Roeland Park council candidates on the issues: The future of the anti-discrimination ordinance

Sandra Meade, chair of Equality Kansas, made the case for Roeland Park's anti-discrimination ordinance at a meeting last March.
Sandra Meade, chair of Equality Kansas, made the case for Roeland Park’s anti-discrimination ordinance at a meeting last March.

Today we begin running responses to the questionnaire we developed with reader input for the candidates running for Roeland Park City Council. The first questionnaire item is:

Last year the city council passed an anti-discrimination ordinance that added protection for sexual orientation and gender identity. If an effort is made to repeal those protections, would you vote to repeal or to keep the protections in place? Please explain the reason for your vote.

Ward 2 Candidates

Tim_Janssen_HeadTim Janssen

This was a terribly divisive issue for Roeland Park. As a resident it makes me proud and frankly not surprised that there has not been a single case of discrimination reported before or after the ordinance passed. With that said I think the City spent enough time last year on this issue and it’s time to focus on other issues. I would not encourage the Council to bring this issue forth again. My wife and I enjoy this diverse community and that’s why we choose to raise our family here.

Blake_MorganBlake Morgan, Jr.

As a chronic bachelor I can tell you from first hand experience that sometimes it is difficult to find love in this world. I respect love, and if you can find it and make it last, then I wish the best for you. I may not always understand why people fall in love with the people they find, but if they really love each other then I’m cool with that. I think all people, truly in love, should deserve the same rights that that commitment of love entails, which is in the past was given to some, but not all, people in love. I’ve read the Beatitudes more times than I can remember, and all I got out of it was that if I’m going to err in this world, I should err on the side of love. I’m going to choose love over hate every time.

That said, there is also the practical matter that the court system is enforcing gender-based non-discrimination whether or not it is a part of an organization’s policy. Having a policy of non-discrimination heads off the possibility of having a discrimination lawsuit at some future time. A lawsuit the City shouldn’t have to afford. It is sound public policy on the right side of history.

Ward 3 Candidates

Linda_Mau15Linda Mau

This question is hard for me to answer because it asks me to assume that the issue will be brought up again when I am elected to the council. As far as I am aware, this will not happen. If it were to happen, I would listen to what my constituents want not vocal groups from outside of Roeland Park. As a person of color, I have experienced firsthand what discrimination is and am very much against it. I believe this is something that should be handled at a state and federal level. I said this when I offered to march on the State Capitol with Sandra Meade (the head of Equality Kansas and one of the outside driving forces for this ordinance) I am still waiting for that call.

Erin_Thompson+HeadErin Thompson

I would vote to keep the protections in place. I was raised to believe that everybody should be treated equally. When you see someone is treated unfairly you fight to make sure they too have equality. As a lawyer who regularly practices constitutional law, I can tell you that the ordinance does not create a special class or give the LGBT community special treatment. Rather it merely places them on equal footing.

Furthermore, polls shows that close to 70 percent of those under the age of 35 support gay rights and nearly 70 percent of those with a college degree do. Roeland Park is the only city in Johnson County with such an anti-discrimination ordinance. The ordinance is a way for Roeland Park to distinguish itself and attract young successful residents. So not only is it the right thing to do, it makes economic sense for Roeland Park as well.

Ward 4 Candidates

Poppa15Michael Poppa

In addition to sexual orientation and gender identity, the Council enacted protections against discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex, disability, familial status, national origin, ancestry, and military status. The largest taxpayer in Roeland Park, Walmart, provides these protections to its employees, and is publicly opposed to efforts in other states to roll them back.

Ninety percent of the 500 largest US companies – responsible for creating 25 million jobs – prohibit discrimination against their LGBT employees.

Walmart has announced it will be leaving Roeland Park, taking with it jobs and tax revenue. Our city’s future demands that we attract new business to fill that void. I will oppose every effort to take down our “welcome” sign, which could cripple our ability to provide services to Roeland Parkers.

Joanna_Rush_15JoAnna Rush

Discrimination is wrong. No person should be discriminated against for any reason. We should work together to remove labels and stereotypes. The best way to do this is by engaging with each other. Mutual respect is formed when people connect. When we are able to see the face of our neighbor and hear their story, our hearts and minds are touched and changed.

This ordinance has been very divisive and has kept the Council from focusing on foundational economic issues. Ensuring a vibrant retail ecosystem will attract and retain homeowners, provide revenue to maintain city services, and reduce property taxes. This should be the focus of the Council going forward.

Our city needs experienced leadership with a common sense approach. My background as a corporate real estate attorney gives me the credibility to work with developers and businesses. I have negotiated the terms of leases and other agreements with commercial developers, landlords and tenants. I understand budgets, work well with others and bring a fresh perspective.

I’d be honored to serve as your representative. I am a grounded, loving and hardworking person. Everyone is important in our diverse community. I respect the voice of every person. I will proudly represent everyone in Ward 4.

Tomorrow, the candidates will respond to item two:

A citizens group has been raising money for improvements at R Park. Concerns also have been raised about the condition of Nall Park. What do you see as the city’s appropriate commitment to these and other park lands? What steps should the city be taking now?