WATCH: The Post’s 2022 general election forum for Johnson County Commission

The Johnson County Sheriff’s ongoing election investigation, the use of economic development incentives and what to do about rising property values and the concordant rise in property taxes, all turned

The Johnson County Sheriff’s ongoing election investigation, the use of economic development incentives and what to do about rising property values and the concordant rise in property taxes, all turned out to be major points of difference during a forum featuring Johnson County Commission candidates.

The Post hosted the event Tuesday night at Johnson County Community College’s Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. You can also review our forum for the candidates vying for Johnson County Commission Chair, which was held on the same night.

It featured six candidates vying for three Board of County Commissioners seats:

The Post livestreamed the forum on our Facebook page, and the entire event can be viewed in the embedded link below. Timestamps for specific questions can be found below the video, if you’d like to jump to specific points in the discussion.

*Note: The Post has traditionally eschewed writing condensed recaps of our forums, opting instead for republishing videos of these discussions in their entirety, accompanied by transcribed questions, so that readers can watch the candidates’ responses in their full context and assess for themselves their electoral choices.

Johnson County Commission forum questions

  1. Candidates’ opening statements [4:00]
  2. What do you see has being the biggest priorities in your particular district and how will our actions align with those needs and priorities? [11:07]
  3. Many Johnson County residents have seen the county’s appraised values of their homes going up double digits year after year without corresponding property tax rate reductions to offset them — meaning people’s out-of-pocket tax expenses have risen dramatically in recent years. The next Johnson County budget does, in fact, lower the county’s mill levy, or property tax, rate by one mill — the largest such reduction in 20 years — but home values are rising so quickly that Johnson County taxpayers, by and large, are expected to still pay more in property taxes. Should the county’s property tax rate be cut more? If not, what other relief is there for taxpayers? If so, what impact will this have on county services? [21:35]

    Johnson County Commission candidates participate in a forum hosted by the post.
    District 1 candidates, current Commission Becky Fast, left, and challenger Audra McMahon. Photo credits Leah Wankum.
  4. Since the fall of 2021, Sheriff Calvin Hayden has used county resources to conduct an investigation into unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud. His investigation continues even as the Johnson County Election Office and Secretary of State have offered repeated assurances that the 2020 election was free of significant abnormalities. Hayden, for his part, says he is simply doing his due diligence after residents raised concerns, though his office has produced just one actual complaint report so far. Do you support the Sheriff’s continued investigation of the 2020 election? Are you comfortable with county resources being used for it? Why or why not? [36:45]

    Johnson County Commission candidate discuss ideas in a forum hosted by the Post.
    District 4 candidates: current Commission Janeé Hanzlick, left, and challenger Maria Holiday. Photo credits Leah Wankum.
  5. As a county commissioner, you will also be part of the Board of County Canvassers, the body that conducts the official canvass and certifies election results in Johnson County. Reader Ann Lintecum wants all of the county commission candidates to answer the following: “Who won the 2020 presidential election? Your answer will tell me everything I need to know.” Do you recognize Joe Biden as the legitimately elected president of the United States? If not, knowing you will eventually have a say in certifying election results in Johnson County, our readers deserve to hear what sources of information you go to and trust when considering the integrity and security of elections in general and our county election system in particular. [48:00]
  6. This questions directly from a reader: “When it comes to economic development, Kansas law leaves much of that to cities instead of counties. But the County government can play a significant role in making sure businesses are welcome and encouraged to locate here and bring good jobs with them. When trying to attract jobs and businesses, who is Johnson County competing against? What role, if any, do you think economic development incentives should play in trying to attract businesses here?” [54:00]

    Johnson County Commission candidates talk about the issues.
    District 5 candidates: current Commission Michael Ashcraft, left, and challenger Stephanie Suzanne Berland. Photo credits Leah Wankum.
  7. The county commission earlier this summer approved new regulations governing industrial-scale solar farms. There are currently no solar farms in the county … but the approval of the new rules paves the way for such operations, including one proposed for outside Gardner that would, if built, be the largest solar farm in Kansas. The rules the county commission adopted were looser than ones recommended by the county planning commission, which some critics said were so strict it would have dissuaded solar farm development. With these regulations now in place, you could be asked to vote on solar farm proposals in Johnson County. Do you support the building of solar farms in Johnson County? Why or why not? [1:03:50]
  8. Candidates’ closing statements [1:11:20]