In early June, we asked our readers about the issues you wanted to hear the candidates running for Lenexa City Council in wards 3 and 4 address in the lead up to the Aug. 3 primary.
Based on your feedback, we developed a five-item questionnaire touching on the most important issues to the citizens of Lenexa.
Each day this week, we will publish the candidates’ responses to one of these five questions. Read the candidates’ responses to previously published questions about affordable housing and the east-west divide.
Below are the candidates’ responses to item three:
- Climate change continues to be top of mind for many Shawnee Mission Post readers. What steps can Lenexa take to prepare neighborhoods for increased flooding, along with extreme heat and drought events? What steps would you like to see the city take to build climate resilience?
Below are the answers the Post received from the candidates on this issue:
I believe in climate change. Lenexa absolutely has a role in mitigating potential hazards presented by flooding and extreme weather. Lenexa has been leading in this area for years. Long ago Lenexa committed to an aggressive storm-water management program which includes set-backs to flood plains and elements of drainage systems and Best Maintenance Practices (BMPs). A BMP is essentially an area strategically designated, located and maintained with native grasses and plants. A small example of this may be native grasses planted in the median on 87th Street, while Lake Lenexa could be considered an example of a large BMP. In fact, Lenexa was recognized nationally this year for one of the most innovative storm-water projects in the country, Black-Hoof park (Lake Lenexa)!
Building climate resilience – Lenexa’s Rain to Recreation initiative reclaims flood-plain properties within city limits allowing native vegetation to grow absorbing and cleaning storm-water before draining into our rivers. During my time on Council Lenexa has increased BMPs from about 50 city-wide to more than 500 in-place now. Our Municipal Services Department captures storm-water to grow native plants in an on-site green-house for sustainable green solutions to flooding issues. In 2020 Lenexa adopted the Climate Action KC Playbook. A menu of ideas and methods cities can use to mitigate impacts to climate. Lenexa employs many of these strategies such as investing in green, regenerative buildings like Lenexa City Center, we are aggressively replacing streetlight lamps with light emitting diodes (LED) and making way for distributed renewable energy by allowing solar friendly codes and permitting practices and many other practices making Lenexa climate resilient.
As a matter of public safety, Lenexa has done such a great job at managing storm-water for flash-flooding that we have eliminated the need for Water-Rescue in the city. Think about that for a second, our streets, parks and open spaces are safe because of the leadership in place and the foresight the city has demonstrated in protecting residents as our climate changes. Still there are many actions the city is taking to educate staff and residents alike in on-ways to support climate resilience for example, Parks & Rec puts on a class for residents who would like to use a rain barrel for catching rain-water for redistribution. The class includes the rain barrel and Lenexa reimburses residents for doing this! Watch for classes published in Town Talk.
Gael A. Wheeler
Did not respond.
Based on their recommendations, I believe primary solutions & best practices should include:
- Green infrastructure
- Strategic planting of trees and native grasses
- Green street concepts
- Reduce the amount of impermeable surfaces
To take just one example, trees planted in specific locations can reduce the amount of electricity needed to run AC, while also dropping the temperature in urban heat islands.
Reducing the amount of impermeable surfaces (like concrete & asphalt) will improve flood control as well as making the city cooler and greener.
Smart environmental policies that help Lenexa adapt to climate change will be good for our community, for our families, and for our economy. On the Lenexa City Council, I’d fight for smart, simple, and effective environmental policies to be implemented in all city planning going forward.
Did not respond.
Craig K. Denny
City staff and volunteers (I was one) helped explain the need and value of this program at “Waterfest” events and our community supported its funding. This program reduces storm-related flooding, while protecting water quality and natural habitat and providing educational and recreational opportunities.
Well before “climate change” was a common part of our vernacular, Lenexa was proactive in acquiring large areas of “green space” ahead of advancing development. Examples include Black Hoof Park, Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park, Electric Park and others. We continue to receive Tree City USA designation, which began under former Mayor Rich Becker.
Trees provide shade that helps reduce surface temperatures. Trees can capture and store atmospheric carbon. Our street tree replacement program, which is administered by our Parks and Recreation Department (I have served on the P&R Advisory Board for over 25 years), partially reimburses Lenexa homeowners for costs incurred to replace dead street trees.
While no single entity alone can affect climate, Lenexa collaborates with regional public and private partners through leadership and participation with Climate Action KC. Their Climate Action Plan presents mitigation and adaption strategies, several of which align with Lenexa Vision 2040.
Prior to accepting the Climate Action Plan, Lenexa conducted a thorough review of the plan in direct comparison to current city policies and found that many items in the plan were already being done in Lenexa. Lenexa should continue to proactively collaborate on strategies that make sense to Lenexa and the region.
Lenexa like any modern cities should take action to save taxpayers money and sustain the environment. However, it will take both the city, civic leaders of which I intend to be to achieve a green city by encouraging planting or protection of trees to reduce erosion, avoid dumping of waste that can result in air pollution.
Second, the city needs to use architects dedicated to sustainable designs.
Third, The City should strive to design,zero carbon,resilient, just and equitable future for her residents. Being a resident and aspiring Civic leader, I promise to be part of this goal of building a climate resilient city in the Prairie.
Managing flood risks, extreme heat and drought events definitely fall under the umbrella of Climate change. My recommendation towards mitigating these events would stem from a desire to start seeing more green infrastructure come in to play where it’s feasible.
In areas of the city impacted by flooding one approach could be to add permeable pavements, water gardens and ensuring our stormwater and sewer drains are kept clean and open so that the existing infrastructure operates to its maximum efficiency.
In areas where it’s possible I would like to see stormwater stored, and look into designs that would allow city engineers to hold or slow down water during flood events. This water could be used to help keep our city green during drought events.
Further, I would like to ensure all of our City buildings are Green certified, that we’re doing our best to keep operational costs down by adjusting thermostats seasonally and prudently, and continue to look for ways to operate using clean energy which is good for both local taxpayers and the environment.
On Thursday, we will publish the candidates’ responses to the following question:
Property values have increased sharply across Johnson County in recent years, and Lenexa’s city mill levy (29.242) is higher than in some neighboring cities, like Overland Park (13.557 mills) and Olathe (24.440). Do you see any realistic paths to reducing the amount Lenexa homeowners pay in city property tax? If so, what are they? If not, why not?