Your Overland Park mayoral primary election primer

Four candidates are vying to succeed outgoing Mayor Carl Gerlach as the leader of Overland Park.

Advance in-person voting begins on July 24 in Johnson County, and Primary Election Day is less than two weeks away on Aug. 3. As residents head to the polls to cast their ballots for Overland Park mayor, we’ve put together an election primer to give people an easy way to find out where the candidates stand on the issues.

No other news outlet devotes as much attention to giving Shawnee Mission area voters a way to find out where candidates running for local office stand on the issues facing our community. If you value having a news outlet provide this kind of coverage, we hope you’ll consider becoming a subscriber if you aren’t already. Your first month of full access is just $1.

Who’s on the ballot

Four candidates are running for mayor of Overland Park — the second biggest city in the state of Kansas. They are:

All Overland Park residents who are registered voters will be able to vote in the mayoral primary.

Candidate questionnaires

Earlier this month, the Post published the candidates’ responses to the questionnaire we developed with reader input. The five questionnaire items are linked below:

Question #1: It’s unaffordable for many low-income residents to live in OP near their jobs. Would you support changes to zoning to allow for denser and more affordable housing options in OP? What specific types of residences would you like to see more of? If you do not support denser housing, are there other policies you think would help more residents afford to live near their jobs in Overland Park? Read answers here.

Question #2: The Overland Park police department has faced ongoing criticism and scrutiny over how it handled Officer Clayton Jenison shooting and killing teenager John Albers in 2018. Last September, the FBI opened a civil rights investigation on the matter, which is still ongoing. The city recently released the Johnson County Officer Involved Shooting Team’s report on the incident after months of public outcry. Do you agree with how the police department and city have handled this issue to date? If not, what should have been done differently? How should the city handle the issue of police transparency and accountability going forward? Read answers here.

Question #3: 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? Read answers here.

Question #4: 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? Read answers here.

Question #5: The city’s use of tax incentives to attract businesses and spur new development have become the subject of extensive debate in recent years. What’s your general view on the use of tax incentives? Should they ever be used for greenfield projects? Are there any tax incentive tools you believe should never be used? Why or why not? Read answers here.

Candidate forum

The Post hosted in-person forums for the Overland Park mayoral candidates July 6. Video of the event is embedded below, followed by a summary of the topics they discussed and their corresponding time stamps to help readers find the candidates’ answers more quickly:

  1. The plan to add express toll lanes on U.S. 69 Highway between 103rd and 151st streets is now poised to go forward. Two state-level bodies recently signed off on a plan already approved by the city council that would have Overland Park kick in $20 million towards KDOT’s roughly $300 million project to add the toll lanes going in both directions. Work could begin as soon as next year. That stretch of U.S. 69 in Overland Park is the busiest highway in Kansas, according to the state, and is only expected to get more congested as the city’s southern half grows. In your opinion, is the cost-sharing deal struck with KDOT the best way to fund an expansion of U.S. 69? If so, why? But if you don’t think so, what is the best alternative? Conversation starts at 11:03.
  2. The city’s use of tax incentives to attract businesses and spur new development have been the focus of intense debate in Overland Park in recent years. Most recently, the city council approved an amended proposal for the Bluhawk development near 159th and U.S. 69. that decreases the city’s ask for state STAR bonds from $77 million to $71 million. Beyond that particular project, what’s your general view on the use of tax incentives for development purposes? When are they appropriate to use? Are there any tax incentive tools that you believe should never be used? Conversation starts at 19:03.
  3. Overland Park consistently ranks in the top 10 cities nationally as a best place to live, best place to retire, best place to raise a family, and best place to start a business. Citizen surveys consistently show citizen satisfaction to be 90% and higher. How important is it to consider that and the policies and practices and governance that has led to those recognitions when examining whether any changes you are advocating should be made and what are the potential unintended consequences of some of your proposals? Conversation starts at 28:10.
  4. In 2008, the Vision Metcalf process laid out a comprehensive prescription for modernizing the city’s central corridor. It called for the replacement of “outdated retail” with new shops, entertainment options, parks and public facilities. At 95th and Metcalf, for example, the plan suggested the construction of a new city hall at one point with an adjacent public park surrounded by mixed-use development. Fast forward to today, and there is the Shamrock office tower, a Lowe’s and a proposal for a 164,000-square-foot office facility and parking lot on the former Sears site. Over the years, the planning commission and city council have OK’ed proposals that don’t necessarily fit with that original Vision Metcalf vision — often lamenting that fact but also voting in favor of them. How would you characterize the city’s management of the Metcalf corridor? Do you think it’s heading in the right direction? Why or why not? Conversation starts at 36:54.
  5. The city has come in for criticism for its handling of the fatal police shooting of teeanger John Albers in 2018. The officer who shot and killed Albers left the force soon after the incident, but it came to light just last year that he was given a $70,000 payout. And, as part of his severance deal, the city also agreed to tell a state police oversight board that Jenison left the Overland Park force voluntarily under normal circumstances. The city did not release more details of that severance deal until it faced multiple lawsuits. The FBI continues to conduct a civil rights investigation into Albers’ killing. At the same time, some readers question whether the Johnson County Officer-Involved Shooting Investigation Team (OISIT)… which investigates such matters … is thorough, accurate and impartial. Assess how you think the city has handled the Albers case. Has the city been as transparent as it can possibly be?. And would you change any city policy or procedure in the unfortunate eventuality of another fatal police killing in the future? Conversation starts at 46:19.
  6. The center-of-gravity in Overland Park continues to move south, as more and more of the city’s population now resides south of I-435. At the same time new development continues apace in the southern wards, the city’s long-established neighborhoods north of I-435 are seeing greater need for reinvestment and resources. How can the city best approach the task of balancing the needs of its new growth areas with its original neighborhoods, which are now aging? Conversation starts at 56:55.

We’re coming to Blue Valley!

Southern Overland Park residents have been asking for their own community news source for years. And this fall, we’ll be delivering it. If you’d like info on the launch date for the new Blue Valley Post — as well as opportunities to share your feedback on what we should be covering in the Blue Valley area, sign up here.