The first step to re-opening the county for business got bogged down for a bit Monday, as Johnson County Commissioners came to a standstill on who should be represented on the new Recovery Planning Task Force.
The county ended up with a fourteen-member committee eventually, but only after spirited objections from Commissioner Mike Brown, who said there weren’t enough business owners on it.
Brown alone voted against it. Commissioners Michael Ashcraft and Steve Klika echoed some of his concerns but said they voted for it so the work could move forward.
The special committee is intended to represent many walks of life. Members will collect opinions on how the county can safely emerge for business once the stay-at-home orders are eventually lifted. The governor’s order is set to expire May 3.
The task force approved Monday includes three commissioners, the county manager, two health officials, a restaurant owner and attorney, plus a representative of the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce, United Community Services, a hospital, the Mid-America Regional Council, law enforcement, a mayor and a city manager,
“There are a whole bunch of highly educated and smart people on this list, but as far as I can tell, there’s not very much business representation on this list and I’m really, really struggling with that,” Brown said.
“While we’re heavy on folks that work for not-for-profits and while we’re heavy on folks that work for municipalities or other government type agencies, we didn’t include a realtor on this list,” or any contractors, or manufacturers, he said. “There are so many people on this list that are not impacted. Did anybody on this list suffer one penny of pay cut as a result of everything that just happened. Is anybody on this list laid off, furloughed, pay cut?”
Chairman Ed Eilert countered that chambers of commerce are active and understand the needs of the business community. “I would not discount that at all,” he said.
“In an effort to provide a broad representation of the community, I think it’s a pretty good list,” Eilert said, adding that the members will reach out to as many people as possible to get input on how to start a safe business recovery.
“I would encourage every commissioner to reach out to those businesses in their district and bring that information back to us to consider,” Eilert said.
But Brown said the chamber of commerce doesn’t represent the vast majority of businesses. “I’m really struggling that they’re in a position to make this decision for small business in Johnson County. I don’t think this is a representative list.”
“Obviously I have a higher level of confidence in our chamber than you do, so we’re going to have to disagree on that,” Eilert replied.
Commissioner Janee Hanzlick said a task force with many more people would be too big to work effectively on the time frame the commission is dealing with. Task force members were to begin meeting immediately so they could report back at the three remaining meetings scheduled before May 3.
The task force roster includes Eilert, Brown, Hanzlick, County Manager Penny Postoak Ferguson, Public Health Director Sanmi Areola, Emergency Management Deputy Director Dan Robeson, restaurant owner and development lawyer Scott Anderson, Overland Park Chamber CEO Tracey Osbourne Oltjen, MARC representative Frank Lenk, Prairie Village Mayor Eric Mikkelson, Lenexa City Manager Beccy Yocham, UCS Director Julie Brewer, Olathe Health CEO Stan Holm and Leawood Police Chief Troy Rettig.