Your Lenexa City Council wards 3 and 4 election primer

Lenexa City Council candidates for wards 3 and 4 participate in the Shawnee Mission Post's candidate forum earlier this month. File photo.

Advance in-person voting for the August primary election will be available at eight locations beginning Saturday, July 24.

As Lenexa voters head to the polls to cast their ballots for city council wards 3 and 4, we’ve put together an election primer to give people an easy way to find out where the candidates stand on some of Lenexa’s important 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.

Melanie Arroyo

Who’s on the ballot

The races for Lenexa City Council wards 3 and 4 are contested with multiple candidates.

Four candidates are seeking the Ward 3 seat, including Melanie Arroyo, Laura Hill, incumbent Councilmember Corey Hunt and Gael A. Wheeler.

Three candidates are seeking the Ward 4 seat being vacated by Councilmember Mandy Stuke. Candidates vying for the Ward 4 seat are Hophine Bwosinde, Scott Callaway and Craig K. Denny.

Candidate questionnaires

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

Question #1: Affordable housing. It seems like many people are being priced out of the metro area, and Johnson County is no exception. Lenexa can’t mitigate for the entire metro, but what can Lenexa do as a city? What role does Lenexa have within the region in supporting affordable housing? Read answers here.

Question #2: East-west divide. I-435 cuts Lenexa in half, with most of the city’s established neighborhoods sitting to the east of the highway and newer neighborhoods developing in the west. How can the city ensure residents inside the 435 loop and in newer parts of Lenexa are treated equitably and that 435 doesn’t become a dividing line? Read answers here.

Question #3: Climate change. 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? Read answers here.

Corey Hunt

Question #4: Property tax. 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? Read answers here.

Question #5: Planning for the future. Lenexa has experienced considerable growth in recent decades — both in terms of business development and population. What do you see as the biggest challenges on the horizon for the city as it continues to grow? What should city government be doing now to prepare for those challenges? Read answers here.

Candidate forum

The Post hosted an in-person forum for the Lenexa City Council wards 3 and 4 races. A recorded video of the forum can be found below, and topics covered are noted below the video.

  1. Vision 2040: One big takeaway that emerged during the extensive process the city conducted two years ago to articulate its Vision 2040 plan … was that Lenexans, by and large, are satisfied with city services and their quality of life. The major themes that emerged in public information sessions and citizen surveys, is that Lenexans want vibrant neighborhoods, integrated and well-maintained roads and infrastructure, a thriving local economy, inviting places and social activities and opportunities to live a healthy, active lifestyle. Considering Vision 2040 was articulated before the COVID-19 pandemic … which of the priorities laid out in Vision 2040 do you think the city should be most focused on now? And what would you do to help emphasize that? [10:10]
  2. Craig Denny

    Homeless shelter: Lenexa is the only city in Johnson County with a homeless shelter — Project 1020 — that allows single adult men (among other residents) during the winter months. The city earlier this year amended its city code to pave the way for Project 1020 to remain in operation after a lengthy process of public input and debate. Initially, a local church sued the city over its original decision NOT to allow the shelter. While some nonprofits and faith-based groups provide some temporary options and transitional housing in Johnson County, Johnson County lacks a permanent year-round homeless shelter. Lenexa — by design or circumstance — has taken the lead on this issue. What do you think the city’s role should be in helping out displaced and homeless people? Are there more steps that should be taken to address this marginalized population? [17:35]

  3. City aquatics: Last month, the city council voted to keep Ad Astra community pool open, despite a consultant’s recommendation that permanently closing the aging facility would be more cost-effective in the long run. Ad Astra pool, for what it’s worth, is in Ward 3 … but I want to ask about the city’s aquatics program more broadly. Lenexa has three outdoor public pools and more pool space in terms of square surface footage, than other similarly sized cities, yet some residents still complain about lack of access, especially if they live in subdivisions that do not have their own pool. What do you think is the best course of action for the future of city pools? [25:10]
  4. Hophine Bwosinde

    Taxes and revenue: Property values have increased sharply across Johnson County in recent years, and Lenexa’s city mill levy … which stands at 29.242 … is higher than in some neighboring cities, including Overland Park and Olathe. At the same time, municipal revenues for all cities will likely be impacted in a major way by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced Americans to work from home and start shopping online more, foregoing brick-and-mortar stores that are often a key source of sales tax revenue for cities. What is your position on Lenexa’s revenue future. Should the mill levy be lowered or stay the same? How can the city weather any hit to its revenues caused by the pandemic? [32:25]

  5. East-West divide: I-435 cuts Lenexa in half, with most of the city’s established, more historic neighborhoods sitting to the east of the highway … largely in Wards 3 and 4 … and newer neighborhoods developing in the west. How will you still advocate for the needs of the residents living in the city’s east, while also ensuring that all Lenexans are treated equitably and that 435 doesn’t become a dividing line? And we should say … there is a big chunk of Ward 4 outside the 435 loop. [40:15]
  6. The Lenexa Way: “The Lenexa way” is a term city leaders regularly use to describe the city’s approach to planning and development, enacting policies and addressing community issues. How would you define “the Lenexa way” in terms of your vision for leadership? And do you think the way current city leaders talk about the “Lenexa way” serves all residents? [47:30]