Campaign season in Roeland Park has sparked charges from some running for the council that the city hasn’t been proactive enough about informing residents when issues pertaining to development and construction projects come before the governing body.
Those charges spurred a response from Mayor Mike Kelly last week.
Kelly, who was elected in 2017 and is not on tomorrow’s ballot, sent a message via email to residents noting the steps the city had taken in the past two years to increase transparency and open up new channels for city government to hear from residents. He detailed the dozens of public opportunities the city had opened up for input on the Roe 2020 project since planning began back in 2016.
“During election cycles, some will always criticize local elected officials for a lack of transparency,” Kelly wrote. “It’s a subjective criticism that is hard to dispel. However, special meetings are routinely held with residents and the City Administrator or the Mayor. Ironically, those who make these allegations have repeatedly been invited to meet and discuss issues, though our invitations are not always accepted. I remain willing to meet with any resident at a mutually convenient time.”
Galen Hansen, a Ward 3 council candidate, has been a persistent critic of the city’s processes during the campaign, saying that he had heard from a number of residents that they either weren’t aware of major projects coming before the council, or found out about them too late in the process to make their voices heard.
“There are simply too many instances of citizens commenting on lack of notification or information regarding potential or actual development impacting or destroying their property. This topic came up numerous times as I visited with the people of Ward 3, and is one of my own experience as a neighbor of R Park,” Hansen wrote the Post when asked about Kelly’s message.
He said he believes the city should be using direct mail and flyers to inform residents about such projects.
“I truly believe that earlier communication about the meetings for Roe 2020 and R Park would have eliminated the concerns voiced by homeowners,” Hansen said. “While in some larger cities, it may be hard to truly reach out to the community at large, the benefit of living in a city like Roeland Park is that we are small enough to truly be able to communicate with every resident – particularly about projects that directly impact them.”
Kelly, however, pointed out that the city already uses such tactics to communicate with residents about major projects in recent years.
“As for flyers, door hangers, or other communication methods to those affected during construction projects, this already occurs. Additionally, as one example, our public works director went door to door, multiple times, prior to the construction of a sidewalk on Birch Street,” Kelly said. “We understand that some projects won’t please everyone, and that as a result, some will allege a lack of transparency to discredit the project. However, I feel we go above and beyond, and I firmly believe the vast majority of residents feel the same way.”
Trisha Brauer, Hansen’s opponent for the Ward 3 seat, largely agreed with Kelly’s take on the matter, saying she had been impressed by the city’s efforts to communicate with residents about Roe 2020.
“As a homeowner directly impacted by Roe 2020, the communication I have received from the city has gone above what I expected,” Brauer said. “I have been informed through regular council meetings, special meetings, flyers, the newsletter, email notifications, and direct communication from elected officials. When I have had additional questions, I have reached out to my representatives and City Hall and have received prompt responses.”
She said she would encourage constituents to speak up about how they would like to receive information about such projects if elected to the council.
“It is important when the city makes attempt to communicate with the residents that we read what they mail to us, put on our doors, and attend public meetings when we feel we will be impacted by a decision,” Brauer said. “If elected, I will take an active approach to communicating the goings-on of the city and encourage the residents of Ward 3 to provide input on how they like to receive information and updates.”