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Affordable housing proves a vexing problem for city government candidates in Johnson County

Many candidates running for a local government office in the Nov. 5 general election say they believe that a lack of affordable housing is a problem for their communities in Johnson County. But their views vary widely in terms of what they’d do about the problem and how much of a priority it would be for them in office.

A shortage of affordable housing in Johnson County is one of six major issues being spotlighted in the Fall 2019 local election edition of The Journal, which will be published on Oct. 15. Affordable housing has been receiving more attention in the county recently as the average sale price of a home climbed to $320,000 in 2017. Renters pay about $1,000 for rent.

Yet 28% of jobs in Johnson County pay less than $15 an hour, below $32,000 annually, even with a low unemployment rate. Finding affordable housing, be it for seniors looking to downsize, teachers, firefighters, government workers or college graduates, for households who earn below the county median of $81,200 annually.

The Journal surveyed 40-plus city government candidates in Johnson County about their views on affordable housing and got 22 responses. Just over 77% said that Johnson County lacks enough affordable housing for too many people who want to live there. More than 2-in-3 candidates also see a lack of affordable housing creating problems to at least a moderate extent in their communities.

Read more about what candidates think, in their own words, about about affordable housing and other key issues in their community below. The Journal is attempting to collect responses from candidates in Lenexa, Merriam, Mission, Olathe, Overland Park, Prairie Village and Shawnee.

Update: Click here to see the unofficial final results from Johnson County.

Lenexa City Council
Merriam City Council
Mission City Council
Olathe City Council
Olathe City Council, Ward 2
Overland Park City Council
Overland Park City Council, Ward 1
Overland Park City Council, Ward 2
Overland Park City Council, Ward 3
Overland Park City Council, Ward 4
Overland Park City Council, Ward 5
Overland Park City Council, Ward 6
Prairie Village City Council
Shawnee City Council
Shawnee Mayor
Shawnee City Council, Ward 2

Your Local Candidates: In Their Own Words Nov. 5 2019 Kansas local election

Editor’s note: To help readers make their voting choices in the Nov. 5 general election for local offices, The Journal, the Kansas Leadership Center’s quarterly magazine, sent out a survey to more than 250 candidates in communities where our magazine’s readership is the largest. What follows is information from your local candidates, in their own words.

Lenexa City Council

Lenexa City Council, Ward 1

Courtney Eiterich, candidate for Lenexa City Council, Ward 1

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I am a former Journeyman Electrician with a Public Administration degree from KU. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2007 and found myself reevaluating priorities in my life. I left my job and found ourselves in a situation where we could not purchase health insurance as my husband was self-employed. I began to speak up in political circles to advocate on behalf of my family but also for everyone else in this situation. I feel I bring a different voice to the Lenexa City Council. With a labor/construction background, educated in city government, a community volunteer and substitute teacher, I feel I bring a different perspective to our city. I want a seat at the table so I can be the voice for Ward 1 residents.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

One of my highest priorities is to facilitate inclusive measures that rightfully value all community members. We must strive for ADA compliance, foster inclusive community spaces but most importantly, Lenexa is currently drafting a non-discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

It is important for residents of Lenexa to feel welcome and safe in their city. Everyone should have access to public buildings, parks, swimming pools, and safe sidewalks. We could begin with a gap analysis for ADA compliance, create inclusive play spaces, provide ASL interpreters at all events. I am hoping that the city will provide protections for our LGBTQ+ community prior to the election but if not, I would help facilitate those barriers to pass an NDO.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a moderate extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

People who work in Lenexa should be able to live in Lenexa. We need a multi-faceted approach based on data from housing costs and availability. We can create affordable housing opportunities with land use and planning tools, zoning for accessory dwelling units such as “mother-in-law quarters”, and/or incentives for building affordable housing units. There should also be a focus on both the rental and homeowner markets.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

Affordable housing should be prioritized with other housing initiatives and projects to address this issue. I would place it in the top 5 issues.

The Journal did not receive responses to its survey from Lenexa City Council, Ward 1, candidate Chris Poss.

Here is the information for this race from the Vote411 voter guide, which was launched by the League of Women Voters Education Fund in 2006.

Lenexa City Council, Ward 4

Linda Leeper, candidate for Lenexa City Council, Ward 4

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I am running for Lenexa City Council as an experienced leader with civic, community, and city engagement and a passion and commitment to continue to grow Lenexa and keep our neighborhoods safe and vibrant.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

Support public safety to keep our neighborhoods safe and secure in the older established part of Lenexa, Ward 4, while supporting the planned economic growth of our city for the best quality of life.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

Support a fiscally responsible city budget for public safety and continue with efforts in engage citizens in the Visioning plans for new and redevelopment, transportation and infrastructure, health and wellness and vibrant neighborhoods.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a moderate extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

Support more affordable single and multiplex housing in the established neighborhoods that are walkable and provide gathering places.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

I would put in the top 6 of priorities.

Julie Sayers, candidate for Lenexa City Council, Ward 4

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

In my career as a Commercial Interior Designer, I have spent the past 15 years focused on protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public. Architects and designers have the profound responsibility of making sustainable choices for the environment, while stewarding the structures in which people in this country spend 90% of their time: spaces in which we learn, heal, work, and play. I am running for City Council in Lenexa because it is the natural progression of the passion I have for ensuring that my community, neighbors and friends have the tools they need to thrive, while each doing our part to safeguard our planet for generations to come.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

Lenexa’s growth over the past several years has been remarkable, and so exciting for our city. In order to balance that growth, I feel that the city needs to spend time and energy ensuring that the older parts of the city remain affordable, viable, and attractive for young families. We do this by investing in revitalization of our historic Old Town district, existing commercial and retail areas, and older housing stock.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

Work with city staff and planning commission to ensure that funding for these types of projects is included in the city budget and that reasonable timelines for completion of studied projects are implemented.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a moderate extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

Lenexa has a good variety of housing options, and this needs to continue. As a part of the revitalization efforts that I mentioned previously, I’d love to see some creative adaptive re-use of existing buildings &/or sides to create smaller single family or multi-family housing.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

It should definitely be considered in parallel with the revitalization projects that we consider with planning and budget for the next four years.

Here is the information for this race from the Vote411 voter guide, which was launched by the League of Women Voters Education Fund in 2006.

Related resources:

Here’s a forum featuring Lenexa City Council candidates from the Shawnee Mission Post. https://shawneemissionpost.com/2019/10/17/old-town-revitalization-property-taxes-role-of-arts-in-community-lenexa-council-candidates-talk-issues-at-sm-post-forum-83569

Merriam City Council

Merriam City Council, Ward 1

Jason Silvers, candidate for Merriam City Council, Ward 1

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I am running for reelection to ensure that Merriam remains the safe and well-maintained city it is currently.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

Recently, a level of distrust of the leadership of Merriam has been voiced by many residents caused by a perceived lack of transparency between city staff, elected officials, and the public. I would like to see a better flow of communication between the city and its citizens during my term.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

Most importantly, I think the residents of Merriam must be included in the decision-making process earlier. This can be as simple as better communication of public meetings and events through postcard campaigns and social media.

As a candidate, I believe that …

No response received yet to this question.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

No response received yet to this question.

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

No response received yet to this question.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

No response received yet to this question.

The Journal has not yet received responses to its survey from Merriam City Council, Ward 1, candidate John Canterbury.

Merriam City Council, Ward 2

Whitney Yadrich, candidate for Merriam City Council, Ward 2

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

My husband and I moved into our “forever home” in Merriam a few years ago. We love it here and hope to raise a family in Merriam. I decided to run for council because I want city leadership that reflects the diversity of Merriam’s population, especially the rapidly growing group of young families and Millennial homeowners, as well as our senior population in need of an accessible support structure. I have a unique skill set to bring to the table that matches the city’s needs, and I will be a forward-thinking, compassionate representative.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

We need to heal the broken communication structure between city hall and Merriam citizens. Regardless of how much information is publicly available, if residents say that the city is hiding something, it means there needs to be an increased effort in proactive/affirmative disclosure. I want to do a few things, including increasing communication frequency, expanding the methods we use to gather feedback and hold multiple (more than two, for example) public meetings on special projects and intiatives to allow for flexibility and awareness.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

I’d like to do a user experience and transparency audit on the city website, so we know information is easy to find. I also want to add a new email series specific to city council that lays out agendas, minutes, and what specific decisions mean in the context of policy. We should also evaluate online survey methods, like SurveyMonkey and GoogleForms, to gather feedback and investigate opt-in text updates. Essentially, we should meet people where they’re at, instead of expecting them to seek and find.

