Mission Gateway, Johnson Drive business turnover and the recently approved special sales tax for road improvements were all discussion points at the Shawnee Mission Post’s 2021 Mission mayoral forum.
Councilmembers Arcie Rothrock and Sollie Flora, Ward 2 and Ward 4, respectively, are vying for the mayoral seat being vacated by Ron Appletoft. Rothrock was elected to the city council in 2014, and Flora was elected to the council in 2017.
There are five candidates running to fill the seats being vacated by both Rothrock and Flora.
The Post live streamed the forum on its Facebook page, and the entire video can be found below.
Here are the questions and the corresponding time stamps so readers can find answers to them quickly:
- What one policy or action in city government were you responsible for that you are most proud of today? [0:25]
- What in your professional and personal experiences makes you qualified for this office? [2:23]
- This is a question we asked of candidates on the questionnaires, but it is of such import in Mission it deserves space here, too. The long-stalled Mission Gateway project continues to be a sore spot for residents, who are tired of driving past an inactive construction site nearly at the confluence of Johnson Drive, Roe Boulevard and Shawnee Mission Parkway — a decade after the developer held a groundbreaking ceremony there. What’s the best possible outcome for this situation at present, and what should the city government be doing to make it a reality? [4:53]
- A follow-up question, both of you have served on city council during at least part of the course of this issue — of course it predates both of your times on the city council by a long way. What do you think the city of Mission should learn from this Mission Gateway situation? [7:21]
- This is a version of a question we received from residents that also appears on the candidate questionnaire. Readers say Mission is distinct in Johnson County for its “small town” feel, but some residents say they’re concerned that that feeling is being chipped away at by new development projects. Of note, the governing body has granted variances to the three-story height requirement for buildings on a handful of occasions in recent years. At the same time, other readers welcome a discussion about diversifying housing stock, adding more density and making the area potentially more affordable for a broader group of residents. If elected, how would you balance these competing demands? To retain Mission’s small town feel while also opening up more diverse housing opportunities? [9:45]
- Along Johnson Drive in downtown Mission, it often seems like businesses come and go with striking frequency. Owning and operating a small business can be a challenge, and that has been made even more so amid the COVID-19 pandemic. What is your stance on local economic development in Mission? What, if anything, can the city be doing more to prop up local businesses and help keep jobs and entrepreneurship here? [12:36]
- Post readers in Mission and elsewhere continue to voice concerns about the effects of climate change on life here in Johnson County. They point to some of the torrential rains we’ve had this summer, upwards of five to six inches in a few hours on some occasions, which put stress on the local flood control systems. Does the city have a role in building up resilience to climate change? What, if any, policies will you support as mayor that will better prepare Mission for our changing climate? [15:16]
- In line with current guidance from the county, Mission at this time is strongly recommending masks be worn indoors but this city has not gone as far as neighboring cities Prairie Village and Roeland Park, both of which are mandating masks in most public indoor settings. Assess how the city has responded to the pandemic over the past year and a half: do you agree with the city’s approach? Is there anything you would want to see changed if elected? [18:27]
- Another follow-up question on this topic of COVID-19 because, again, both of you have been in city council governance during this crisis over the past 18 months or so. Following the election if you are mayor, would you want to see the city take a stance like what Prairie Village and Roeland Park have done and require masks more broadly? [21:07]
- The city held a mail-in election this month asking residents to approve a slight increase in the city sales tax, from one-quarter cent to three-eighths cent, to continue funding road improvement projects. Ballots were in today and as many people in this room know if not all of them know, it passed with more than 70% of voters approving it. Do you support the city using this mechanism for this purpose? Why or why not? [22:54]
- This summer, the city approved funding for some environmental upgrades for several city facilities including this building we’re in now: The Sylvester Powell Jr. Community Center. This funding was ultimately approved but it did spark a discussion on the city council about the future of the community center, some councilmembers expressing concerns about the drop in the use of the community center not only during the pandemic — which exacerbated it — but even before. How do you see Sylvester Powell evolving to serve the Mission community? Is this community center fitting the city and residents needs? [27:50]
- Some Johnson Countians are wondering how increased polarization could impact local elections and local city governance. Elections from municipal offices in Johnson County including here in Mission have traditionally at least for the last couple of decades been nonpartisan. Some readers have expressed concerns that this year for whatever reason, some candidates — not in this race — are openly campaigning as a member of a particular political party. We should say other readers have said this might be a good thing, knowing where and how to align their allegiances. How can the city of Mission keep political polarization out of local governance? Or do you think that local offices like this one actually should be explicitly partisan? [30:55]
- What is the greatest challenge you think Mission faces over the next four years, and what steps will you take in office in order to meet that challenge? [32:43]