Merriam city council candidates on the issues: Addressing climate change

Merriam city hall

Merriam 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 Merriam mayor and city council seats address. Based on that feedback, we developed a five-item questionnaire with the most important issues to Merriam 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 Merriam 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:

Mayor

Bob Pape

Climate change is a topic that effects everyone. I think Merriam is doing an excellent job of identifying ways that has a positive effect on our environment. We are changing over our street lighting to LED lighting which drastically reduces energy consumption. We are making our buildings more energy efficient. We have developed a residential grant program that encourages our citizens to install energy efficient windows, siding and solar panels. We have a grant that encourages the use of rain barrels to control flooding. We have adopted the County floodwater plan that addresses impervious surfaces and the quality of water runoff that enters our streamway. All new projects developed in Merriam are required to address the impact of water runoff. Sometimes, basins or storm retention vessels are required. We recently conducted a study of the flooding occurring in West Vernon Place subdivision. It will not only identify the problem areas; it will look conduct a cost/benefit analysis of potential remedies. We are replacing numerous city vehicles in various departments with hybrid vehicles. We are adding Electric Vehicle Charging stations in several locations. We are improving our walkability and bikeability throughout Merriam. We encourage residents to plant trees by providing a grant to help pay the cost. We plant trees at the schools each year during Arbor day and we always plant a tree on City owned property whenever we lose a tree. This helps to reduce the carbon footprint in our City.

Angel Lopez III

Did not respond.

Ward 2

Amy Rider

Climate change is a subject that has been close to my heart since I was a child. One of the things I love about Merriam is that the city leaders are not sitting by idly but continually working to make our city more sustainable. Merriam is currently increasing availability of walking and biking paths, maintaining green spaces that act to slow and absorb the flow of stormwater, providing an annual tree sale for residents, providing electric vehicle charging stations, encouraging composting either at home or through Compost KC, subsidizes energy saving upgrades, and subsidizes stormwater retention efforts such as rain barrels and water gardens. That is not all we can do though. We can use permeable concrete where concrete is necessary, set a goal to decrease emissions, potentially create solar farms on city rooftops and, provide tax incentives for green companies, businesses wanting to build with recycled materials, or existing businesses who want to go green. (Anyone interested in the city’s current efforts can find it on the Merriam city website.)

Nancy Hammond

Climate change is a big issue for many cities. We can start with fertilizers. Our home has been organic for 20 years. The run off alone from fertilizers creeps up in all our water ways and drains. Education on organic fertilizers is important. Nitrogen pollute many waters and drain offs. Then is the issue with power. There is a rise of population in every city that add to the need as well for electricity. Offering a grant program for solar panels to residents and businesses. Public transportation as well such as busses cuts down on nitrogen dioxide, hydrocarbons that pollute. We need public transportation in Merriam. Green streets. Natural engineered methods for controlling storm water that would otherwise gather pollutants that rush from hard Street surfaces into storm drains and local waterways. It absorbs carbon dioxide and cool surroundings areas. I would suggest our city officials to visit Greensburg, Kansas. They did a remarkable job rebuilding a green city. 100 perfect renewable energy. The City of Merriam is adding a Green Team. I am also wanting to start a Garden Club in Merriam in February. The garden club will be full of information on going green and education with guest speakers.

Ward 4

Staci Chivetta

Merriam is a member of the Metro KC Climate Action Coalition and I support all that we can do as a city to make our region more sustainable. I believe with using our resources and the Climate Plan that MKCAC has put together, we should be able to help prepare our neighborhoods for the issues that are being caused by climate change. We just need to get started as soon as possible and make this a priority in our city.

David Neal (incumbent)

During my current term, I have strongly advocated for improvements to our stormwater handling in vulnerable neighborhoods and I will continue to support additional efforts. We should shortly be receiving an engineering study on options for addressing stormwater management problems in the West Vernon Place neighborhood. My Council partner Bob Pape and I had to fight hard to get the ball rolling on this important matter. The original development design was inadequate in terms of storm sewers. In one area there is even runoff from the city right-of-way onto private property during heavy rains. Hopefully the engineering study will point the way to alleviate some of these runoff problems during our now more frequent heavy rain events. I favor a proactive investment in stormwater management by the City.

I also have been taking a close look at the practice of granting “detention waivers” for new developments which should only be granted in cases where the re-development results in no additional runoff into Turkey or Quail Creeks. I would favor looking into the feasibility of actually voluntarily increasing the detention capacity requirements for new projects that the city partially funds through Tax Increment Financing (TIF).

I have also been a strong supporter of recent efforts that the City has taken to promote sustainable energy including rooftop solar. I would like to see the city plant additional trees on city property and right of ways to naturally increase the carbon capture of our city. I voted for a proposal that enabled the City to now buy its electricity from wind generation farms in Kansas. I favor locating auto charging stations in Merriam. Generally I am a strong supporter of green energy and green building. I will vote to encourage such practices when feasible.

On Friday, We’ll publish candidates’ responses to the following question:

Earlier this year, Merriam received pushback on an ordinance prohibiting people from standing in medians at nine intersections. Critics say this is an attempt to limit panhandling, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas (ACLU) and National Homelessness Law Center sent a four-page letter to the city about the ordinance being
unconstitutional. Would you have supported (or did you support) the ordinance? Why or why not?