As a candidate, I believe that …

I am not sure whether Johnson County has enough affordable housing.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a moderate extent.

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

Merriam is participating in the county-wide housing inventory study, and I believe we need a strong voice on that task force, because at least 15% of our population is in the 65+ age group, which is on par with the national average, and we have a decent amount of complex housing. We also need to confirm inclusionary housing requirements for not only new construction, but also renovated multi-family complexes.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

As the city is participating in the housing inventory study, I’d like to see their findings and recommendations before we make any drastic changes – especially since we have some very important financial threats to our main revenue sources. However, I believe we should do whatever we can to make sure Merriam is affordable and safe for residents of all ages.

The Journal has not yet received responses to its survey from Merriam City Council, Ward 2, candidate Dan Leap.

Merriam City Council, Ward 3

Bruce Kaldahl, candidate for Merriam City Council, Ward 3

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

Each of us are impacted by our city government on a daily basis – streets, sidewalks, police & fire protection. We should not take that for granted and need people to step-up and provide the leadership. It is my turn to do that.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

Maintain the momentum. Merriam is a great place to live. Our parks and neighborhoods are clean and well maintained. Streets, curbs, street lights, sidewalks and infrastructure are being maintained and improved. We will soon be getting a new library. Public safety is a priority – as evidenced in our police force and fire protection. We need to keep up the good work.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

Independent decision making. While I have great admiration and appreciation for the work of the current and past city councils and I will bring new thoughts and perspectives to the council. This is my first time running for a public office, so I have a lot to learn.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a moderate extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

Keep our tax burden as low as possible.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

Depends on the other issue …

The Journal has not yet received responses to its survey from Merriam City Council, Ward 3, candidate Amy D. Carey.

Merriam City Council, Ward 4

Bob Pape, candidate for Merriam City Council, Ward 4

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I served on the Merriam Fire Department for 38 years. Upon my retirement as the Fire Chief/Fire Marshal in 2014. I ran for City Councilmember in 2015. I was elected and have served 4 years. I am seeking re-election because of my desire to continue serving my community.I have a Masters degree in public administration and believe that I have both education, dedication and experience.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

There has been a decision by the Board of Taxing Appeals (BOTA) that alters the way large commercial stores are taxed. If this decision stands, it will unfairly shift the tax burden to residential properties. I am committed to holding taxes down in our City. We have a large segment in our community who are on fixed incomes and can not absorb the huge increase that would be inflicted upon them. The alternative would be a cut in services and I do not believe that would be appropriate. I will take action to overturn BOTA’s decision.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

I have contacted our legislature and will continue to reach out to others to stress the importance that they enact laws to rectify and clarify the correct method of taxation on commercial properties. We can not drastically change the manner in which taxes are collected that results in a detriment to our community.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To some extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

We have recently passed redevelopment plans that offer a segment of the development to affordable housing. I will continue to seek out these projects.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

It is important but would fall in the middle of priorities.

The Journal has yet to receive a response from Merriam City Council, Ward 4, candidate Staci Chivetta.

Related resources:

 

Your Local Candidates: In Their Own Words Nov. 5 2019 Kansas local election

Mission City Council

Mission City Council, Ward 1

Trent Boultinghouse, candidate for Mission City Council, Ward 1

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

My name is Trent Boultinghouse and I grew up on a farm in rural southeast Kansas where I participated in 4-H and FFA at Girard High School and went on to receive my bachelor’s degrees from the University of Kansas. After graduation, I worked on policy directives at the Pentagon, and then pursued a master’s degree at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, where I studied governmental programs to reduce poverty. Even away from home, Kansas was never far from mind. I returned in 2016 with the hopes of advancing my state in a more empathetic, sustainable and forward-thinking direction. I’m running for office because I noticed a disconnect between City Hall and the young people in my Ward, where the majority of residents are renters. As a Spanish and Portuguese speaker, I am interested in reaching underrepresented members of the community, as well as encouraging more young people to put down roots in our town. I am ready to apply my present role in data analysis with my experience in federal government to help demystify complex city issues for my constituents.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

In talking with voters, sustainability issues frequently emerge as an area that excites residents and sparks curiosity. I would like to continue the city’s momentum in this area through expanded sidewalk coverage, improved bike lane access, and increased partnerships with KCP&Ls Renewables Program, for example. The KC metro area is especially vulnerable to the extreme weather brought on by climate change and as important state and federal initiatives are held up in gridlock, it is up to cities to help take the lead in ensuring smart practices for future generations.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

I have lived everywhere from farm country to major cosmopolitan cities and understand the importance of consensus building based on meeting people where they are. Mission is fortunate to have a dedicated and active Sustainability Commission that works on developing services and making recommendations to Council. I would partner with them as well as seek community input to build upon the progress that previous groups have already made. Some of the tools available in this effort involve improving and promoting the Mission community grant program for residents to create more efficient and sustainable projects in their homes, incentivizing LEED technology on new development, and building on our community pride in our parks and green spaces.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a very great extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

Mission is beginning to attract more residential development and I would help work with community stakeholders, city staff, and colleagues on the council to discuss incentives for the developers to include affordable housing units in their plans. I would also work with existing affordable apartment complexes to ensure units are safe and up to the standards that members of this community expect. Given issues in other areas of Johnson County with “McMansion” property flips that artificially exacerbate and raise home values, I would work to ensure our homes retain their relative affordability, as well as their livability, through responsible council decision-making. These goals ensure everyone benefits as residents have greater power to use their dollars locally.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

Speaking with both renters and homeowners throughout my campaign has highlighted the importance of this issue. I want residents to feel secure in their housing choices in Mission. As opportunities arise to make differences, no matter how incremental or small, I will pursue them as I would my other priorities for the long-term health of the city.

The Journal did not receive responses to its survey from Mission City Council, Ward 1, candidate Burton Taylor.

Your Local Candidates: In Their Own Words Nov. 5 2019 Kansas local election

Olathe City Council

 

Olathe City Council, At-Large

Alan Marston, candidate for Olathe City Council, At-Large

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I have lived in Olathe since 2002 and am actively involved in the community: 

  • 2018 Olathe Strategic Planning Advisory Board Member 
  • Olathe Parks & Recreation Advocacy Committee Member 
  • Co-Founder of CODE, a non-profit coalition that promotes diversity and equality
  • Graduate of Olathe’s Civic Academy
  • Veterans Voices Writing Project Ambassador 
  • Olathe Noon Rotary Member 

I am a U.S. Army Veteran, having served in Desert Shield and as a Military Police Officer. I was also a Civilian Police Officer in Carthage, Missouri. For the last 27 years I’ve worked in Retail Asset Protection & Safety Management and Investigations. I am running for Olathe City Council because I believe that all citizens of Olathe deserve a fresh voice. One that wants to serve the citizens, not corporate interests. Olathe’s population has grown dramatically in recent decades, but the council has not grown with it. This has resulted in a significant lack of representation.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

I want to further increase the accessibility and inclusivity of Olathe. We have a wonderfully diverse community, and we need to protect that and foster further growth. There are several things that we, as a city, can do to provide a welcoming environment. For example: 

  • By ensuring that a variety of housing options are available, we guarantee that all income levels are represented.
  • By passing a Non-Discrimination Ordinance, we show that all residents are welcome and safe.
  • By building a playground accessible to those with special needs, we confirm that everyone is a part of our community.

These are just a few of the many steps we can take to bring greater accessibility and inclusivity to Olathe.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

I plan to be an ACTIVE member of the City Council. I plan to attend the meetings of and work with the Human Relations Commission, the Persons with Disabilities Board, and the Planning Commission, to ensure that we, as city leaders, are addressing the needs of all people.

As an example of steps I have already taken, I have been a part of the efforts to get a Non-Discrimination Ordinance passed in Olathe for over two years. I have seen the ordinance move from the HRC just to stall at the City Council level. As an office holder, I will work to get it on the agenda so that it can be adopted. Additionally, I plan to work with the Planning Commission and Parks & Recreation Department to address the other important issues of affordable housing and inclusivity of our children.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a great extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

The City of Olathe is experiencing a housing affordability issue. The average home price is over $269,000, and the average apartment rent is $1,100.

