Prairie Village Mayoral candidates on the issues: Are non-discrimination ordinances in the purview of city government?

Jay Senter - October 16, 2018 9:47 am
Dozens of attendees at Monday’s city council meeting wore buttons reading “Equality is a Village value.”

With Election Day fast approaching, we’re working to ensure Shawnee Mission area residents understand where the candidates stand on the issues facing our communities.

Today we continue with the Prairie Village Mayoral candidates’ responses to our candidate questionnaire, which we developed based on input readers sent in.

Here’s item number two:

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Recently, the governing body considered a resolution that would have affirmed Prairie Village’s opposition to discrimination against women. The council will also be considering an ordinance that would grant legal protections to LGBTQ individuals in the city. Do you believe such proposals are within the purview of city government? Are they a valuable use of staff’s time? Do you support these protection measures in Prairie Village? Why or why not?

Serena Schermoly

Every resident deserves the right to live free from discrimination, of any kind. Period. We asked our City Staff to draft such a proposal when Council was not supportive of female-only perspective of the UN CEDAW proposal. Our thought at the time was that this was a resolution supporting protections for women and girls and glaringly left some of our other citizens out. We requested that City Staff develop a fully inclusive resolution that would reflect the views of the Council that we protect the rights of all Prairie Village residents, regardless of sex, race, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, political party or any other class deserving this protection.

We need time for our City staff and City Attorney to completely look at this ordinance.

This proposal needs to be vetted and may require changes to protect the city from litigation and damages resulting from business or residents citing religious protections. The Supreme Court has ruled on these and this NDO puts us in a position to be liable.

I am concerned about Enforcement.

Potentially this proposed ordinance could give false hope of Protection to victims. A gay couple who comes to City Hall to make a claim. How are we going to investigate these claims? Were they not allowed to rent the house because they were gay, or any other potential reason?

What if I’m one of only three employees and I’m fired for being transgendered? That wouldn’t violate this ordinance. This says we support non-discrimination, but we won’t enforce these in ALL cases.

We need to look at the cost. Currently, without any council approval to look at this proposed ordinance we have already spent over $9,000 in attorney fees. This is your money, and the wrong way introduce a NDO. We have a duty to provide notice to all stakeholders, businesses and our residents, and this is appearing to Council while it has never been discussed in committee.

No one, of any class, should be discriminated against. We don’t support that in our village. We need to state our commitment to these values, but we need to be clear on intent and our ability to enforce it. If by protecting some residents, we violate the rights of others, we have not been effective for our residents.

This NDO is both too much and too little to be effective. Every resident deserves human rights, without exception. Without loopholes. Without laborious processes that result in minimal results. We need to demonstrate our commitment to our residents, not pay lip service.

What’s important is what matters to you. Please vote for Serena Schermoly for Mayor on November 6. Visit www.serenaschermoly.org for more information.

Eric Mikkelson

Yes, such proposals are within the purview of city government. Harmful discrimination in employment and other areas against persons merely because of their gender or sexual orientation should be discouraged. When individuals and businesses using our public City resources, streets, and police engage in such discrimination in Prairie Village, the City has a right and obligation to intervene. Since there is currently no clear state or federal legal remedy for such discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, the case for a local NDO becomes more compelling.

I agree with the NEJC Chamber of Commerce that an NDO would be good for business. It will help Prairie Village businesses attract workers and customers from all walks of life. As the Chamber states in its letter of support for a Prairie Village NDO, “inclusion and diversity are the backbone of doing good business and are proven to stimulate the economy, create positive impressions, and position businesses and communities for greater attraction, expansion and retention of jobs and investment.”

I have been pleased to see so many local faith leaders stepping up in support of the proposed NDO, from a variety of faiths. They share my belief that while Prairie Village is a great City full of generous, compassionate, fair residents, we are not immune to such discrimination here. Fortunately we are not inventing the wheel with this NDO because other Kansas cities, including some of our neighbors, have had similar ordinances in place for years without significant problems or costs.

The exact form an NDO takes in Prairie Village should be tailored to our city and mindful of what has already been working well in other cities. Input from our residents, CIty Council, staff and businesses should be invited and considered carefully in crafting the best form of NDO for our community.

But it is important that we get this done.

For engaged, effective, educated, experienced leadership for Prairie Village, please vote for me, Eric Mikkelson, on November 6. If you can do more to help ensure Prairie Village’s successful future, please visit www.mikkelsonforpv.com to find out how. Thanks!

Tomorrow, we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to our third question:

Property values in Prairie Village have risen sharply the past few years — but the city’s property tax rate has stayed the same, as have the rates of several other taxing entities. Should the city be taking any steps to address property tax burden on homeowners? Or should it be investing the additional tax revenue its receiving in city projects?

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