Mission mayoral and city council candidates on the issues: Addressing climate change

Mission City Hall

Mission mayoral and city council candidates weigh in on how the city can build climate resilience. File photo.

The Post asked readers in August about the issues they wanted to hear candidates running for Mission mayor and city council seats address. Based on that feedback, we developed a five-item questionnaire with the most important issues to Mission residents.

Each day this week, we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to one of five questions. Today, we’re publishing candidates’ responses to the following question:

Climate change continues to be top of mind for many Shawnee Mission Post readers. What steps can Mission 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?

Below are the answers the Post received from candidates on this issue:

Ward 2

Lea Loudon

The city of Mission has an active Sustainability Commission currently working on many projects moving Mission towards a greener, more climate-friendly state of being. They are working within a larger framework with Climate Action KC on the
Regional Climate Action Plan whose goal is just and equitable climate resilience in the Kansas City area. I feel this is important because one city can not do enough on their own to tackle climate change or even keep storm water from damaging infrastructure. As Mission has learned in the past, storm water systems don’t function as well when one city makes storm water infrastructure improvements and the city downstream doesn’t. Working together as a region, we are much more successful in solving climate and flooding issues. Coordinating our efforts with other cities in the region multiples the success of our efforts.

The city of Mission should continue to seek federal, state, and county funding sources to pay for infrastructure projects that reinforce our storm drain systems to prevent flooding. When it’s time to replace, remodel, or rebuild city assets, green or energy saving options should be fully explored. When developers bring plans to the city council, they must agree to use sustainable building strategies. Structures and building processes that are environmentally responsible and use resources efficiently throughout a building’s life cycle should be required. Careful consideration should be given to the ratio of building, asphalt/concrete, and green space each development offers, allowing for water run off/absorption, and the prevention of urban heat islands. The city should explore ways of integrating renewable energy sources into our community resulting in green job creation all while making sure our plans for climate resilience are just and equitable for all our residents.

Keith Viken

I believe most of the work has been done on flooding issues in Mission. Now it is more to maintain those areas so waters can flow downstream without any obstructions; this is an area where we need to work with County, State, and Federal officials to help with costs. For extreme heat, Mission would look at having a cooling center for its resident citizens. We should look at partnering with charities for electrical costs for A/C in the homes as well. Finally, to help with droughts, Mission should work with Water One if and when something is needed.

Joe Donaway

Did not respond.

Ward 4

Ben Chociej

Mission has already made good progress in becoming a climate and sustainability leader, which is vital work to enable us to face the challenges of climate change. The leadership shown by Mission’s Sustainability Commission has been a great asset in Mission’s climate fight, resulting in vital updates to the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Presumably the anticipated revision of zoning codes will also be a great chance to include new provisions and requirements for sustainable buildings practices as well. And the current council’s resolve to push for sustainability commitments and certifications in new development projects has already borne fruit in the Mission Bowl project’s commitment to LEED Silver certification.

I wholeheartedly support all these existing efforts and would double down on each of them. Moreover, I am a strong advocate for readily-available solutions that can drive down Mission’s carbon footprint in a very short timeframe. Such solutions should include better pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure to help eliminate short car trips, incentives to replace gas-powered small engines (e.g. lawn equipment) with electric alternatives, and active promotion of bike/walk to school/work events.

To speak specifically to flood hazards, I strongly support the city’s continued commitment to stormwater improvements. These projects have eased floodplain-related burdens for a number of properties, some of which are fantastic candidates for development once floodplain concerns are alleviated. The recent survey of Mission’s stormwater infrastructure will also enable the council to more proactively identify likely points of failure and undersized assets to help prevent localized flooding, sinkholes, collapses, etc.

On the topic of heat and drought, we are fortunate to live in an area with relatively stable utility infrastructure to provide air conditioning, adequate facilities that can serve as cooling shelters, plentiful water sources, and good tree canopy to help keep homes cooler in the summer. However it is always worth revisiting our preparedness plans for extreme climate events, especially as climate change grows more dramatic. I would like to see specific, concrete plans for identifying residents at risk during heat and drought events and how we will help them stay safe when such events occur. Finally, I would advocate for communication with our county, regional, and state government partners to help provide far-reaching solutions to prepare our larger utility and emergency preparedness resources to cope with these coming challenges.

Ray Ruecker

Climate change is real and prevalent. With 6B plus people on the planet, it’s an unintended consequence. The city of Mission should be focused on local issues, NOT global initiatives. We can barely fund streets and roads. Previous administrations have worked on storm drains, flood plains, etc. Climate change is causing challenges, but this is something Mission should work with neighboring cities to figure out as these issues aren’t just happening in Mission. PV, Overland Park, KC, MO, etc. are all experiencing similar issues.

Mayor

Sollie Flora

We continually hear from residents that sustainability initiatives are a high priority and an area they think Mission should emphasize and continue to improve in. If you are concerned about climate change and sustainability is a high priority for you, then I’m the candidate you should vote for on Nov. 2nd. While I personally invited her to participate, as of the date of this writing my opponent is the only member of our City Council who has not signed on to support the work of Climate Action KC as a CAKC Climate Leader (“a local elected official who shares a common set of values and a willingness to work locally – and regionally – towards a more prosperous Kansas City metropolitan region”; see https://climateactionkc.com/leaders). To effectively address climate change, we can’t have a Mayor who thinks we can go it alone.

Prior to my election to the City Council, I served as a member of Mission’s Sustainability Commission. During my time on Council, I’ve been a leader on advancing sustainability measures. I’ve continued to work with our Sustainability Commission as Council Liaison, helping to support their efforts to create a “sustainability lens” for city staff to use to ensure sustainability and forward-thinking solutions are centered in our daily work as a city. I’ve also led the way on securing several sustainability policy wins for Mission, including city participation in Evergy’s Renewables Direct program (wind energy), and ensuring that the new Mission Bowl development will be LEED Silver Certified (a “green” building). In addition, I’m a foundational member of Climate Action KC, and have previously served as chair of its Policy Committee, where I helped develop the Climate Action Playbook and participated in the planning process for the development of the KC Regional Climate Action Plan (https://climateactionkc.com/plan).

If elected Mayor, I will ensure that addressing climate change is a top priority. Simply put, it can’t wait. I support the goals set forth in the Climate Action Plan to achieve a net zero metro region by 2050. To address the impacts of climate change and build a more resilient city, I will continue to empower and support our Sustainability Commission, look to implement solutions from the Climate Action KC Playbook and Climate Action Plan, and to increase city investment in our stormwater infrastructure and in energy improvements (63% of metro area greenhouse gas emissions come from energy).

Arcie Rothrock

Mission continues to do a great job in being proactive with our Sustainability Commission and building many partnerships such as Climate Action KC and GFL. In the online ArcGIS Climate Vulnerability map provided through Climate Action KC, according to the Regional Socioeconomic Stress Index key, it shows that over 3/4s of Mission is lowest in the index, with the remaining 1/4th in the Low index.

As Mayor, I would like to further empower Mission’s Sustainability Commission and expand on the great work and education they continue to deliver to the community. I also look forward to our continued partnership with Climate Action KC and leaning on their in-depth research and expertise to keep us informed, prepared, and proactive.

Our ability to build climate resilience would be an up-hill battle without our Sustainability Commission and these strong partnerships, keeping us well-informed and knowledgeable.

On Thursday, we’ll publish candidates’ responses to the following question:

The city held a mail-in election in September asking residents to renew a three-eighths cent sales tax to continue funding road improvement projects. Do you support the city using this mechanism to bolster its road maintenance funds? If so, why? If not, what other approach should the city be taking?