Your Johnson County Board of County Commissioners election primer

Candidates running for the District 2 seat on the Johnson County Board of County Commissiooners took part in our forum at the Shawnee Civic Centre last month.

Advance voting in person began Saturday, Oct. 17 in Johnson County and Election Day is Tuesday, Nov 3. As residents start heading to the polls to cast their ballots for Johnson County Board of County Commissioners, we’re putting together our election primers to give people an easy way to find out where the candidates stand on the issues.

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Who’s on the ballot

The races for county commissioner seats are all contested elections. The candidates are listed below. We’ve linked to their campaign websites where possible.

County Commissioner District 2

County Commissioner District 3

County Commissioner District 6

Candidate questionnaires

Earlier this month, we published the candidates’ responses to the questionnaires we developed with input from our readers. You can find each of the five questionnaire items linked below:

Question 1: 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? Read answers here.

Question 2: 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 don’t divert police resources from crime prevention? Read answers here.

Question 3: Unlike the majority of the state, Johnson County continues to add population. What kinds of planning for public transportation should be taking place right now to ensure that we can accommodate the needs of residents 20 years from now? Read answers here.

Question 4: Are there any areas of public service where you believe the county is currently not investing enough, or is at risk of underinvesting for the future? Read answers here.

Question 5: Johnson County Government has the authority to veto applications for tax-increment financing (TIF) districts developers submit to cities — but 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? Read answers here.

Candidate forum for District 2

In late September, we hosted an in-person forum for the candidates running for the District 2 seat on the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners. You can watch the video of the forum below. Topics covered during each forum are noted with time codes below.

  1. What do you think the county commission’s current priorities should be? How will you help in working towards those priorities? Conversation starts at 5:00.
  2. 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? Conversation starts at 7:34.
  3. What role should the county government play in helping administer public health during the COVID-19 pandemic? Conversation starts at 11:18.
  4. 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? Conversation starts at 13:52.
  5. 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? Conversation starts at 16:57.
  6. 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? Conversation starts at 20:18.
  7. 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? Conversation starts at 23:29.
  8. What would be your budget priorities if elected to the commission? Conversation starts at 25:59.
  9. 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. Conversation starts at 27:26.