Shawnee City Council candidates on the issues: The future of Shawnee

Moonlight Market Shawnee

Shawnee Moonlight Market begins on May 20. Photo credit Leah Wankum.

In August, we asked our readers about the issues you wanted to hear the candidates running for Shawnee City Council address. Based on your feedback, we developed a five-item questionnaire touching on the most important issues to patrons of the district.

Each day this week, we have published the candidates’ responses to one of five questions. Today, we are publishing candidates’ responses to the final question:

What’s the top thing you’d like to be able to say about the city of Shawnee four years from today that you can’t say now? Why?

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

Ward 1

Tony Gillette

My top priorities are to secure Shawnee’s future as a great place to raise a family, own a small business, and be an easier place to live and achieve the American Dream. We can do this by bringing transparency to the city budget, cut excessive spending and transfer that savings into the Parks and Pipes projects, which has gone underfunded for way too long. I want to see our city grow with the proper “fit-and-feel” within the existing neighborhoods. We must also prioritize proper funding on our police and fire departments.

Additionally, I would start a 5-year project for funding and executing the addition of curbs, gutters, and sidewalks to the many miles of Ward 1 city streets that lack these basic amenities. Many of the neighborhoods nearest and surrounding the downtown core areas still lack basic neighborhood infrastructure. By addressing these issues, will we raise the quality of life in our urban core making all of Shawnee family friendly and desirable for all. Finally, I want to be YOUR voice at city hall.

Sophia Theodore

I would love to say that four years from now Shawnee has risen above the divisiveness of national politics and what we see in our community today and that we have come together as a community to make our city better.

I hope that we can say it started with our City Council because we set an example of how to make our voices heard while respecting the voices of others in our search to find common ground. Our citizens deserve this type of representation.

Ward 2

Mike Kemmling (incumbent)

I’d like to be able to say that council and staff listen to the desires of the citizens and that we were able to keep taxes low while taking care of the essentials.

Eric Persson

I would like to see Shawnee become more connected. How do we bridge the divide that many people talk about (justly so or not) between Western and Eastern Shawnee for example? We need to make our neighborhoods throughout the city feel more connected and integrated.

We also need to improve public safety with more sidewalks, gutters and upgraded storm water drainage. I’m hoping to see some of the funds given to the city through the American Rescue Plan Act go towards these needs.

I would love to see Shawnee become more walkable and bikeable with better public transportation options as well. Over the past year residents weighed in on our city’s comp plan through Achieve Shawnee and there were so many great ideas on making our city more accessible and I’d love to see many of those ideas come to fruition. It has been over 30 years since the last comprehensive plan and it is time to move forward in ways that are economically and environmentally sustainable.

Ward 3

Lisa Larson-Bunnell (incumbent)

I would like to see visible progress towards our Achieve Shawnee strategic plan over the next four years. Shawnee has not had a strategic plan in nearly 30 years. There will be a vote to adopt the plan at the October 25th meeting. Many Ward 3 residents have expressed that they feel the city is rudderless and that we are falling behind compared to other Johnson County cities.

To that, I point out that cities like Lenexa and Overland Park have had comprehensive strategic plans for years and have worked towards accomplishing their goals. We are not Lenexa or Overland Park. We are Shawnee, and we need to chart our own course as a community. I am so proud of the draft plan because it is the work of many Shawnee residents. It is the product of nearly three years of hard work. There may be changes to the plan in the years ahead, but this is a start.

Angela Stiens

In four years, I’d like to say that the city is more responsive to residents, that homeowners have a permanent seat at the table when it comes to new developments next to their homes. I’d like to say the city is more fiscally responsible and has a thorough budget process that is a model for other cities to follow.

I’d like to say that we lowered the mill levy to bring real relief to taxpayers. Finally, I’d like to be able to say that Shawnee remains a great place to start a business, raise a family, and retire.

Ward 4

Kevin Makalous

That I was a small part of helping heal some of the divides that exist in our city. The east/west division, the hurt from the community center debate, the sense of economic opportunities and perceived imbalances, and a fractured city council. We live in such a wonderful city.

We have to focus on not allowing the political rhetoric and debates to infect all that makes Shawnee a wonderful place to raise a family, grow a business, and grow old together with friends and family surrounding you. If I can be just one voice amongst the 68,000+ of us trying to find all that’s good around us and encouraging those, sometimes with the louder voices, to lower the temperature of the conversation, perhaps 4 years from now we can be a little less divided and a little more singularly focused on being ONE SHAWNEE.

Jacklynn Walters

As a mom, homeowner, and taxpayer in Shawnee, my top issue for Shawnee is ensuring that Shawnee remains a great place to raise a family, start a business, and retire. There are a number of ways to accomplish this task, from tax policy to fully funding public safety to ensuring our neighborhoods remain vibrant.

We also must rein in corporate welfare, which means practicing strict scrutiny regarding the use of tax incentives that reward wealthy developers who often break their promises with no accountability.

Read these candidates’ responses to questions about investing public dollars downtown, getting along with council colleagues, taxation and spending, and flooding and climate change.