This is 29-year-old Kaleb James’ third time running for the city commission. He first came to the region in his youth as his father was stationed at Fort Riley. After serving in the Army for a little more than eight years, he settled down in Manhattan with his wife and three kids. Now a manager of reports and analysis for Maximus, a government contractor, he says one of his chief goals if elected would be to lower taxes.
“We were looking to settle down and buy a house and kind of saw how high the tax rate was around here, the property taxes, and how that definitely affected especially younger families from getting a strong start,” James says.
He says the city needs to get spending under control and that they can’t give waivers to every company looking to set up shop in Manhattan.
“There’s a reason why we set the prices that we set for electric, water, hook-ups — we set those fees for a reason and we expect businesses to partner with us when they come to Manhattan,” James says. “Any time we waive those fees, we turn around and assess those same fees through taxes to the people of Manhattan and I don’t think that’s right.”
James also says that that increases cost of living in the city and that a reduction could also help reduce rents.
“The more they pay in taxes, the more they pass it on to the consumer — and that’s good business, that’s through no fault of their own,” says James, adding that businesses have to meet their bottom lines. “It’s incumbent on the government to do their part, first and foremost, and allow citizens to keep as much of their money in their pocket as possible.”
With the construction of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility continuing along on schedule, those looking ahead are expecting to see scientific industry follow. But James says, drawing from his experience in the military contracting world, that just because the businesses come here, doesn’t mean the people will if the tax rate is too prohibitive.
“There is a tendency when property taxes are high, the cost of living is high, for the companies that work there to actually allow their people to commute via a plane and fly in on Monday and work through Thursday and fly out Thursday evening,” says James. “Especially with those specialty positions where through technology they can work virtually, they can work from somewhere else or they can fly in and utilize a rental that the company owns and or builds and they fly back out and those tax dollars don’t stay here.”
James also weighed in on the rental inspection program discussion, saying that there needs to be a hybrid approach. He proposed a program that if a unit is found to have a violation after a tenant report, it’s flagged and is more regularly inspected.
“So, maybe for the next two years it gets inspected every six months,” James says. “That inspection fee is paid by the owner of the property and then after two years they go into a regular program as well.”
James lost his family’s vehicles and most of their belongings in the 2018 Labor Day flood of Wildcat Creek, formerly a tenant living on the first floor of Highland Ridge Apartments. He says that the city seems to have taken the situation seriously has been moving in the right direction since that day.
“I think its incumbent upon the city to execute as soon as possible a plan to reduce the effects of any creek around here, but especially flooding on Wildcat Creek,” says James.
He also says it’s critical to have younger residents represented on the commission.
“There are changes in technology that are rapid that are understood at a higher level by my generation simply because we grew up in it,” says James. “And I think that if you want to see those changes happen, you have to move forward and the city commission has to represent what the numbers [of the]citizens of Manhattan represent.”
James is just the second candidate to file to run after former Manhattan-Ogden USD 383 school board member and veteran Aaron Estabrook. The filing deadline is Monday, June 3rd at noon.