Advance in-person voting will begin on July 24 in Johnson County, and Election Day is less than two weeks away on August 3. As residents head to the polls to cast their ballots for the Overland Park City Council in wards 4 and 5, we’ve put together an election primer to give people an easy way to find out where the candidates stand on the issues.
Who’s on the ballot
The three candidates vying for city council in ward 4 are Ty Gardner, Stacie Gram and Scott Mosher. The three candidates in ward 5 are Amy Goodman-Long, Sam Passer and Sheila Rodriguez. Voters can look up a sample ballot via the Johnson County Election Office here.
Earlier this month, the Post published the candidates’ responses to the questionnaires we developed with reader input. The five questionnaire items are linked below:
Question #1: Affordable housing: 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.
The Post hosted forums for the Overland Park City Council races. A recorded video of the forum can be found below, and topics covered are noted below the video.
- U.S. 69 toll lanes: The plan to add express toll lanes on U.S. 69 Highway between 103rd and 15st Streets is now officially underway. Overland Park is contributing $20 million towards KDOT’s roughly $300 million project to add the toll lanes going in both directions. That stretch of U.S. 69 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. This is a project, then, with major potential ramifications on the lives of residents in Wards 4 and 5. Is this expansion of U.S. 69 needed for south Overland Park? And do you think the cost-sharing deal struck with KDOT is the best way to fund it? If so, why? But if not, was there a realistic alternative? [12:50]
- Tax incentives: 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. And there are some prominent projects in the city’s southern half … including Prairiefire and the prospective Bluhawk development … that have used or aim to leverage major amounts of public tax dollars. In your opinion, do Wards 4 and 5 need such public-private partnerships in order to spur development? What is the appropriate role that government should play in fostering economic growth? Do you believe that the city should continue its current, tax incentive-focused strategy, or do something different? [26:35]
- City revenue: The pandemic has accelerated a few trends: People are shopping online and working from home more than ever. This rapid move away from brick and mortar shopping and traditional office spaces is going to have a significant impact on demand for commercial real estate — and, in turn, property and sales tax revenues. What does Overland Park need to be doing today to prepare for this changing environment? [38:00]
- Affordable housing: We received a lot of questions from readers about affordable housing this election cycle. The housing landscape in southern Overland Park is much different from that in the city’s northern wards. South of I-435, a large proportion of the single-family homes in Wards 4 and 5 are listed at $500K or more. And while there are more apartment buildings in the area now than in years past, many of those units aren’t big enough for a family or affordable for low- to middle-income renters. Does southern Overland Park have a housing affordability problem in your estimation? Do there need to be more single family homes that are attainable for less affluent people? And if so, what could the city do about that? [48:45]
- Citizen satisfaction: 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 your proposals? [1:02:00]