Johnson County’s role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, partisan divisions on the board of county commissioners and rising property taxes were some of the main highlights from the Shawnee Mission Post’s candidate forum for the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners District 2 race.
Jeff Meyers and Rob Patterson are vying for the District 2 seat in the November general election. The race is nonpartisan, although some commissioners have called to make commissioner elections partisan. The District 2 seat is occupied by Jim Allen, who declined to run for a third term.
Below is the list of questions posed by the Post staff and readers, including the timestamps. The video of the forum can be viewed on the Post’s Facebook page and is embedded below.
- What do you think the county commission’s current priorities should be? How will you help in working towards those priorities? [5:00]
- (From a reader) One of the most pressing issues faced by the county commission in 2020 has been the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Where do you stand with regards to upholding Gov. Laura Kelly’s statewide mask order, which the board is responsible for voting on in order to implement locally? If you’re against it, what alternatives do you propose in order to protect public health? [7:34]
- (From a reader) What role should the county government play in helping administer public health during the COVID-19 pandemic? [11:18]
- Mental health issues are a continuing concern in Johnson County, as evidenced by teen suicide rates and calls for police service. What can the county do to improve residents’ access to mental health services and ensure that mental health calls do not beggar police resources from crime prevention? [13:52]
- Property values have increased substantially in many parts of the county over the past decade, but the property tax rate has held largely steady. This means many homeowners have seen their annual property tax bills increase faster than the rate of inflation. Are you comfortable with this trend? If so, why? If not, how should the county address it? [16:57]
- Johnson County government has the authority to veto applications for tax increment financing — or TIF — districts developers submit to cities, but the government has not exercised that power in recent years. Critics of TIF suggest it diverts tax dollars that governments could use on services to private entities. Proponents say TIF is a net benefit to communities by increasing tax revenues in the long run. Do you think the board of county commissioners should consider using its TIF veto power more frequently? Why or why not? [20:18]
- Are there any areas of public service where you believe the county is currently not investing enough or is at risk of under-investing for the future? [23:29]
- What would be your budget priorities if elected to the commission? [25:59]
- County commission seats are officially nonpartisan. But American politics’ broader polarization has been seen on the board in recent months. The board voted to reprimand a current commissioner for a personal Facebook post that was politically charged. The commissioners have also been deeply divided over whether to implement Kansas’s statewide mask mandate in the county. In this environment, what experience or relationships can you point to that show you have an ability to reach out and work with those who might not agree with you? If you could, please give specific examples. [27:26]