  • Couples just starting their lives are having problems finding affordable apartments in Olathe, forcing them to move to a neighboring city (or state).
  • An Olathe firefighter can’t afford to purchase a home in Olathe on his income alone. 
  • Our elderly population is struggling to find housing that is priced to fit their fixed income so that that they can age in place.

I want to work with housing developers to ensure that, while they get the opportunity to build wonderful “Executive Housing” areas, they also need to be adding more affordable options in that development, or in subsequent projects. The Planning Commission has a huge role in planning the right balance of housing options and I will work with them to encourage this.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

Affordable housing is my top priority. It is a key component of my campaign, and I speak of it at every door I knock. I am hearing from the citizens of this city that it concerns them, too. Many of our children can’t start the beginning of their adult lives in Olathe because they simply cannot afford it. That is unacceptable. As a parent, I want to do all that I can to make sure that my children, if they so choose, can afford to live in Olathe.

The Journal did not receive responses to its survey from Olathe City Council, At-Large, candidate John W. Bacon.

Olathe City Council, Ward 1

The Journal did not receive responses to its survey from Olathe City Council, Ward 1, candidates Larry L. Campbell and Colby White.

Olathe City Council, Ward 2

The incumbent running for reelection to the Olathe City Council in Ward 2 differs from his challenger in terms of the issue he’d prioritize the most in office.

Jim Randall elevates transportation and wants to ensure that Olathe continues to have the best traffic flow and street conditions in the metro area, even as the city continues to grow fast. For Adam Mickelson, who’d also like to serve in the Ward 2 seat, the key issue is taking what he calls a “responsible approach” to taxes. While some taxes are necessary, he says, he’d taken a more skeptical view of the special taxing districts that communities such as Olathe have used to promote development.

Read more about each of the candidates in their own words below.

Jim Randall, candidate for Olathe City Council, Ward 2

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

To continue the progress and citizen satisfaction in Olathe.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

Transportation We continue to strive for the best traffic flow and street conditions in the metro area and that will always be a challenge in our fast growing City.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

We will take quarterly surveys or our citizens to determine the places with the greatest needs along with a statistical pavement management index, translate that survey into an estimated cost structure and keep the citizens advised of those results.

As a candidate, I believe that …

I am not sure whether Johnson County has enough affordable housing

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To some extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

Continue to support the updates and refurbishing of older homes in the city and support new developments that provide affordable housing. Olathe has the highest inventory of affordable housing per capita of any City in Johnson County.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

Moderate prioritization compared to all issues.

Adam Mickelson, candidate for Olathe City Council, Ward 2

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I wanted to make a difference in my community, and, I believe, my new perspective could improve the council by asking additional questions and taking a citizen-first approach to decision-making.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

Responsible approach to taxes. As I have talked with the citizens of Ward 2, a few issues have been mentioned multiple times. One of those is taxes. While some taxes are necessary, many of the special taxing districts are not. I plan to solicit feedback and take a citizen-first approach to taxes and fees.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

We will take quarterly surveys or our citizens to determine the places with the greatest needs along with a statistical pavement management index, translate that survey into an estimated cost structure and keep the citizens advised of those results.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a moderate extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

One of the greatest hindrances to affordable housing is government regulation. Here are some things that can be done to address affordable housing: 

  1. Decrease development ordinance regulations. Many of the development ordinances increase cost. Finding those non-necessary ordinances and eliminating them will help. One example is a proposed storm shelter. If passed this would increase building costs, which decreases affordability.
  2. Decrease taxes. Even if the house is affordable, taxes, especially on food, can price some individuals out of the market.
  3. Work with builders to encourage the building of affordable homes. I was recently talking to a builder who was struggling to get some new townhomes approved. 
  4. Address it in the future land-use map. We can specify specific zones were affordable housing fits well. These are areas where the land may be cheaper as well.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

This is not a top issue I hear from my potential constituents. My top three of responsible taxes, better infrastructure, and a renewed focus on public safety would all come first. After those three, I would consider it, depending on what I hear from the additional constituents I talk to during the campaign.

Your Local Candidates: In Their Own Words Nov. 5 2019 Kansas local election

Overland Park City Council

Overland Park City Council Ward 1

Holly Grummert, candidate for Overland Park City Council, Ward 1

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

Overland Park is ready for a new voice in Ward 1.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

Open communications start with a comment time at the beginning of City Council meetings. This issue is important for transparency and open communication with our residence. City government is local, it is important for citizens to have their voices heard.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

For all issues City wide it is important to get as many shareholders to the table as possible. This is a communication issue that must be addressed. At the city level, it is important that citizens have input.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a great extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

There are many ways we can start improving affordable housing. There are programs for seniors to stay in their homes and age in place; we must update these. We need to look at zoning options to utilize backyards for cottage style homes. As well as, cottage style communities, multiplex units in existing structures and shared driveway houses. There are many options that will help with housing hut also increase revenue flow for the city.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

This is an issue residents have already indicated as an important issue, ie Forward OP. So yes, making it a priority is utmost on my mind.

Terry Happer Scheier, candidate for Overland Park City Council, Ward 1

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I am currently on City Council. I have seen many changes in Overland Park but realize there is much to address for our future. This includes neighborhood vitality,  business growth, infrastructure and taxes that are reasonable.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

Overland Park is a well run city that has been acknowledged nationally. We need to continue to keep our city strong and functional. Making our neighborhoods strong, safe and inviting. Strong business/employment opportunities diverse housing, and maintained infrastructure is critical. Bring the ForwardOP plan to light. Having the budget to pay for all our needs as a city is vital.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

The ForwardOP included hundreds of citizens and we need to hear their thoughts and suggestions in a specific focus groups and drill down to a plan that is workable for the majority. Working with the business community to support growth in a fiscally responsible manner will Keep OP a strong community. We have taken measures to improve citizen being informed of city meetings and are working on communication ideas to have stronger participation.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a moderate extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

We need to look into the the options that are available to build and then the zoning requirements and zoning ordinances. From there we can work with potential developers to help make these a reality. We are working to keep taxes low so citizens can afford to live here. Seeing what other communities have used can help us develop a workable plan to implement. These should be used all over the city ideally.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

Affordable housing is an important issue that I would work to make happen. I would also continue to focus on building job markets.

Overland Park City Council Ward 2

Paul Lyons, candidate for Overland Park City Council, Ward 2

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I currently serve on the Overland Park city council. I’m running for another term on the City Council because I believe there is much work ahead to prepare Overland Park for the future. It will be critical to develop plans to implement the long term vision for the city. My priorities will include focusing on supporting education, business development, and neighborhood vitality to insure the highest quality of life at the lowest taxes as the city continues to grow.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

We are in an enviable place in the city’s history where we have relatively few issues to tackle and a bright future ahead of us. I want to define and execute a plan to support a recently approved 20-year vision developed by our citizens that will ensure our city builds upon its high quality-of-life, excellent schools, and safe environment.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

Implementation of the vision plan requires a partnership between citizens, the business community, developers and local government officials in order to ensure success. I will leverage relationships I’ve developed during my service on the city council to make sure stakeholders are committed and take ownership of their respective pieces. We will share rewards and challenges together.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To some extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

We need to look at barriers that impact the construction of low-cost housing. This would involve zoning requirements and regulations that limit where such housing can be built.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

Affordable housing is a rising issue in Overland Park, but falls below the need to adequately fund public safety and infrastructure improvements in our older neighborhoods.

