In early June, we asked our readers about the issues you wanted to hear the candidates running for Overland Park City Council address. Based on your feedback, we developed a five-item questionnaire touching on the most important issues to the people of Overland Park.
Each day this week, we will publish the candidates’ responses to one of five questions. Read the candidates’ responses to previously published questions about affordable housing and police transparency. Below are the candidates’ responses to item three:
Climate change continues to be top of mind for many of our readers. What steps can Overland Park take to prepare Overland Park 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?
There are certainly steps that Overland Park can take to be reactive to climate change. This includes modernizing infrastructure with smarter sewer systems to deal with flooding. It includes working to ensure we have a power grid prepared for today’s climate realities and won’t collapse like we saw in Texas. But a city like ours shouldn’t just be reactive on climate change. It should be proactive. Leaders in Washington and Topeka have shown themselves to be incapable of addressing this
issue. This places the burden on our city governments. As the second largest city in Kansas and in the region, Overland Park has an opportunity to truly lead here.
Local leaders should support proactive measures to be a regional leader on the issue of climate change. Leaders who will promote a movement to renewable energy sources and providing additional electric vehicle charging stations, working with our neighbors to make sure the region hits net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and pushing more walkable and bikeable communities to reduce our reliance on cars.
This is yet another example of an issue every politician will say they support. Every politician will have a good quote here. But there’s a difference between a good quote and actually delivering results for the community. So, we should expect our local leaders to also tell us how we get there. I think we’ll continue being disappointed with our results on climate change as long as we have leadership that does not prioritize bringing a new generation into local government. Aggressively combatting climate change is wildly popular among the generation I belong to. But current leaders still don’t act on it. And the reason is simple. My generation doesn’t vote in local elections. And politicians listen to those who show up. If we’re going to see real results on climate change and not just good quotes, we have to bring a new generation into the process of local government. We need leaders who will put in the work to reach them. Leaders who can connect with them because they understand the needs of those kinds of people who are early in their careers and raising young families. As a member of the generation that we have to get more involved, I’m the right person to help bring them in and I’ll be committed to actually putting in the work to do it.
Stacie Gram (incumbent)
Overland Park should lead the way in sustainability. Overland Park factors climate change and sustainability into many decisions and is aided by the resident-led Environmental Advisory Council. For example, sustainability will be a key consideration in the Infrastructure Advisory Group’s upcoming discussions. We also are fortunate to have the Mid-America Regional Council’s Climate Action KC Plan as a road map for our region and I support using the plan as a guide for Overland Park.
To help address flooding, we should support replacing and adding trees around new and existing homes, public common areas and commercial structures and along streamways. Urban forestry and canopies cool the city and prevent flooding. We also should stabilize slopes with vegetation and make sure our public spaces and commercial development have plant diversity and pollinator habitats. This is an area of opportunity not only for funding from the city but civic and volunteer groups.
In new development we should consider options that reduce the footprint of streets and parking lots. We should also try to develop ‘complete’ streets and mixed developments that encourage more walking and biking and less driving. We can use lighter colored building materials to reduce heat absorption. We need to figure out ways to incentivize developers to meet heightened sustainability design standards. I support the addition of a part or full-time sustainability director as part of our city staff. If elected, I would also like to build a coalition of homeowners’ associations, home builders, and businesses to adapt our neighborhoods to improvements like solar panels.
I am running for the city council. Climate change is more of a state issue in my opinion. As far as future planning for floods etc, the city should have any flood plains mapped out, creek risings etc. as part of their city plan. It’s important, we as a council understand that plan and not allow people to build there unless steps to control are in place.
We all have a responsibility to manage our driving habits, recycle and be aware of environmental issues. Climate change is not just a city, county, state or national issue, but a world wide issue. There is no way alone the City can solve the problem. I support regional cooperation and planning as has been done with the Mid-America Regional Council. Overland Park, as it already does, should integrate environmental and sustainability measures in all aspects of its activities. Developers are being required to build more environmentally friendly buildings. For example, new projects that come before the City are required to have studies to determine flooding issues and the builder is responsible to correct any foreseen problems. The City engineers then work to determine if the problem is corrected properly. Smoking ordinances have been created to help with pollution issues. The City created a Christmas tree recycling center that produces mulch used at City parks. The City has mandated recycling programs be offered through resident’s trash services and bulky item pickup days are offered to residents. There is always more that can be done and I’m glad to know the comprehensive plan is under review and will include sustainability efforts as a major part of that review. I very much support City policies to protect the environment.
One of the items that has continually impressed me about Overland Park is the city and residents ability to plan ahead. I’d like projections for how our city will be impacted by climate change to be factored into our city planning and committee activities to have a cohesive strategy to drive ongoing success. Solutions will take all of us talking about priorities and ideas of how to get there – residents and HOAs, the business community like the homebuilders and chamber of commerce, our city’s professional staff all working together. We also have to remember that the climate doesn’t stop at the city limits, so we’re not solving these issues in a vacuum, we’re part of the larger region and country and our solutions have to be cognizant of that.
I’ve spoken with some residents who believe that the environment is the responsibility of the government, while others believe it’s the responsibility of residents. I believe it’s both. While I appreciate the City Council’s willingness to form an Infrastructure and Climate Action Advisory Board earlier this year, I’m concerned that the scope may be too large to be effective. Infrastructure and Climate Action are equally important and deserve to have their own advisory board.
Since this advisory board hasn’t been formed yet, one of the first things the city can do is separate these two topics. Forming two separate advisory boards would allow each advisory board to recruit subject matter experts in their respective field. Narrowing the scope should expedite their research, recommendations and overall costs.
I’d like to see the Climate Action Advisory Board create a set of guiding principles for an integrated climate action plan to facilitate Overland Park becoming more sustainable. By investing in climate-resilient infrastructure and developing risk-reduction programs, the city can mitigate negative impacts of extreme weather conditions. Their recommendations should also include a proposed plan for educating residents on how they can support the city’s efforts.
On Thursday, we will publish the candidates’ responses to the following question:
There have been a number of complaints about the city’s use of the chip seal technique for road repairs in recent months, but less discussion about alternatives and how much they would cost. Do you support the city’s current chip seal program? If not, what should the city be doing instead to repair and maintain its roads? How much would an alternative cost and how would the city pay for it? If you do support chip seal, how do you respond to residents who say it is both dangerous to pedestrians/cyclists and damaging to vehicles?
We’re coming to Blue Valley!
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