. In the late 60ís and early 70ís I ran the family farming operation at the old Leslie farm east of town. At that time we ran both hogs (farrow to finish) and cattle.

In 1974 I was chosen to attend the General Motors Institute of Merchandising and Management and after completion of that became a GM dealer here in Memphis.

I am married to Louis Daniels, a graduate of Gorin High School. We have two children and four grandchildren who all call Scotland County home.

I have been active in both community and business affairs most of my adult life. I have served on the Scotland County School Board and was a charter member of both the Rotary Club and Jaycees. I was elected to both the zone and regional GM dealers councils. I was appointed to the regional advisory board for the Missouri Board of Health. I am a past director of the Missouri Automobile Dealers Association and served on the board of trustees for many years.

In these capacities I have been responsible for oversight of large budgets as well as administration and management of personnel and infrastructure. From 1998 to 2002 I participated in drafting and passage of legislation that had far reaching impact on the auto industry. Forty states have since adopted this legislation dealing with franchise law. I have enjoyed the challenges these positions have provided and would pledge to the citizens of the eastern district of Scotland County to use the experience I have gained to represent their interests.

DENIS CLATT Ė I am a life-long resident of Scotland County and have always lived in the eastern district. I am a graduate of Gorin R-III School.

I have been, and currently am driving the school bus for the Gorin school district, now in my 22nd year on the roads. On my bus route I travel around 30 miles a day, all on gravel roads in the eastern district.

I have been a basketball official for the past 23 years. That means I have plenty of experience dealing with the public when they want someone to chew on.

I am currently in my fifth year as chairman of the Northeast Missouri Pheasants Forever Chapter. I have been a member of the committee for eight years.

I am a member of the Gorin Christian Church.

I am involved with the Gorin 4-H Club and serve as a sheep superintendent at the Scotland County Fair.

I am willing to listen to your questions and comments.

The county is seeking a 1/4 cent law enforcement sales tax. How do you feel about this proposal?

DENIS CLATT Ė I am for the law enforcement sales tax. One of the reasons I ran for eastern commissioner was to make sure we keep our Extension office open and fully funded. Our 4-H program is very important to many families in Scotland County, including mine.

Extension covers more than just 4-H. It provides health education and information on agribusiness, livestock and nutrition, just to name a few of the many areas in which it benefits Scotland County residents.

Around 30% to 40% of this ľ percent tax money will come from people outside of Scotland County. All citizens will pay for this equally. This will cost $12 to $15 per person in Scotland County annually.

CHIPPER HARRIS Ė I do not support this particular sales tax. The county has been ordered to undergo a complete county-wide reassessment and reevaluation during the coming year. In the past this has created extra revenue for all county tax supported subdivisions. Letís wait and see what the results are before we add to the burden we are already bearing.

I also feel that sales tax negatively affects those with the least ability to pay it. Namely, those families that spend almost all their income on taxable goods to feed, clothe, shelter and transport their family and those people living in low, fixed incomes. I disagree with the proposition that over 50% of the sales tax collected in Scotland County comes from non-residents. After contacting the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC) and the legislative research group at the Department of Revenue, I came to the conclusion that the actual figures for non-resident spending to be more in the neighborhood of 9% to 11%. Many of the retail sales reported in Scotland County would not even be accessible to anyone outside the county, such as car, truck, boat, trailers, telephone bills, commercial utilities, cable and satellite bills. I obtained the actual retail sales figures from last year. These show each category and the amount of tax collected by our county businesses. Most of the owners of these businesses were willing to share their sales figures and where their sales come from.

I also feel that any tax we impose upon ourselves should have a sunset and be subject to a review at some point in the future.

CAFOís are the four-letter word on many area residentís lips right now. What will you do to address the issue?

CHIPPER HARRIS Ė If elected, I would work to reinstate the health ordinance governing CAFOs. While I respect the rights of landowners to do what they want on their own land, I feel that current Missouri regulations that protect neighboring land and residences arenít strong enough.

In the opinion of the Missouri Court of Appeals dealing with the lawsuit between Borron and the Linn County Commission, it is stated that Missouri counties such as Scotland County, have the right to enact such an ordinance. It covers such matters as the requirements on landowners to avoid degradation of soil, water and air from the waste generated in such operations. It also includes building and setback requirements, the distance from other CAFOs, populated areas and occupied dwellings. And finally governs the size of CAFOs.

Our local ordinance was basically the same as that of Linn County. While it doesnít go far enough to suit everyone, it gives us some relief and it has withstood the litigation test in court.

I would support a timely reinstatement of the ordinance with everything done according to law. Plus, I would like the benefit of both sides in this issue working together to keep our county a great place to live.

DENIS CLATT Ė I feel we need a health ordinance. I live within ĺ of a mile from a CAFO and I believe we need an ordinance that both the producers and neighbors can all live with. I will work with both sides to get an ordinance enforced.

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