Westwood mayor fears divided national politics may be fostering distrust at local level

Westwood Mayor John Yé.
Westwood Mayor John Yé.

Westwood Mayor John Yé on Wednesday sent a message to residents hoping to quell rumors about the process surrounding the consideration of a new comprehensive plan that will address zoning for future developments in the small northeast Johnson County city, and lamenting the distrust he believes has spilled down from national politics to the local level.

Announcing a public hearing on the comprehensive plan set for March 6, Yé stressed that everyone in the city was welcome to attend and that the city council and planning commission are working to be as transparent as possible about the process, which began in earnest nearly a year and a half ago.

A group of Westwood residents have organized an effort to oppose the possible incorporation of medium-density housing as part of the master plan, suggesting it would be detrimental to the character of the surrounding neighborhoods. In the message, Yé said he had been disheartened by feedback he and other city officials have received about the comprehensive planning process:

There is a persistent suggestion by a minority of residents that there is something deceptive going on. Even today, unless I engage in social media fodder, I have been accused of a “lack of transparency”. Nothing could be further from the truth. The public has been involved in the planning process the entire time. No less than 12 public meetings during the 2016 year were held regarding Comprehensive Planning. I have personally addressed rumors on the street regarding plans for re-zoning, use of eminent domain, new apartment projects, the City buying homes for re-development purposes, etc. None of these rumors are true or have even been discussed. I again urge every resident of Westwood to contact City Hall or your elected officials for facts. Do not become part of a rumor mill using innuendo and fear. I realize that the heightened distrust in our nation toward elected officials has escalated with the recent Presidential election, but we need to keep a balanced approach regarding local leaders. All of us are here to serve, and none have a hidden agenda. Westwood is our home, all of our homes.

Yé’s full message is copied after the jump.

Friends & Neighbors;

On Tuesday, February 14th, the City published notice in the Legal Record for the public hearing regarding the Comprehensive Plan. All are welcomed to attend. That meeting is scheduled to be held at the March 6th Planning Commission (PC) meeting. There were concerns expressed last Thursday at the Council Meeting by a council member that the PC members were not aware of this next step. They also expressed concerns that the process may be rushed.

The Mayor nor the City Council instructs the PC to either speed up or slow down the process. It is the PC’s duty to go through a process which will result in a recommendation to the Council. Therefore the Council does not have the ability to force the PC to either schedule or delay a hearing. Quite simply, it is up to the PC Chairman to set the agenda. I reached out to all nine members of the PC and reached seven. ALL seven including the Chair and Vice Chair agreed that the City should proceed with the public hearing at the March 6th PC meeting. Staff will complete the edits and publish a draft by the end of this week for everyone to see.

There is a persistent suggestion by a minority of residents that there is something deceptive going on. Even today, unless I engage in social media fodder, I have been accused of a “lack of transparency”. Nothing could be further from the truth. The public has been involved in the planning process the entire time. No less than 12 public meetings during the 2016 year were held regarding Comprehensive Planning. I have personally addressed rumors on the street regarding plans for re-zoning, use of eminent domain, new apartment projects, the City buying homes for re-development purposes, etc. None of these rumors are true or have even been discussed. I again urge every resident of Westwood to contact City Hall or your elected officials for facts. Do not become part of a rumor mill using innuendo and fear. I realize that the heightened distrust in our nation toward elected officials has escalated with the recent Presidential election, but we need to keep a balanced approach regarding local leaders. All of us are here to serve, and none have a hidden agenda. Westwood is our home, all of our homes.

There have been postings on social media regarding the planning process, with requests that the City also use this forum as the venue best suited for “communications”. If there is one thing we can learn from observing the national campaign process, it’s that social media is definitely not an appropriate forum to form relationships or foster clear communications. It is a great tool to share information, stir emotions, create dissent, and unite groups and voice opinions. So, going forward we will continue to expand our use of social media (Email, Twitter, Facebook, Nextdoor, etc.), however it will NOT serve as the hub for formal City communications. As we do our best in employing the web, we ask that everyone pass this message onto their neighbors and redirect them to City Hall:

For information regarding formal meetings, schedule changes, announcements, and City information, please consult the City website (www.westwoodks.org) or contact City Hall (913-362-1550) or reach out to any one of your Council Members or the Mayor.

Should you have any questions or want more details, please contact me directly at westwoodmayor@sbcglobal.net