Westwood city council candidates on the issues: A vision for the decade

Westwood will be looking to solidify a community master plan in the coming months.

Today we pose the fourth question of the week to the candidates for city council in Westwood. Four candidates are running for two at-large seats. Today’s question is:

Describe your vision for Westwood over the next decade and the steps to realize that vision.

David Waters
David Waters

David Waters
Westwood is already recognized as one of the metropolitan area’s premier cities in which to live and do business. In the next ten years, my vision would be to help Westwood become even more of an independent, yet collaborative, and progressive city.

Westwood is independent and stands apart by virtue of our unique neighborhoods and homes, which are unlike any in Johnson County. I will continue to support our strong single-family neighborhoods. Westwood’s independence will also come from its stability. I would ensure that we maintain and enhance our professional police department and that we provide reliable and efficient public services. By continuing to invest in our commercial corridors, Westwood will also become more self-sufficient. A broad tax base (property and retail sales) will allow Westwood to grow independently of what may happen in one particular sector of the economy, or what may be imposed by our state government in Topeka.

Westwood also has the opportunity for greater collaboration, both within the City and without. Westwood has so many engaged citizens that are willing to dedicate themselves to our city, our school, and our other important community projects. The City Council must recognize and appreciate their efforts. The City must also continue to collaborate with the business community. I am privileged to serve as a member of the Board of Directors for the Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce. I am proud that Westwood now supports the Chamber, and that our businesses know we value their contributions to our city. We must also share our vision and collaborate with our neighbors in Roeland Park, Kansas City (Kansas and Missouri), Fairway, Westwood Hills, and Mission Woods, to bring vibrant development and renewed energy to our shared borders.

I envision a progressive, creative, and optimistic Westwood. These have always been attributes of our City’s residents, from those that had the foresight to build and improve our first schools and later establish the WWV Educational Enhancement Fund and the separate Westwood Foundation, to those now developing our new comprehensive plan. Being progressive means being looking for new and creative ways of solving our problems, and being open to new opportunities. I support modern green initiatives, such as improving our parks and pedestrian and bicycle connections. I would encourage development of housing options that are attractive to both our future residents and, yes, to our older residents that desire and deserve to stay in our community. Most importantly, I will see that Westwood View has the tools and resources it needs to provide the quality modern education our children deserve.

Please join me in helping Westwood achieve this vision! I would appreciate your vote on April 5.

Margaret Bowen
Margaret Bowen

Margaret Bowen
Westwood View, possibly rebuilt on the Entercom site, would be going strong and boast high enrollment numbers. Some new, high-end, single family homes would have been built, perhaps on the former Westwood View parcel. This would boost our housing stock—as well as enrollment at Westwood View.

I’d like our charm, single-family-home character, and green space to endure. Joe Dennis Park would be refurbished with some new trees and shrubs, a repaired fountain, ADA-compliant walkways, and perhaps a reconfigured layout complete with updated playground equipment. Our wonderful annual events, such as the Easter Egg Hunt and Movies in the Park, would flourish at an updated Joe Dennis Park. Our town would continue to be pedestrian friendly, with many runners, bicyclists, and children enjoying the peaceful atmosphere.

What to do with the church? I like many of the ideas I’ve heard, such as expand the park into the church parcel, turn the church into a community recreation center, or push for Johnson County to create a new library branch. These ideas would require solid public support, a strong city vision, and close partnering and negotiation with Johnson County Park & Recreation or the Johnson County Library. I think it would be wise to hold on to the church property until we have reached a community consensus.

Lastly, I would like Westwood to remain what it is: a friendly, safe, little jewel of a town.

Jeff Harris
Jeff Harris

Jeff Harris
This week I have given you ideas and thoughts about the next few years and the term I would serve for you as a city council member. I am happy to see this question so I can share I am also very excited about Westwood’s longer future.

My vision of Westwood is of a little, quiet city tucked in a corner of Johnson County. On one side, Kansas City Missouri: urban, on the rise, and reclaiming its name as a great American city. On the other, Kansas: our neighboring cities, the farther county suburbs, and then the great expanse of the plains. A respected school sits near our center. Well-kept and sought after homes, both vintage and newly constructed, layer around it. On our edges: commerce, retail, and development. We enjoy good lives here because we are connected, we are safe, and we have charted the course of our city.

I choose these images on purpose: our city will continue to be set between the charm and quiet of open spaces we want to retain, and the diversity and modernity of the city we cannot ignore.

I know this is an ideal – and not easily achieved – but I would rather see further out than too short.

To get there, we will have to define our collective vision by completing the Master Plan.  Then we will have to use the plan as a framework to influence or make decisions about the known opportunities I discussed earlier this week. We will surely come upon opportunities we don’t realize exist. We will have to find new and better ways to invest in our homes and neighborhoods. Along the way we will have to communicate better, restore trust, build relationships with our new neighbors, and support Westwood View, however it evolves.

I realized within just a few weeks of moving to Westwood four years ago that I wanted to stay for many years to come. I hope you do, too.

Jayme Tebow
Jayme Tebow

Jayme Tebow
I believe government officials are servants and representatives of the people and should be held to a high standard.  I envision a return to the days when residents were allowed to ask questions of their representatives–mayor and city council–without being intimidated or being told they are negative.  Asking a question or challenging a proposal is not negative, it is simply a part of the process for improving the outcome.  True leaders should encourage residents’ ideas and concerns.  My vision for Westwood is that our city remain a residential community where all residents feel welcome to participate in their city government and where all residents have a voice in the future of their city.

Although I am thrilled about the possibility of a new grade school, how can we incorporate such a relatively large-scale development into the center of our city if we don’t focus on the supporting infrastructure?  Homes next to the new grade school will be directly affected by any new construction and we absolutely must protect those residents’ property values and quality of life.  In a small town like Westwood, there should be no more casualties of development as we have experienced with the Woodside Village construction.

Our cost expenditure priorities certainly need to be re-evaluated.  The mayor said at the candidate’s forum that the city can’t afford extra mailings to inform residents of public meetings.  Many of our residents are not electronically connected and we must communicate with them.  Our budget priorities seem misplaced.  For example, we were told at the same forum that the city can’t afford development renderings.  Why would we ever pay for renderings?  Developers should pay for renderings with their proposals at their own expense, not at city expense.  That money should be directed towards our top priority which is city services.  We need to allocate funds for the maintenance of Joe Dennis Park, the city hall building, our residential streets and other infrastructure first.

With all of the challenges before us, I don’t want to forget about the foundation that brought residents to Westwood over 50 years ago.  Let’s protect our future and at the same time preserve our family-friendly past!

Tomorrow’s question: Besides projects already in progress, where is the next opportunity for Westwood to enhance its business community?

Monday’s question: Drawing families for Westwood View
Tuesday’s question: Leading the growth in Westwood
Wednesday’s question: Providing constituent services