Faris Farassati, the Overland Park councilman who has been a sharp critic of the overuse of development tax incentives in recent years, says he’s begun exploring a possible run for mayor in 2021.
In a message to supporters Wednesday night, Farassati said he believed it was time for a new direction in the city, and that “Overland Park needs a fresh vision that matches our needs in the next decade.”
“You, the people of OP, deserve a transparent, responsive, and open government that functions based on legitimate research and compelling evidence,” he wrote. “You deserve a government that respects the will of the public.”
The announcement came two days after sitting Mayor Carl Gerlach cast the deciding vote to award more than $200 million in incentives to the Curtin Company for its proposed $2 billion redevelopment of the Brookridge golf course site at I-435 and Antioch, a move that Farassati called “reverse Robin Hood syndrome.”
Farassati made criticism of tax incentives a central part of his reelection campaign for the council this fall, saying that the city has misused them in recent years. He argued that such incentives — tax increment financing and community improvement districts — were designed to reinvigorate blighted areas. But Overland Park has been granting them to developers working on greenfield projects and in areas with no blight, he said.
During this year’s election cycle, developers stepped forward to provide Farassati’s challenger, marketing executive Phil Bressler, with ample funding, fueling a total campaign warchest that topped $30,000. But those donations didn’t translate into enough votes to flip the seat, with Farassati winning reelection on a 54-46 margin.
Farassati was first seated in May 2017, after members of the council voted unanimously to appoint him to fill the remainder of John Skubal’s term representing Ward 5. Skubal resigned his city council seat in April 2017 after having been elected to the Kansas Senate. Farassati was then elected by Ward 5 residents to continue in the seat that fall.
During his two years on council, Farassati has often been at odds with the status quo. In addition to his frequent criticisms of tax finance incentives, he’s pushed for the city to add public comment time to council meetings and asked the city to hold back on plans to demolish the Santa Fe Commons gazebo after a group of residents organized against it.
He echoed some of those themes in the message he sent Wednesday.
“I stand to promote resident participation in their government, to elevate their role in the decision-making process, and to reduce the impact of lobbyists and special interest groups on the future of our city,” he said. “But, at the end of the day, I stand to restore the trust of OP residents in their government. I respect all the public servants who have contributed to the well-being of our beautiful city, but the time for change has arrived.”
A cancer research scientist at the Kansas City Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Farassati holds doctorate degrees in pharmacy.
The Overland Park mayoral election will be in November 2021. Incumbent Gerlach has served in the role since 2005.