We continue today with our questions for candidates for public office from shawneemissionpost.com readers. Today we feature the responses to the third question from candidates for Mission City Council. Today’s question is:
The Johnson Drive rebuild has attracted some new businesses. What is the next step the city needs to take to strengthen the business community? What about the residential community?
During the renovation of Johnson Drive between Lamar and Nall, the businesses in Mission were challenged. Poor access, rerouted traffic, and the mess caused by construction, all were stressors on our businesses. Now we are seeing businesses and building owners revitalize their property. Bearde’ Salon has redone their space giving it a fresh feel. The old Taco Bell building has been given a face lift and now houses Starbucks. The old Apollo Hair Systems building has been remodeled and is awaiting a new tenant. Additionally, the old Plymouth dealership has been redeveloped into Natural Grocers, Pot Belly, Pie Five, Five Guys and PepperJax. I believe we have a great start and need to work with business and property owners to continue this clean up and remodeling effort throughout the Johnson Drive business district. The vision for the development of Mission was to encourage a walking retail experience. To achieve that vision, we need to bring pedestrian traffic to Mission. One step to increase our pedestrian traffic was the establishment of the Mission Market last year. The Market is off to a good start, and we need to continue to promote it and encourage its growth. Events such as the Shop Local Campaign, Trunk or Treat, or our annual BBQ event are things the City can do to act as a catalyst to establish retail traffic. I would like to see the formal development of an organization I call the Mission Retailers Association. This would be an association of business and commercial property owners which the city could work with to promote business in Mission. I would like to see this association work with the city to come up with an annual signature event. An example could be the “Annual Mission Fun Run”, which would be an annual 5k run/walk charitable event for Disabled Veterans. Maybe it’s an event that rotates charitable organizations each year, the point being that it serves the metro community from a charitable aspect and serves to increase the visibility of retail in our city. In addition to marketing type programs, we also could designate Neighborhood Revitalization Districts (NRD) both in our business and residential areas. This program basically would allow owners to make improvements to their building or dwelling, and receive a rebate of property tax dollars on those improvements for up to 10 years. Another program that exists is the Business Improvement Grant (BIG). This program funds ½ of the improvement costs to a commercial building, up to $10,000. The improvements could be exterior or energy efficiency improvements in nature. I think working with business in the city to develop opportunities for success in our city will generate goodwill for all and help us obtain the vision the city strives to meet.
Many of the steps that the city should take to strengthen both the business community and the residential community overlap with each other and I’ll start there. The most important things that we need to do is to ensure that we provide safety and accessibility for the residents, business patrons and people who work in Mission. It’s critical to make sure that we pass a road maintenance plan to ensure that our streets will be taken care of. This includes looking at plans to improve the city sidewalks and curbs to make the city more accessible and walkable. The city also needs to ensure that we have adequate police protection to ensure the safety of the community, and that city services that are provided are of the highest quality possible.
As for businesses specifically, we need to make sure that we don’t price people out of doing business in Mission. Our sales tax rate is already the highest of the surrounding communities and increasing it any further may be detrimental to both our existing businesses and potential future businesses that may want to move to Mission. The city should also make a stronger attempt to engage the local business community and listen to their ideas on how we can ensure that Mission remains a desirable place to be.
Although neither of us are from Mission, my wife and I decided to buy our first home here. Sure the location is great, but on top of that we love the character of Mission, the livability and the value it provides its residents. Programs like the Mission Farm and Flower Market also go a long way to bolster the community. There are some other low cost amenities, like an off-leash dog park that could bring a lot of enjoyment to the residents of Mission and surrounding communities.
By providing the essential services that the city should be responsible for, exploring the expansion of some amenities and preserving the characteristics that we all love about Mission we will continue to strengthen Mission and make it more appealing to both the residential and business communities.
Successful developments on both the east and west side of Mission will increase traffic through the Johnson Drive corridor increasing opportunities for people to stop, shop and eat. Increased traffic increases business. Increased business increases revenues leading to more money for streets, sidewalks, trails, recreation and deceased tax burden on residents for infrastructure.
Promote the Mission Business Improvement Grant (BIG). This grant supports local businesses through funding for exterior building repairs or improvements as well qualified energy efficiency improvements.
Expand the farmer’s market to include a semi permanent structure. In addition to the farmer’s market, this structure could be used for other community based events that bring people downtown such as bands, festivals and the Art Walk. This would be good for both the residential community as well as the business community.
Mission is fortunate to have many businesses here that are non-retail but have a lot of employees that shop in Mission. I would like the Mission Magazine to profile these businesses. In addition to promoting these businesses, the community would realize a greater appreciation of the important contributions these businesses and their employees make to our city. This may lead to private industry sponsorships that would benefit the community.
We have many homeowners that are on a fixed income that could use assistance in maintaining their property. Mission has an outstanding program called Mission Possible that provides for these services. I would like to see this program more heavily promoted. This will help to eliminate code violations as will as maintain property values.
The revitalization of Johnson Drive has been successful and has tremendously improved its appearance as well as its structural foundation. Now it is time to make improvements to other parts of Johnson Drive that will help our businesses. We need to turn our attention to improved signage and enforcing our current codes related to existing signage. Also, we have an opportunity to support the businesses by improving the parking availability for their customers. A committee has been established and is currently studying the parking situation. There are a number of vacant lots around Johnson Drive that could be utilized for a much better purpose.
The key to a healthy and vital residential neighborhood relates to codes enforcement and strong homeowners associations. We all have a vested interest in maintaining our property values and the best way to accomplish that is to have strong codes and consistent enforcement. Homeowners Associations help a neighborhood establish its identity and complements the code enforcement of Mission.
Ward 1 council candidate Pat Quinn, who is unopposed, did not submit a response to the question.
Tomorrow’s question: The Transportation Utility Fee (TUF), sometimes known as the driveway tax, was dropped in the city’s 2016 budget and the revenue replaced with a property tax increase. The TUF is tied up in the courts. If it is found to be legal, would you be in favor of bringing it back or do you favor using property tax and/or sales tax to support street work? Should the city debt-finance the needed street work?