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Douglas County Commission District 3

Douglas County Commission District 3

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  • Candidate picture

    Pam McDermott

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    Shannon Portillo

Biographical Information

Who has responsibility for budget projections and what factors are considered in developing the budget?

What are your top three priorities and why?

With ever increasing service fees and taxes, how do you propose keeping Douglas county affordable?

Personal Biography I am a native New Englander but moved to Lawrence to attend the University of Kansas in August 1983. I met my husband, John, at KU and we married in 1989. We have 5 adult children and 4 grandchildren. We have also been foster parents to teen boys for several years. John and I started Morning Star Church in 1992. It is a thriving and diverse faith community and has afforded me the opportunity to build relationships with people from all over the world and every kind of background.
Campaign Phone (785) 251-8369
Campaign Email
Campaign Web Site
Education BA in French from University of Kansas, 1987
Community/Public Service YouThrive Mentor, Justice Matters, Family Promise, Foster Parent, Straight Up Beautiful, Kennedy Elementary School Volunteer
Address 1318 Stonecreek Drive Lawrence, KS 66049
We have a County Administrator who works with Commissioners on budget projections. County agencies and departments have an opportunity to present their needs and budget requests during the budget process. The current budget reflects "continued focus on advancing Douglas County’s efforts to address human services, public safety, and workforce development," as well as "a fiscally and socially responsible policy and public service framework." I appreciate that we can view our county budget online. We should want to know and be able to easily see how our tax dollars are spent. A quick glance shows our budget has grown substantially over the past 10 years. The most obvious factors in developing a budget are making the correct priorities, being fiscally responsible, distinguishing between needs and wants, and being realistic with resources. Personal and business and government budgets are alike in that they force us to live in reality, develop creativity, and choose what we value most.
1. We lack a big, shared vision for Douglas County, and I would like to work toward developing clarity so that we can all know what we're trying to accomplish. There is confusion and frustration surrounding issues of growth and development which is counterproductive and tiring. Surely this is solvable. We need unity and more cooperation in order to grow and move forward together. 2. Economic development and growing our tax base has to be our top priority, especially in this season. There are mindsets and policies in our community that keep us from competing for new business and from helping existing businesses grow and thrive. Economic opportunity benefits everyone. 3. We need to continue to move toward a comprehensive analysis of our local criminal justice system because we should be committed to both the rule of law and the pursuit of justice. I respect and wholeheartedly support the essential, honorable, and professional work of our local law enforcement officers.
Without a doubt, we have an affordability problem in Douglas County. Our mill levy, which affects our property taxes, has gone up 42% in the last decade. The City, the County, and the School Board can all raise the mill levy, and in fact, the school board raised it in July. I want to understand all the factors that have played into this rise in our taxes. Additionally, residential property taxes provide about 65% of our tax revenue and business and industry only 35%. Ideally, those numbers would be flipped. The way we are currently operating is not realistic or sustainable. As a starting point, we should re-evaluate every fee as well as any policy that contributes to bureaucracy. People I talk to want us to be more fiscally responsible. There are ways to solve problems that don't involve spending more money. Lastly, I am working on understanding where the conversation is regarding affordable housing as well as the new and controversial Comprehensive Plan for land use.
Personal Biography Douglas County has been my home for most of my adult life, I came to Lawrence to attend KU for undergrad and stayed to earn a PhD in public administration. My parents followed me, and Douglas County became our family home. After spending five years on faculty at George Mason University outside of DC, I returned home to Lawrence and am currently a professor in the School of Public Affairs & Administration at KU. My partner Jevan Bremby and I live in west Lawrence.
Campaign Email
Education PhD, Public Administration
Community/Public Service Co-Chair, Governor's Commission on Racial Equity and Justice Board of Directors, Willow Domestic Violence Center
Address 1037 April Rain Road Lawrence, KS 66049
The County is fortunate to have a strong staff, who does the heavy lifting on preparing the budget for commissioner and community consideration. But, at the end of the day, the Commissioners are responsible for adopting the budget. I’ve served on the Board of the Willow Domestic Violence Center for years. We have an annual operating budget over 1.5 million, and every month we review our finances. A few years ago we started a practice at our monthly board meetings of telling the story of a single line item in the budget. That line item may be our rural outreach, or professional development for our staff, or transitional housing for survivors. It’s a way for us to discuss the numbers and connect them to our mission and to our role in the community. Budgets at their core are values documents. When I look at the overall budget for the Willow I’m proud of the story it tells. As County Commissioner I will work to ensure that our county budget reflects the values and goals of our community.
My top three values, and top three priorities for this race are accountability, community, and justice.

Accountability: Douglas County has an engaged electorate who regularly make their voices heard. It is up to elected representatives to listen. I commit to centering the voices of voters when I serve on the commission.

Community: As we consider the task of COVID-19 recovery, we must center the most vulnerable in our community. We must ensure that our public health officials have the support and resources they need to keep our community safe, and we have the leadership necessary to make the best decisions for the long-term health of our community.

Justice: I’ve spent my entire adult life studying the criminal justice system, and I know we can do better. I will work to implement evidence-based reforms to ensure we keep our jail population low and we have the programs in place to support individuals returning to our communities as productive, active, and healthy citizens.
Good governance means balancing effectiveness, efficiency, and equity. When we center the needs and values of our community we can make decisions that benefit all of us. We should not expand the jail, it will only lead to higher taxes and fees in our community. Instead we should invest in social services that we lower our need for criminal justice spending. We can use evidence-based investments to lower the cost of governing.

Douglas County currently has one of the highest sales tax rates in the country. We must consider how our decisions affect the economic justice of our community. We must lower our reliance on sales tax at the county level to make day to day living more affordable in our community. In every decision I will ask how we are ensuring the economic success of our community is shared by all. We build a thriving community by expanding economic opportunity for all.