Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for local office address ahead of this fall’s local elections primary. Based on the input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for candidates running for city council in Merriam.
Today we publish the candidates’ responses to item five:
What’s the top thing you’d like to be able to say about the city of Merriam four years from today that you can’t say now? Why?
City Council Ward 1
Jason Silvers (incumbent)
Currently, we are in the process of hiring a new city attorney and financial director, we’re heading to the polls to fill four open council seats, and we have two city council members and the mayor’s retirements looming—in four years the city’s government will look quite different from today. I’d like to see this renewal spark a renewed level of participation from Merriam residents resulting in more people joining committees, attending planning and council meetings, and voting in every election. The best way for our city to thrive is for greater participation.
Did not respond.
City Council Ward 2
Well it’s hard to top our current public works, fire & police so here are some other thoughts: 1. Wasteful programs have been eliminated; 2. Resident taxes are lower; 3. Businesses are flourishing due to lower taxes and less regulations; 4. Residents trust their city government to properly represent their wishes.
My husband and I are outdoorsy – camping, hiking, etc. The rule we follow above all others is to leave any trail, park or campsite better than we found it. That’s what I’d like to say about Merriam four years from today — the city is in a better place than when I joined the council. To me that means:
- The city’s relationship with its citizens is healing, and we’ve made an extensive effort to rebuild trust by communicating more often, using more methods to get feedback and increase awareness.
- Residents and the council collaborated on a fiscally responsible and exciting path for 5701 Merriam Drive.
- City finances are prepared to weather threats to our revenue. This includes renewing the existing 10-year street and stormwater sales tax – which is basically funded by non-Merriam residents – and a plan to avoid raising the city’s residential property tax rate.
- The library construction has been a transparent and minimally invasive project.
We’ve made strategic investments in renewable resources and materials to save tax dollars and free up city staff time to focus on new initiatives.
- I have personally facilitated, organized and educated Ward 2 residents how to successfully and frequently use existing city services and programs, like exterior home improvement grants, stormwater reimbursements, island grants, block parties and ride sharing. These don’t require policy changes or cost additional taxpayer money, and they encourage us to form community bonds and make Merriam a great place to live.
Now more than ever, Merriam needs a more diverse council that empowers forward-thinking, collaborative and open-minded leadership. I hope four years from now we ALL find our city in a better place than it is today.
City Council Ward 3
It is important to me that in four years, our resident’s relationships with the city council be more positive. I want people in Merriam to be able to say that they feel like they are being heard. Our citizens deserve this because they have gone unheard for too long! Our council needs a change of culture and I am anxious to be a part of that change. It is time to heal some of these relationships, and it is important that the residents have someone they feel like they can talk with about their concerns. I want to be the person that they can talk with and trust. When people have an advocate to support them they begin to feel more significant, and rightfully so.
Since deciding to run for City Council in May, I have been to almost every council meeting and have listened to and spoke with a lot of people. From my observations, I have sensed there is a group of citizens that share an animosity toward their elected representatives. I have heard words such as: don’t listen, don’t care, misled, misrepresented and lied. It is disturbing and I don’t yet understand why they say these things. If elected, I will do my best so that residents will say that I listen to them, I care about them and I am honest with them.
City Council Ward 4
In four years I would love to see revitalization along Merriam Drive in our Downtown with a project completed at 5701 Merriam Drive that will hopefully draw more interest to the area and to balance out the new building of our community center and the new branch of the library. With the library moving – I would also love to see the corner of Shawnee Mission Parkway + Antioch developed in conjunction with the vacant Kmart site across the street. We also need to focus and press the developers that build or have existing spaces in our city to be proactive about finding tenants to keep the spaces full and to seek out more locally focused tenants. I hope that all of this development would help to diversify our sales tax base and create an even stronger way to fund our infrastructure improvements without raising our property taxes.
Bob Pape (incumbent)
The Board of Taxing Appeals recent decision has currently changed the way that large box store’s property taxes are being assessed. If we do not get this changed, Merriam will be forced to pay back taxes that have already been collected. We will also lose future revenue. This will result in us either cutting services or raising taxes on our residents. This is the largest concern facing Merriam. This ruling is currently be challenged in the court system and it could be overturned. However, I believe that we need to have this settled at the state level. We need to contact our state legislators and propose that they enact laws stating how these commercial stores are to be taxed. I would also solicit support from the National League of Cities and the Kansas League of Municipalities. I would rather see it handled this way than take our chances in the court system. If we don’t get this resolved, it will drastically affect our community. I hope it doesn’t take us four years to accomplish this. Although that is my top priority, I would also like to see us get a grocery store and the redevelopment of the old K-Mart property.