Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for local office address ahead of the August primary. Based on the (ample) input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for candidates running for city council in Merriam.
Today we share the candidates’ responses to question number four:
What’s the biggest challenge facing the city of Merriam today, and how would you hope to address it as a member of the city council?
City Council Ward 4
In my mind there aren’t a lot of large issues facing Merriam today – and that’s what makes it a great city to live in! One of the biggest things I see is that many people in the city feel like their voices aren’t heard or that their opinions aren’t important enough. I would hope to address this as a member of council by trying keep processes as transparent as possible and updating the public through a bi-weekly newsletter after council meetings. In keeping processes transparent, I would also hope to employ some sort of a streaming or recording of regular council meetings and try to provide child care for public meetings to make them as accessible as possible to every resident.
A city hall culture that has no regard for the wishes of the public. Many council members believe they know what is better for the residents than the residents do themselves. This was evident the way the city council handled the community center design, trash can storage, occupational permits, sidewalks in West Vernon Place and many other issues. The solution is simple – Listen to the residents and represent them. Continue to gather feedback from the newsletter I publish called “What’s Happening in Merriam City Hall’, now in its fourth year.
Bob Pape (incumbent)
Although Merriam is facing numerous challenges, I will focus on the single biggest challenge that we face as a City and Community. Merriam is a landlocked 4.3 square mile city. As such, we must always be mindful that we cannot count on additional revenue being generated by new subdivisions being built or new business buying up land to bring their companies here. We need to recognize that any remaining vacant land must be utilized in a way that has maximum value. We need to look at our vacant buildings such as the K-Mart building and find ways to attract business that will have a high impact on our economy. We are currently facing a 5% reduction in sales tax revenue generation in 2019. Considering that we receive 53% of our revenue from sales tax, this is a huge concern. Every year, inflation requires us to generate more revenue just to continue providing the services that we have become accustomed too. If that trend continues, we will either be forced to cut services or raise property taxes. We have many senior citizens in our community who are living on fixed incomes. We cannot raise their property taxes to alleviate the shortfall. These individuals may be forced from their homes because they can no longer pay for food, medicine, utilities and taxes. These individuals should be afforded the opportunity to age in place. As such, my goal is to focus on attracting new business and not raising property tax. I am willing to look at the creation of a Tax Increment Financing district for the K-Mart site and the land located along Shawnee Mission Parkway. The re-location of the Antioch library onto our new Community Center property will assist in this endeavor. We currently do not receive any revenue on the County owned library property. However, this location will become very valuable after the re-location of the library onto our site. I will make it a priority to re-develop the Shawnee Mission Parkway corridor into revenue producing properties. This will help to stymie the current downward trend of our sales tax.
City Council Ward 1
Jason Silvers (incumbent)
I think the city of Merriam’s biggest challenge right now is locating and incentivizing a grocery store to move into our city. Currently, Merriam is a food desert which is an unnecessary stress point on our residents.
Did not respond
Did not respond.
Did not respond.
Tomorrow we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to item number five:
The Metro KC Climate Action Coalition has organized to bring local elected officials together to discuss steps city and county governments can take to address climate change. Do you believe local government has a role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing other environmental issues? If so, what steps would you like to see the city take?