Roger Tarbutton candidate for Overland Park City Council, Ward 2

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I grew up in Johnson County, have lived in Overland Park with my wife Ruth for over 20 years and worked as an attorney for local county government for nearly 30 years. I have degrees from Baker University and Washburn Law School. If elected, I aim to: 1) Insist the City Council hears residents concerns. I will work to adopt a public comment period before City Council meetings to guarantee residents an opportunity to voice their grievances. 2) Protect neighborhoods from the negative impact of massive development. I will oppose massive developments that threaten neighborhood livability, green space and property values. 3) Stop wasting money on tax breaks that offer little or no benefit to the City and its residents. Private development should primarily be driven by market conditions not tax incentives. Tax incentives should be reserved for special need projects that provide tangible benefits to the residents of Overland Park and cannot otherwise be developed such as the redevelopment of economically distressed areas.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

Adoption of a mandatory public comment period before all City Council Meetings to encourage resident participation in city government and policy making decisions. Some City Council members do not appear to be welcoming or responsive to the questions and concerns of residents. At the April 15, 2019, City Council meeting attended by dozens of residents to express their displeasure at the proposed demolition of the historic Santa Fe Park gazebo, no resident was allowed to speak and residents were relegated to holding signs to express their views. I was embarrassed for the City of Overland Park.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

Most of the local govenment in Johnson County has already adopted mandatory public comment periods and they have been in place for many years. As a result of recent criticism from both candidates and residents, an Overland Park City committee recently received public comment and discussed the issue. Unfortunately, the committee decided just to “study” the issue until after the November election. This is not a complicated issue and a mandatory public comment period should be adopted and implemented as soon as possible.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a great extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

I agree Overland Park needs more affordable housing especially for seniors on fixed incomes. Unfortunately, tax incentives granted to developers to stimulate the development of luxury apartments in recent years have contributed to this problem. Rezoning, the adoption of revised planning regulations and the use of tax incentives to rehabilitate affordable housing should be considered. Currently, most low-cost housing programs are funded by the federal government and managed by Johnson County government. If elected, I will request that City staff discuss innovative options with Johnson County government to address this issue.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

High

Here is the information for this race from the Vote411 voter guide, which was launched by the League of Women Voters Education Fund in 2006.

Overland Park City Council, Ward 3

The two candidates seeking to represent Ward 3 on the Overland Park City Council list different top priorities. Stephan Glentzer lists reining in incentives for developers, such as tax-increment financing, as the most important issue he’d focus on. Tom Carignan’s key issue is broader. He’d focus on good governance and ensuring that his constituents are getting the best deal possible for their tax dollars.

Read more about each of the candidates in their own words below.

Overland Park City Council, Ward 3

Stephan Glentzer, candidate for Overland Park City Council, Ward 3

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

As a resident of Overland Park for over six years and Johnson County for over 20 years, I have been dealing with the local OP government over issues that are important to all residents of Overland Park, and have found they have a lack of regard for the residents’ opinions. This has been my motivating factor in running for office.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

The current status of creating incentives for developers. The TIF (tax-increment financing) is not working for the residents. The creation of a TTP district, when there is no development being done on the main component of the development. But imposing taxes on the surrounding area, that makes even groceries more expensive, and then not having the developer pay for road improvements on the major roads that lead to the development.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

Get the planning commission to understand that major road improvements are part of the development. The developer is the one needing the road improvements, so they should pay for them. No additional taxes should be imposed on the area until the main component of the development is built. We should not accept giving extra benefits to the developer when it raises the cost for the residents.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a moderate extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

If any new development of multi family housing is being built, then 10-15 percent need to be at a level of affordability

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

All issues that cost the taxpayers of Overland Park are important. This is part of the issues that all councilpersons have to make. Ensuring the taxpayers are being heard is important.

Tom Carignan, candidate for Overland Park City Council, Ward 3

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

My name is Tom Carignan, a lifelong Kansan and engaged member of my community for nearly my entire life. I am running because I want to be a part of the team helping move Overland Park forward into the future.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

Overland Park is consistently recognized as one of the best, if not the best, places in America to live, work and raise a family. In order to maintain such a high standard for our residents, at reasonable tax rates, we must work together to ensure all areas of our city government are working efficiently and in the best interests of our stakeholders.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

I am interested in good governance and digging into the issues, asking questions to make sure our citizens are receiving the most for the tax dollars collected. As an office holder I will be prepared for the discussions and meetings to the best of my abilities in order to fully understand the issues and how they impact stakeholders before voting.

As a candidate, I believe that …

I am not sure whether Johnson County has enough affordable housing

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a moderate extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

Bring stakeholders to the table and discuss the issues builders, developers, non-profits, businesses, education, etc. The four sides of the “public square” and work to generate ideas regarding this important issue.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

Affordable housing is an issue to be addressed in our city. I would work with my council member peers to prioritize the issue and facilitate discussions with our stakeholders.

Overland Park City Council Ward 4

Fred Spears, candidate for Overland Park City Council, Ward 4

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

Our residents give us a 95%+ satisfaction rating of overall satisfaction living in the city so there is nothing that needs to be “fixed” but we have some nuances that need to be addressed. Aside from budgetary issues which are always with us, citizen satisfaction is critical – providing what the residents want from a quality of life perspective, addressing all aspects of their life – quality employment, safe and secure neighborhoods, lots of leisure activities, housing options to meet changing needs, anticipating what will be needed in the future from a role of the city perspective is what I see as the focus

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

Through the utilization of our ForwardOP process and goals encouraging and utilizing citizen involvement to progressively work toward meeting those current and anticipated needs. We are taking steps to improve participation and communication with residents allowing them a greater role in what we do and how we do it.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a moderate extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

We are looking at zoning ordinances and requirements to allow for greater flexibility for housing; we are encouraging infill redevelopment which provides more options; and we are allowing more multi-family housing developments to address and improve rental options and through increased competition that will keep rents low. We’re also working to keep property taxes low so as not to price people out of the market due to tax rates. We were selected as one of the best cities in the nation for opportunities for first time home buyers. We need to have a more accurate inventory of what housing is available and determine if that is adequate for the needs of our residents. Of critical importance is a clear definition of affordable housing and where our availability is to address our affordable housing needs.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

Mid range of importance

Dan Osman, candidate for Overland Park City Council, Ward 4

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

Public service has always been a part of my life. Since graduating from the University of Kansas’ School of Law, I’ve dedicated my career to helping the community. I’ve heard from so many people in the community who want their voices heard. They’re concerned about what Overland Park is doing to move into the future. I’m running because I have both the experience and the skill set to make a positive difference in Overland Park.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

City Council as a whole needs to be more responsive to its constituents. This starts with greater respect given towards members of the public who make the trip down to City Hall to speak on issues. But there also needs to be more communication in general between council members and the public. When I was on the school board, I held monthly town halls to listen to the concerns of teachers, parents, and even students. I was the only board member to hold these types of meetings. If elected to City Council, I will continue this tradition by holding regular town halls to hear and address public concerns.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

I have a newsletter that anyone can sign up at through www.osmanforop.com. This will give information not only of what I’m doing during the campaign, but also when and where we’ll meet after I’m elected. I want to continue to hear from my constituents throughout my term.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a great extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

Developers using tax incentives will need to provide affordable housing options in all their plans to secure abatements.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

Very high

Overland Park City Council Ward 5

Phil Bressler, candidate for Overland Park City Council, Ward 5

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I grew up in Kansas and my family and I have lived in Overland Park for 21 years. Our two boys received an amazing education through the Blue Valley school system. As a long time Overland Park resident, I want to do my part to give back to the community and neighborhood we’ve been so lucky to call home.

I’m running because I am passionate about what the next 10-20 years look like for Overland Park, and I think I have unique skills that the city needs to bring that long-range vision to life. I’ve spent my entire career in marketing and branding solving problems and creating opportunities for clients. Working with the city and its residents is no different. It’s about listening, studying the facts and developing solutions that move things forward. Specifically, the OP community, including residents, expressed their desires through a process and plan called ForwardOP. There’s a lot to like in this plan, but we need to move from planning to action. That hasn’t happened yet. Creating vision and bringing plans like this to life is what I’ve spent my career doing. I’m running because I’d like to utilize those skills for the benefit of our great city and its residents.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

The most important issue that needs improvement is what I call “positive progress.” As a city, our core issues and responsibilities are to ensure safe neighborhoods, maintain our roads/infrastructure, partner with our high quality school districts, and enhance the quality of life we’ve come to expect and enjoy. The biggest issue is building on our success and making sure we can pay for it. That means we need smart, fiscally-responsible progress to make that happen.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

There are several specific areas that I am interested in mobilizing:

  1. Thousands of Overland Park residents participated in a vision process called ForwardOP. We need to listen to their desires and implement prioritized elements within the specific Forward OP plan. My business background, including vision planning and execution, makes me uniquely qualified to work on this initiative.
  2. I am pro-progress, pro-business in a fiscally-responsible manner. The corporate sector and taxes generated through business activity ease the property tax burden on individual residents. The residents I’ve spoken with understand that and they also want access to first-class amenities close to home. A specific step is to support reasonable growth in a fiscally responsible way. Without growth, Overland Park is at risk of taking steps backwards.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a great extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

I’m a collaborator. This is an issue that several organizations are currently working on and I would seek to collaborate with them on this issue. There are several concepts related to “small scale development” that have been implemented in other cities around the country. We can learn from them and explore options for Overland Park.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

There are a wide variety of issues in Overland and they vary greatly depending on who you are speaking with. Affordable housing, which could also mean diversity in housing options, is important, but so is creating great jobs that attract people to our city in the first place.

