SGA and the Manhattan City Commission aim to build better communication, relationship

Emily DeShazer | The Collegian SGA vice president-elect Jake Unruh and city commission candidates answer audience question at an open forum on March 27. SGA president-elect Schooley aims to build a strong network of communication between the Manhattan City Commission and SGA in his upcoming term in order to foster teamwork and progress over the two organization’s shared interests.

One main issue facing recently elected student body president Eli Schooley, senior in political science, is the lack of communication between the K-State Student Government Association and the Manhattan City Commission.

“It’s been up and down over time, I would say,” Schooley said. “Some administrations, as far as SGA goes, have put a lot of effort into getting to know the city commissioners really well and some haven’t.”

In recent years there has been very minimal communication according to recently reelected city commissioner Rich Jankovich.

“Directly, I’m not sure that there is any,” Jankovich said. “There hasn’t been any communication directly from the student senate. It usually comes through staff and typically about the uses of the city-university fund.”

Current student body president president Nate Spriggs, senior in agricultural economics, said he interned and worked with city commission throughout the last two years.

“Several of them were pretty easy to work with, but a couple of the members were extremely difficult to communicate with, especially in regards to issues of students,” Spriggs said. “I’ve maintained great working relationships and communication with Commissioner Jankovich, Pepperd and Sherow.”

Yet lack of SGA’s overall communication with the city commission is something Schooley is looking to change.

“I’m willing to do everything that I can to build that relationship,” Schooley said.

Jankovich, along with newly elected city commissioners Usha Reddi and Karen McCulloh were all cited by Schooley as being more “student-friendly” and willing to hear issues that pertain to students.

“I’m going to try to schedule at least a quarterly session with student senate to be in front of them so they have an opportunity to tell me what they think of me and/or what’s going on with the city, and I can respond back about things that I think are important to them,” Jankovich said. “We would open up a door and hopefully that becomes a tradition.”

Some plans are already in motion to begin connecting the student body and the city commission.

“There was an open forum in the Union that SGA put on that commissioner candidates came and basically said their stances on the issues so students would know who to vote for,” Schooley said. “Things like that are good. I think it’d be great if the city commissioners could come to, like, SGA meetings on Thursday nights. Obviously not all of them, but just occasionally and see what it is we do.”

One main issue that both Jankovich and Schooley hope to work toward is coming to an agreement about is reinstating the inspections of rental properties in the Manhattan community.

“Most students have never rented a house before and they don’t know what to look for in safety regulations,” said Josh Cox, SGA senator and junior in history. “It’s cheaper for property owners and renters if those updates aren’t made, but it can be dangerous.”

This policy of ensuring that rental properties reach a certain level of safety was lifted by the current administration after pressure from a group of rental property owners.

“The rental inspection policy has a big effect on students [if it’s put back into place]. It’s an impact in what their rent is,” Jankovich said. “It may take some properties off the market that they may have rented, or have been forced to rent for whatever reason.”

Another issue facing the current administration is developing transportation in and around Manhattan.

“Potentially, we could have a much better mass transit system, which would be huge,” Schooley said. “Currently we have the ATA bus system but they only go to each stop once an hour, which is not the most handy thing. And I think a lot of our international students, especially, could get a lot out of every 15 minute trip to Walmart or the mall.”

These issues, and others facing SGA, could be better addressed by improving communication between the two governing bodies.

“By improving communication, we can allocate students’ dollars to better K-State as a university and assure a higher quality of life for students,” said Cox.

Schooley and Spriggs are optimistic that with the newly elected commissioners, this relationship will continue to improve and that they can work for the benefit of the students and the Manhattan community.

“The biggest things that we can improve by improving communication are that students would have a better idea of what it is the city commission does, and the commissioners would have a better idea of what SGA does,” Schooley said.

Editor’s Note: This article was completed as an assignment for a class in the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications.