We continue with the County Commission candidates’ responses to our reader questionnaire. Today, we take a look at keep JoCo attractive to residents young and old(er):
Outside of support for public education, what policies do you think the county should be pursuing to keep Johnson County attractive for young families while meeting the needs of an increasing number of senior citizens?
Ed Eilert, Commission Chair incumbent
There are basic responsibilities that must be provided for our county. Safe streets and neighborhoods, emergency medical services (Med-Act) and fire services are essential to each communities safety. Our libraries and parks and recreation programs are essential amenities that will attract young families as well as provide activities for our older populations. County government needs to continue a supporting role to our cities in their economic and jobs development efforts. The County Assisted Road Program, storm water management efforts and the county wastewater system are all critical programs which support the job creation activity of our cities and also are important in helping to maintain our existing neighborhoods. Special transportation services and minor home repair programs are examples of county supported programs aimed at assisting seniors to continue to live in their homes. The Area Agency on Aging (volunteer board) does excellent work in advocating for senior needs. As Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, my efforts will continue to be focused on building a community of opportunity and maintaining Johnson County as a great place to live, work and raise a family.
Young families and senior citizens here for the most part have one common denominator that binds them and that is the affordability factor to be able to live in Johnson County.
Keeping property taxes low while maintaining effective government services and meeting the needs for public improvements is the kind of fiscal accountability that needs to be applied.
For instance, the county needs to continue to explore providing a more cost effective way to have a transportation system that works for as many residents as possible in particular to address the needs by our senior citizens.
Additionally, public safety, which is a high priority for everyone in Johnson County, needs to be properly funded. It is the Board’s responsibility to ensure that the sheriff’s department can execute its duties to maintain the high degree of safety we all enjoy in Johnson County.
Finally, while not charged with supporting public education, Johnson County should look for ways to share resources with the school districts so as to assist in maintaining the quality of our schools.
Laura McConwell, District 1 Commissioner candidate
As your County Commissioner, I will pursue a long range plan focusing on these top three priorities: 1) public safety, 2) maintenance of our amenities and infrastructure, and 3) economic redevelopment. Attraction of young families does not have to happen at the expense of our senior citizens. Focusing on these basics helps our seniors as well.
Young families today move to Johnson County for the same reason my grandparents did in the 1930’s. There were safe neighborhoods and good schools, and they created good jobs. Our seniors are the young families who built this County. They recognized the importance of parks, libraries, museum and theater. They grew businesses that provided jobs and encouraged new people to move here.
Our Sheriff, police, fire and Med-Act have been adjusting to the changing world. They work to ensure that emergencies in Johnson County have the best possible outcome. As our County becomes more urban, they collaborate not only to protect our homes and businesses but also as part of Homeland Security to protect us from more global dangers.
Young families and seniors appreciate and regularly use parks and libraries. Many also use our transportation system. Making our communities accessible to all helps to keep our community vibrant. Communities who have people out using sidewalks, parks, libraries are safer and more energized. Failure to maintain infrastructure and community assets creates unfunded liabilities for our children and grandchildren.
While the County has not traditionally participated in redevelopment (replacing worn out, antiquated or life limited structures), it should look for more ways to support cities’ efforts because redevelopment creates jobs. Jobs bring more families.
Ron Shaffer, District 1 Commissioner candidate
New residents across the age spectrum continue to be drawn to Johnson County by the quality of life provided by excellent schools, safe and attractive neighborhoods, and public amenities like libraries and parks. During my 16 years as Mayor of Prairie Village, a first tier suburb, we have won national and regional attention for quality of life and public safety. Public Safety is the number one concern in all city and county surveys. As an entrepreneur and architect, I’ve seen how affordable, sustainable housing and safe walk-able neighborhoods revitalize communities.
Our cultural amenities such as parks, libraries, museums and the arts attract people to Johnson County. We need to open up dormant park land, increase library services and continue to provide cultural opportunities. To keep our communities attractive, infrastructure improvements must be addressed through continued partnership between the County and our cities through the County Assistance Road System program (CARS) and the Stormwater Management Advisory Council (SMAC). These amenities, programs and cultural opportunities for all socio-economic levels and age groups make our community, a “Community of Choice”.
We must be mindful of growing poverty in Johnson County which touches all segments of our community. It affects families with small children, those with mental health disabilities, developmental disabilities, vulnerable populations and seniors. County services provide help and resources to these vulnerable populations. Johnson County Parks and Recreation District (JCPRD) is the largest provider of quality after-school / day care and also provides 50-plus programming for our seniors. Creating new jobs by attracting new businesses and providing transportation alternatives will help families in crisis navigate their way out of poverty and into future success. Building community partnerships with not-for-profit organizations, churches and private providers will provide a comprehensive network of resources.