Dr.  Faris Farassati, candidate for Overland Park City Council, Ward 5 (incumbent)

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

To serve the people of Overland Park and protect their well-being and quality of life and to make sure their government works only for them.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

As a cancer scientist I have been trained to look at each and every case with a logical eye. I provide critical analysis for each project and am not afraid of asking hard questions to protect my constituents. I promote “evidence-based government” that makes decisions based on studies, research and rational decision making free of pressure by lobbyists. I am NOT supported by special interest groups and I have no agenda but serving the people of OP and enhancing their quality of life. That is why my campaign is supported by people from all walks of life. I listen to the people and value their opinion. In summary, I bring a scientific style of judgment & leadership to the table that is respected even by people who may not share my opinion. My top most important issue is preventing the trend of multi-million dollar “Tax Giveaways” to undeserving private corporations and re-directing those dollars back to projects that benefit the people of Overland Park. I also oppose irresponsible and over-crowded apartment projects that do not fit the characteristics of OP. I have also proposed establishing an “Open-Microphone” at all City meetings to provide a podium for people to express their opinion freely.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

  1. Educate and inform the public about their rights and how to have their voice heard through constant conversation that I have had in the last two years with all people of OP. Provide feedback back to the OP government.
  2. Analyze each and every case in an “evidence-based” manner and free from the pressure from lobbyists.
  3. Share my opinion with other council members in an honest and logical manner while respecting their point of view.
  4. Pursuing what is best for the people of OP by initiating appropriate legislative procedure.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a moderate extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

Lack of affordable housing can threaten our local, state and national economies and therefore needs attention at all levels. As I had stated in my interview with KCUR in February on this topic, the first step in approaching this problem in a scientific way is to define “ affordable housing” for Overland Park. For example: Is the KCMO’s formula of $1200/month (including utilities) applicable to OP? We need a clear understanding based on different parameters such our local economy, job market, housing inventory, demographics and growth projections. Once target value range is determined appropriate policies could be implemented and we have more than a few model available to us for review: Establishment of revolving funds to support affordable housing projects (Denver model), lease-to-own programs(Cleveland), models that promote environmental sustainability as a path to long-term affordability (Minneapolis) and projects that connect community resources (such as day cares) to housing.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

As I mentioned, the first step is research to define “ affordable housing” for Overland Park. We need a clear understanding based on different parameters such our local economy, job market, housing inventory, demographics and growth projections.

Here is the information for this race from the Vote411 voter guide, which was launched by the League of Women Voters Education Fund in 2006.

Overland Park City Council Ward 6

Rick Collins, candidate for Overland Park City Council, Ward 6

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I have represented the 6th ward in Overland Park since 2011. I want to leave OP a better place than when I found it.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

More funding for infrastructure. The Kansas Legislature has imposed restrictions on how municipalities can increase their respective mill levies, which are part of the life blood for street improvements.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

We have two choices. Reform the tax lid legislation which is not very likely in the near future, or put a mill levy increase to a vote of the OP citizens.

As a candidate, I believe that …

I am not sure whether Johnson County has enough affordable housing

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a small extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

We first need to define “affordable housing.” A better description may be “attainable housing.”

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest priority, 3.

Scott Hamblin, candidate for Overland Park City Council, Ward 6

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.
I am a lifelong resident of Johnson County and have lived in Overland Park for over 15 years. I am happily married with four great children all attending the outstanding Blue Valley schools. Currently I work as an Air Traffic Controller and spend most of our free time coaching youth sports. Something I find both enjoyable and rewarding by helping youth from all background perform at their best. I am running for numerous reasons. I think it goes without saying that all candidates share a love for our city and I am no exception. I feel this election is likely the most critical election to the future health of Overland Park we have had. To give an example of just a few, we face budget revenue that is not keeping up with spending. A pending situation that threatens to drop our revenue further by as much as 30% that we are not prepared for and the City Manager describes as “catastrophic”. Infrastructure such as road and sidewalks are failing in many areas of the city while the current council continues to spend money to push for more southern expansion at the taxpayers expense. This will create just more urban sprawl while we don’t have the resources to maintain what we currently have. Our police staff is understaffed and falling further behind, and many more issue we could continue to discuss. All these shortfall have developed under the current leadership. I do not believe the incumbents that put us in this position are the best suited to correct it, especially when most do not acknowledge these challenge present a real danger to Overland Park and the residents.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

First and foremost I would like to see the Overland Park City Council return to serving the residents best interests and actually listen to their desires. The current atmosphere, especially in Ward 6, is that the elected officials and their close special interests such as developers have an agenda and the residents are just an obstacle. This is clearly evident if you look at Ward 5. The incumbent does not share the same mentality as the rest of the council. That has resulted in a hand picked, highly funded, friend of special interest challenger to try to take his seat. It’s time for the residents to have a say and why voter turnout will be critical in returning the council back to the people.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

This can be summed up in three simple steps 1. Communication with residents! 2. Communication with residents! 3. Communication with residents! Last but not least, then it is time to act of the results of this communication. Doing right by the residents and building a future Overland Park that is healthy and responsive to the residents is the job of city council and it’s time for this council to do that job.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To some extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

I believe taking on the challenge of affordable housing is a worthy cause. I also believe it brings significant challenges. For instance, as a candidate for Ward 6, this issue is a bit of a different animal. Do I believe in building apartments next to estate homes in southern area of the ward? Absolutely not. High property values is also a sign of a healthy economy. Many residents are not interested in seeing their property values drop because of actions taken by the government. People put a lot of their wealth into their homes and I do not believe in taking any action to negatively effect the wealth of Ward 6 residents. Are their areas and ideas where we can take action, absolutely. This must be a well thought out and executed plan.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

As I stated above, Ward 6 presents challenges when if comes to government action to effect housing costs. The reality of the situation is that Overland Park must have resources to solve many of these issues. Right now we have a budget that is in the red and falling. Without a correction to that there is not many issues the city will be able to effectively address.

Related Resources:

 

Your Local Candidates: In Their Own Words Nov. 5 2019 Kansas local election

Prairie Village City Council

Prairie Village City Council, Ward 2

Inga Selders, candidate for Prairie Village City Council, Ward 2

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.
My name is Inga Selders. I have lived in Prairie Village for most of my life and am raising my three children here. Professionally, I run a music and sound production studio with my husband, Noel Selders. My passion for running for City Council began several years ago when my electrical infrastructure was in disrepair. I had reached out to KCP&L a number of times, but nothing was ever done to fix the ongoing problems. One day, I said to myself that enough was enough. I created a petition and brought together my neighbors, city staff, and our state representative. Together, our voices were unified and heard. This resulted in KCP&L upgrading and replacing the electrical infrastructure on our block. Through this process, I have found that I have a voice, being able to bring people together, making real changes and improvements in my community. This engagement has been so fulfilling. I have immersed myself in multiple matters surrounding Prairie Village. I have developed strong relationships with our city staff, our police department, as well as members of our city council. I would love nothing more than to have the opportunity to have a seat on the council representing my ward.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

I think we need to continue to focus on upgrading our aging infrastructure. As we address this, we have amazing opportunities to incorporate sustainable and green technology moving forward. I really think Prairie Village has the opportunity to be a leader in this area. Our City Hall already runs on geothermal energy. We were the first city to sign on to KCP&L’s Renewables Direct program, and we are currently installing several electric charging stations.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

Some examples I would like to see moving forward in this effort include:

  • moving away from plastic bags in our shopping districts
  • installing solar panels to provide power to our neighborhood parks
  • replacing older-model city owned vehicles with electric vehicles
  • updating the regulations regarding wind turbines and solar panels on properties so that they can be used more efficiently.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a great extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

In Prairie Village, much of the affordable housing has been purchased by developers who are tearing these homes down and building $800,000+ homes where a $100,000 home once stood. I think our city needs to continue to tighten our ordinances in an effort to balance out this trend. One solution is that once a property is purchased for demolition, work must begin within a certain timeframe. In many instances, home building companies are purchasing multiple homes at a time, and then they just sit on the homes until someone purchases a custom home to be built there.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

I think there are many issues surrounding the teardown trend here in Prairie Village; affordable housing being one of them. I want to do all I can to help young families, teachers, police officers, and service workers move into our community. I also want to make sure that we are doing what we can to ensure residents who are in their golden years are able to afford to stay in their homes. While canvassing, I have been touched by how many residents have called Prairie Village home for decades. This is a huge component of what makes our community so special.

The Journal did not receive responses to its survey from Prairie Village, Ward 2, candidate Serena Schermoly.

Prairie Village City Council, Ward 3

Bonnie Limbird, candidate for Prairie Village City Council, Ward 3

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

My husband and I moved to Prairie Village to raise our daughter in a city that offered excellent schools, public safety, and parks. Now, I’m running for City Council to promote the welfare of everyone who comes to live, work, and play here, so they can realize their dreams as well.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

Property taxes have become a major hardship for many of our residents. I’d like to see how the City of Prairie Village can mitigate the burden.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

I will take a deep dive into the City budget to get a clear understanding of the changes over the last decade, and undertake a massive community outreach effort to get feedback on the importance of targeted tax relief vs. investing in the city. I could see a solution with a combination of both.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a great extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

I’m still learning about viable policy options for that, but in the meantime, maintaining (not losing) our current stock of diverse housing will be key, so advocating for the neighborhood design standards and future tweaks as necessary will help keep perfectly good two- and three-bedroom homes from being torn down for homes that are no longer affordable for the majority of Kansans.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

If we can get and evaluate the results from a county-wide housing study, I could see this being a number one issue. Without the study, it will be hard to push for change, and this may not be able to be the number one priority, though it would still be part of my platform while trying to maintain our existing diverse housing stock.

The Journal did not receive responses to its survey from Prairie Village, Ward 3, candidate Lauren Wolf.

Prairie Village City Council, Ward 5

Courtney McFadden, candidate for Prairie Village City Council, Ward 5

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

My name is Courtney McFadden and I called City Hall in 2013 to volunteer for what was then an open seat on Prairie Village’s City Council because I could make a difference in our city. I have worked hard to stand up for safer streets through working to bring a bike and pedestrian plan to our city which has seen three new lighted beam crossings near schools and parks in my ward. I have advocated for the environment which has led to solar technologies in our parks, renewable energy cars on our police force and an energy audit scheduled for our city. I have also strongly supported our infrastructure through pushing for street and drainage projects to support a system which is continually being stressed from high volumes. I am now running for reelection as I feel I am still the right person in the job.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

Recently we received the results of a traffic study that have highlighted why in my Ward of Prairie Village (83rd Street South in PV) we must remain dedicated to Infrastructure in the next few years. The study showed that the small area covering the two parks in Ward 5 showed troublesome numbers in each of the 4 categories measured in the study. Even more concerning is that the data was assessed prior to the opening of Meadowbrook Park, meaning that the trouble in the area will continue to rise as stress on our infrastructure will mount as this premier attraction continues to draw record numbers of attendance to the area. A strong, experienced infrastructure advocate is absolutely necessary in this office working for our residents as we see pressures continuing to mount on our already stressed system.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

As a current city councilmember I have the experience of having worked on many infrastructure projects in the past including street budgeting, drainage, etc. I have been a strong advocate and committee member for the Bike and Pedestrian Plan in our City and also helped with writing the grant which helped with the funding for the initial planning. I have also worked with the school board, police and Overland Park City Council on a collective effort for a 95th Street and Nall crosswalk project. Through these experiences, I have learned how to garner support and draw in the experts in order to get the job done.

As a candidate, I believe that …

No response received for this question.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

No response received for this question.

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

No response received for this question.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

No response received for this question.

The Journal did not receive responses to its survey from Prairie Village, Ward 5, candidate David Scott Morrison.

Related resources:

Your Local Candidates: In Their Own Words Nov. 5 2019 Kansas local election

Shawnee City Council

Shawnee Mayor

Michelle Distler, candidate for Shawnee Mayor

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

As a lifelong Shawnee resident who plans to live in our great city forever, the decisions we make for Shawnee’s future are very important to me. I grew up in the Shawnee Village neighborhood and my family had a business in downtown Shawnee for 29 years until my Dad retired. With three generations of family in Shawnee, I am as passionate about our seniors as I am our youth. There is no other place I will ever call home or love more than Shawnee. 

 worked full time through school while I earned my both my Masters degree in Human Resource Development and Organizational Development and my Bachelors degree in Organizational Management and Leadership. My teenage daughter, Jeydan, whom I simply adore, and I love being with our rescued dogs – Casey and Scout – along with our rabbit, Disney. Single motherhood is not always easy but I can’t imagine Jeydan growing up anywhere else. I currently work full time as a Program Manager in Cyber Security and I have served on the City Council since April of 2006.

Why I am running:

I ran for Mayor four years ago with a focus on fostering an open government where all citizens have a voice in the process. I have worked tirelessly to bring people from both sides of every issue together to achieve our goals and we have seen great successes with this approach. We have increased transparency, communication, and relationships ten-fold. Public safety has grown with increased staffing in both police and fire, a new fire station, police body cameras and other additional tools. We have strengthened our infrastructure as public works has improved more roads and storm water pipes than ever before, setting new records. And our quality of life in Shawnee has grown with new parks, trails, quieting of train horns, sidewalks, sustainability, and more. I’m very proud of the economic development growth we have seen during my tenure with over a thousand new businesses and thousands of new jobs, and I am committed to continue working together and putting resources where the needs are greatest.

I’m seeking reelection to build off these successes. The position of Mayor is not a stepping stone for me on the way to some bigger office. So, my focus is, and always will be, the City of Shawnee and what we need to do to continue to flourish. There is no place I will ever call home or love more than Shawnee, and I am excited about its future. With my vision for ‘One Shawnee’, I plan to continue our momentum to build a Shawnee that works for all. It is essential to safeguard the community in ways that reflect the wants and needs of the people who live, work, and visit Shawnee. To continue to achieve this I know that city government works best when citizens participate. I firmly believe that by working together with an open exchange of ideas we can accomplish a lot, and we have! I believe we don’t have to think alike, but we succeed when we think together. Every resident and business in Shawnee deserves to be involved with and build from the prosperity of this great city. I intend to continue this  collaborative vision for the community’s future. 

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

My goal as your mayor is to connect the dots with our visioning sessions and plan between our hopes for the future of Shawnee and good planning and market demand. Vision can come from many places, but smart communities realize that engaging its citizens in the city-making process leads to better answers and a deeper public ownership of our future. With my vision for ‘One Shawnee’, we will continue our momentum to build a Shawnee that works for all. It is essential to safeguard the community in ways that reflect the wants and needs of the people who live, work, and visit Shawnee. Shawnee has a special balance of tradition and innovation and despite differences in age, background, or circumstances, Shawnee is home to all of us. A community for ​everyone.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

We are currently engaging in imagineering sessions and focus groups as well as surveys to residents and businesses to work collaboratively for the future of Shawnee.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County has enough affordable housing for most people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a small extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

Our city, specifically zip code 66203, was just named by realtor.com as 4th in the nation for affordable housing.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

This issue must always remain in the forefront so that we can insure we always remain a community for everyone. Shawnee has a special balance of tradition and innovation and despite differences in age, background, or circumstances, Shawnee is home to all of us. A community for ​everyone.

Stephanie Meyer, candidate for Shawnee Mayor

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

For nearly six years, I’ve had the pleasure of serving on our city council, representing ward three. During that time, I’ve repeatedly heard – from all corners of the city – that we need a community vision, an inspiring picture of a vibrant and growing city … and a plan to get there. At the same time, I’ve watched the culture of our city government become increasingly hostile, as far-right obstructionists, who supported the incumbent and continue to do so, have worked to undermine progress.

Originally from Wichita, I was not born in Shawnee – living here was a choice. When my husband and I finished college, we knew we wanted to move to Johnson County, and our city’s amazing recreational amenities, friendly residents, and proximity to just about everything made Shawnee the perfect fit. In the years since, we’ve continued to love our new hometown, but have watched other cities in the region move forward and welcome new businesses and residents … while Shawnee remained stagnant.

I’m running for mayor because I believe that we’re at a critical juncture as a city – if we don’t do something to course-correct, we’re going to fall even farther behind. Until we rid ourselves of the notion that we shouldn’t compete, our residential property owners will continue to shoulder a higher burden, while our infrastructure continues to age, and needs continue to rise.

For more than sixteen years, I have worked within the governmental, public, and private sectors to grow and strengthen communities. This work is complemented by a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Kansas and a lifetime of community service. I am ready to hit the ground running for the residents of Shawnee.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

Diversifying our tax base. Currently, only about 24% of the city’s revenue comes from commercial taxes, putting much of the cost of government on the shoulders of our residents. This is an unsustainable model and will be further exacerbated as our vast infrastructure continues to age. As mayor, I would work to bring additional businesses to our city to better balance this responsibility, while also providing a more vibrant, attractive place to live, work, and play with more high-quality restaurant, retail, and employment opportunities.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

There are several steps we can take to put our city on a better path:

1. Continue to assess our internal processes. We’ve made progress over the last few years within our planning and development department, but there is more work to be done to continue to change the reputation we’ve gained of not being business and development friendly.

2. Update our plan. The city’s comprehensive plan – the document that helps to guide development in Shawnee – has not been significantly updated since 1987. This puts us at a competitive disadvantage, creates challenges when considering development, and causes uncertainty for our residents. Until we know where we want to go and develop a modernized and responsive plan to get there, we can never truly make progress.

3. Tell our story. Shawnee has largely not participated in the regional conversation on economic development, and that means as potential employers are looking at the metro, we’re not on their minds. We must change that and give Shawnee a seat at the regional table – by playing an active role, and not being afraid to compete. We’ve got a great story to tell, and we should be telling it to folks outside of our city limits.

4. Leverage our strengths. I believe there are three areas of Shawnee that present that most opportunity – our downtown, the youth sports corridor along Johnson Drive, and our growing industrial region near K-7. We should be actively promoting these areas – and the mayor should be playing a meaningful part in those conversations, particularly along Nieman, which has struggled with the lengthy construction, and where we’ve got one of the metro’s only federal opportunity zones.

5. Reinvest. As we bring in new and expand existing businesses, we should look at reinvesting a portion of that growth towards added funds to address our aging infrastructure needs. Providing for our core services is a critical component of business attraction and retention.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To some extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

1. Expansion of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program. This program, which provides tax rebates to homeowners for making improvements on their properties within defined parameters, has been successful in improving areas of our city with more affordable single-family housing options, and should be expanded, particularly in our downtown corridor.

2. Update our comprehensive plan and land use guide. Shawnee’s current plan has not been updated since 1987 and shows many potential locations for multi-family housing that are not currently realistic; creating a challenge for the city, potential developers, and neighboring residents. With resident input, we should update this plan, and include options and locations for this type of increased density and affordability.

3. When appropriate, look at non-traditional development opportunities. A few years ago, to attract additional residents to our downtown, the city amended zoning to allow for smaller footprint, “cottage” style homes in a defined area along the corridor. We should continue to seek out these kinds of inventive and unobtrusive housing ideas to ensure we have a full complement of attractive options.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

Access to affordable housing is certainly a part of the overall priority of ensuring that Shawnee is an attractive and vibrant community. One of the greatest strengths we have as a city is the ability to have whatever type of city experience you prefer within our boundaries – single family downtown, larger suburban options, more rural properties, and denser town home and apartment choices – and we should always strive to maintain that diversity.

Shawnee City Council, Ward 1

Tammy Thomas, candidate for Shawnee City Council, Ward 1

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

My husband, of 32 years and a Shawnee native, and I have lived in Shawnee for more than 23 years. We have made our home here. Our 3 children attended our schools and universities in Kansas, worked at local businesses as teenagers and adults, and chose their spouses within our local community. My oldest son has served our country in the United States Air Force. I would say we love Shawnee, Kansas. It is our HOME! This is why I am running for Shawnee Ward 1 City Councilwoman. After observing our City Council Members tone, their voting records, and generalized behavior toward one another, it became clear, it’s time for fresh ideas and approaches to needs growing needs.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

From my point of view, all 3 of the following are of high priority: 

  • Fire Protection
  • Police Protection
  • Infrastructure

Without public safety and infrastructure, you do not have a city.  In a short 2nd place, bringing civility, respect, and trust back to the Shawnee City Council. This brings integrity and vulnerability as an expectation. We must be a Council that models this behavior as our city deserves it. Trust is the foundation of good decision making.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

I know our police and fire departments are highly rated; however, I will ensure this is the benchmark of performance. When talking with citizens, infrastructure is a huge point of interest and need. People want our pipes/streets/stormwater systems fixed/updated, and dependable.  We do NOT need to wait until the next failure to pay attention to a known and identified need. With regard to civility, respect, and trust, I will model this behavior. Our citizens deserve our respect, no matter if they share our point of view or not. Changing the culture of the governing body is a behavioral shift and trust is the cornerstone in that shift. If you do not have trust within the Council, there is not a foundation of good decision making.

As a candidate, I believe that …

I am not sure whether Johnson County has enough affordable housing

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To some extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

To appropriately address affordable housing, there needs to be clear data made available not merely opinion.  We also need to identify the types of affordable housing being referenced. Many people think affordable housing is just for young families; however, Kansas more urban areas has an increasing migration of elder citizens. This number is increasing rapidly due to adult children living here, resources(ie: medical services) availability, appropriate homes, just to name a few.  Without all of the data, it is difficult to make an accurate assessment of the need.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

I would like to have a study group put together and pull the data. Community involvement is essential. This would involve citizens of our city, governing body members, local individuals from the Department for Children and Families, as well as staff from our planning department.

The Journal did not receive responses to its survey from Shawnee City Council, Ward 1, candidate Jim Neighbor.

Shawnee City Council, Ward 2

Two very different focus areas on on the minds of the two candidates running to represent Ward 2 on the Shawnee City Council in the Nov. 5 general election.

Eric Jenkins, the incumbent, is focused on promoting the recovery “infrastructure recovery” after aging storm pipes have started collapsing due to severe deterioration. The other candidate running, Andy Rondon, says that sustainability will be his biggest issue, calling it “the biggest issue that my generation is going to face.” He thinks a lot can be done at the city level.

Read more about each of the candidates in their own words below.

Eric Jenkins, candidate for Shawnee City Council, Ward 2

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

Retired Federal Emergency Management Agency manager and U.S. Army Reserves Colonel. Bachelor’s Missouri State University, BA-History, UNC-Charlotte, MA-Geography. Lifetime of public service, 20 years on Shawnee CIty Planning Commission, ran for Mayor and came up short, ran for City Council and was elected. Served first term and in the process of running for reelection. I feel I can make a positive difference by providing leadership and acquired skills to local government.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

Infrastructure recovery. Aging storm pipes have presented a serious problem with many collapsing due to severe deterioration. This is a critical infrastructure issue not receiving adequate priority by the city council. I wish to make it a priority project.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

I have prepared and submitted to Council Committee a strategic plan to correct the problem. The Council response was less that adequate. I am mobilizing a citizen group and I have worked to encourage five competent candidates to run for council seats to oppose incumbents.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a moderate extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

I do not feel the affordable housing issue is an issue for local government. Governing body involvement should be focused on furthering an environment which would encourage the development of such housing, minimize exclusionary policies and encourage private investment with some limited development incentives.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

I would consider it to be in the lower third of action issues requiring immediate attention. Police, fire and infrastructure are the top priority and there are many shortcomings which require significant resourcing and priority status.

Andy Rondon, candidate for Shawnee City Council, Ward 2

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I have noticed that politics has been dividing us for quite a while now. I felt like I needed to do something and with me naturally being an optimist, I decided to run for office to bring that optimism to local government.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

Sustainability – It is the biggest issue that my generation is going to face. There is a lot that can be done at the city level that improves everyone’s lives. Whether it be planting trees to beautify an area or electrifying the city’s fleet of vehicles, sustainability often adds value far beyond what we invest into it.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

Working in the solar industry, I understand that sustainable solutions often are the better financial investment. Often times sustainability is not taken into consideration or misunderstood. I will make sure that sustainability is always taken into account when the governing body is making a decision.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a moderate extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

While I am not an expert on affordable housing, per se, I am an expert on affordable living. I would make sure that as affordable housing is being planned and built, that it is built to a high standard in regards to energy efficiency. Affordable rent does not solve anything if the units are built cheaply and are expensive to heat and cool. This is an instance where looking at a problem and taking sustainability into account helps to achieve the end goal of affordable housing … being able to afford where you live.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

This question is part of why I love sustainability so much. Affordable housing naturally falls under the umbrella of sustainability when you consider that housing is not affordable unless the occupants can afford all of the expenses associated with living there.

Shawnee City Council, Ward 3 (full-term)

Dawn Rattan, candidate for Shawnee City Council, Ward 3

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I’m a 16 year resident of Shawnee and native of KCK. I also own a small business in Shawnee and help my husband run his small business. I’ve been married for 22 years and have 3 children. Giving back to the community and helping those less fortunate is important to me.

I’m running for office because I chose Shawnee about 16 years ago when our family moved back to the KC area. I want more businesses and residents to choose Shawnee. Additionally I completed the Shawnee Tomorrow Leadership program where I met people who worked to make Shawnee, Johnson County, Kansas State and the Metro area a great place to live and work. I was inspired by these public servants. Finally, I am passionate about solutions. Shawnee is a wonderful place to live and we are doing masterplanning for the future. I would like to be a part of creating and executing the masterplan for our city.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

I would like to see our city grow with more amenities, goods and services, improving the quality of life for our citizens and keeping more money in our city. From the 2017 Citizen survey, economic growth and vitality was the second highest priority after safety. As I have canvassed, most residents express the desire to have more goods and services available to them. Also, having more business will grow the commercial tax base above the current 26%. This will also help with our stormwater drain repairs as businesses are assessed a fee based on their surface area and residents are assessed a flat fee. So additional commercial growth can also help infrastructure.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

Ensure that a plan for longer term commercial growth is included in the masterplan. Get input from residents on the types of businesses to pursue. Work with the City Manager, Planning Commission, and Chamber of Commerce and other stakeholders to execute the masterplan. Benchmark from other cities who have planned and executed commercial growth well.

As a candidate, I believe that …

I am not sure whether Johnson County has enough affordable housing

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a moderate extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

The leaders of the city must unanimously support the goal of affordable housing and realize its importance to our economic vitality. I would like to see a survey with data on the profile of a typical person in need of affordable housing. I think we will find a hard worker who wants a good school for their kids or a shorter commute to work. We can look at successful models from the US and reapply them. Shawnee currently has: Community Development Block Grants, Human Services Fund, Kansas Neighborhood Revitilization Act, and Neighbors Helping Neighbors.There are also County and State assistance programs. I would like to understand the work and impact of each group and ensure that residents are aware of the help that is available.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

As housing prices rise, this issue will become more important to our city. Good, solid citizens, students, and employees need affordable housing.

Shawnee City Council, Ward 3 (2-year unexpired term)

Lisa Larson-Bunnell, candidate for Shawnee City Council, Ward 3

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I am running as an incumbent after being appointed to the seat in November 2018. I must win the election to keep my seat. I ran for the appointment because I was disappointed in our councilmember who resigned amid scandal after serving eight months of a four-year term. I feel strongly that our elected leaders should be role models in our community. They must also work to represent the interests of the whole city, not just the interests of outspoken groups. For too long, Shawnee politics has been acrimonious and divisive. That’s not who we are in Shawnee. From day one, I have worked with council members, community leaders and citizens across the spectrum to solve problems and improve our lives and our neighborhoods. I first moved with my parents to western Shawnee 20 years ago when they bought a new home in Hillcrest Farm. I moved to St. Louis for law school and the start of my career, but as my husband Nick and I talked about starting a family, we were drawn back to Kansas City. I was fortunate to be hired as an attorney at a local non-profit hospital and we now have a five year old son named Lucas. I received my bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Knox College. I earned my law degree and master’s in Healthcare Administration from Saint Louis University and hold certifications in Healthcare Compliance and Risk Management.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

We must increase our commercial tax base. The city is able to provide an incredible amount of infrastructure and services for the tax dollars we pay. We have always done more with less. Unfortunately, it does not always feel like residents are getting a “good deal” because we are a large city with a small commercial tax base. Currently about 25% of the city’s revenue comes from commercial taxes compared to 40% or more in other large Johnson County cities. Our homeowners have a disproportionate burden that will become more obvious in the coming years as we face major expenses related to failing infrastructure.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

First and foremost, we need to market Shawnee as a viable and appealing option for new and relocating businesses. Second, we must evaluate our internal practices to determine whether there are things within our control that keep businesses from wanting to work with our city. Third, we should evaluate and refine our available incentives and consider the parameters for use of each incentive.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a moderate extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

There are several steps we can take as a city to address the lack of affordable housing: 

  1. Take advantage of the state’s private activity bond authority. Through this program, the city can issue tax-exempt bonds to reduce the financing costs to the program users. 
  2. Neighborhood revitalization – If we can encourage renovation of spaces that are underutilized or abandoned, we can prevent developers from building housing that is not affordable for long-term residents. The City of Shawnee has a neighborhood revitalization tax rebate program in place. This program is available to certain areas of the city, and the monetary incentives are small. The Housing Trust Fund could be a good resource to further supplement costs of revitalization.
  3. Relax zoning and development rules – If the city determined that the lack of affordable housing was due to lack of available units, the city’s zoning rules should be reviewed. Zoning regulations often block or increase the costs to build multi-family units. Some rules to review would include density and height restrictions, as well as parking space requirements.
  4. I am encouraged by other cities who have partnered with large tech businesses who have a commitment to affordable housing in their area. I have not seen examples of this in Kansas, but public-private partnerships are often a great way to fulfill a public need.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

I am committed to keeping Shawnee welcoming, inclusive and accessible. We cannot be accessible when we do not have enough affordable housing. According to United Community Services of Johnson County, police officers, fire fighters, social workers, and elementary school teachers cannot afford to live in our city. The presence of these individuals enhances our community. I believe that we have a need for more affordable housing in our area so these hard workers have the opportunity to live here if they choose. This is not the only issue the city faces. Our significant infrastructure needs and increasing our proportion of commercial revenue will take substantial time and effort. But, as residential development and revitalization opportunities come up, I will continue to ask questions about the availability of affordable housing.

Kevin Straub, candidate for Shawnee City Council, Ward 3

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I want to do what is best for the citizens of Shawnee, keeping taxes low and the city safe. I want to help keep Shawnee great and safe. I believe many of the current council members are ok with increasing taxes on the citizens.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

The City of Shawnee is spending more money than ever. Since 2000 our population increased by 38% and our tax revenue has increased by 194% We need to do an analysis to see where the money is going and where we could reduce spending.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

I would hire an outside accounting/auditing firm to analyze where is the money going.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County has enough affordable housing for most people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To a small extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

I have been working to get more affordable housing for seniors for the past 18 years. Being a part of Developing Town & Country Villas and now with The Greens of Chapel Creek Townhomes.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

It has been high on my list for many years. I also believe stormwater issues in Shawnee is also a high priority.

Shawnee City Council, Ward 4 

Jill Chalfie, candidate for Shawnee City Council, Ward 4

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I am a first-time candidate running because I have a tremendous amount of passion for building strong communities and I want to see Shawnee continue on a positive path forward. I want Shawnee to be a great place for current residents AND a place that my own children would consider raising their own families in someday.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

One of the most important issues to me is continued growth and development. Attracting both residential and commercial development can help diversify tax revenue and put less burden on homeowners, provide residents with more options to shop, dine, and recreate locally, and attract new residents. There seems to be a competing vision between those who want Shawnee to be a bedroom community and those who want more development, and I firmly believe we can preserve the small-town aspects that many residents love while fostering economic development.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

I would like to get involved with the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council. I have also put an emphasis on engaging more citizens and getting more voices heard, which is important because city leaders need to know what types of development are desired by residents. I will communicate with residents through social media, newsletters, HOA meetings, etc. and aim to connect with as many constituents as possible while ultimately making the decisions that I feel are in the best interest of Shawnee as a whole.

As a candidate, I believe that …

Johnson County lacks affordable housing for too many people who want to live here.

To what extent do you see a lack of affordable housing creating problems in your community?

To some extent

What, if anything, would you do about a lack of affordable housing in your community?

In considering any new residential development, whether multi-family or single-family, it is important to use available data from organizations like United Community Services and the Mid-America Regional Council to help drive decisions on the type and location of the proposed project. Using these available resources can help make decisions based on data and trends rather than “feelings” or what a small but vocal group of residents do or do not desire.

How would you prioritize this issue in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

Growth and development in Shawnee is a top three priority for me, and continuing to expand affordable housing options is part of that bigger goal. While commercial development is important for diversifying our city’s property taxes, attracting new businesses can attract new residents and vice versa. Affordable housing can also be a catalyst to bringing businesses who are looking for a built-in workforce already in place.

The Journal has yet to receive responses Shawnee City Council, Ward 4 candidate Kris Durbin.

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