1. It’s unaffordable for many low-income residents to live in OP near their jobs. Would you support changes to zoning to allow for denser and more affordable housing options in OP? What specific types of residences would you like to see more of? If you do not support denser housing, are there other policies you think would help more residents afford to live near their jobs in Overland Park?
Overland Park was developed as a suburban community primarily, and until recently, comprised mostly of single family homes and planned neighborhoods. The recent trend to spot-zone high density developments is contrary to the character of the community in which residents have invested considerable capital to provide a strong quality of life free of congestion for their families.
The KC metro area is easily accessible throughout, with often no more than a 30-minute trip to reach most parts of the city, whether by car or public transportation. Therefore, the suggestion that people are not able to live within a reasonable commute to employment in Overland Park is simply not as dire as the premised question would imply.
Ideally, the employment offered in Overland Park is such that after working hard and prudently saving, as families have for decades, couples and families desiring to do so can transition from apartment and urban living to single-family home neighborhoods in suburbs like Overland Park. Building endless, dense developments squeezed in alongside established neighborhoods is driving many longtime residents from those neighborhoods to flee to Southern Johnson County, Miami Count and rural Missouri communities.
Overland Park has sought to extend its borders in a defensive maneuver to capture the rural areas to the south by leap-frogging annexation in a haphazard manner to control various interchanges and future potential commercial areas, with little plan or resources to properly serve those areas. Overland Park would do better to focus its attention and resources to be the best suburban community for its residents it can be, rather than trying become an urban city failing in its quest to be all things to all people and responding to every planning fad of the day.
Overland Park was never meant to be New York or even Kansas City, nor is such a congested lifestyle desired by Overland Park residents. Safe, maintained and peaceful neighborhoods, along with ensuring strong schools should be the priority focus.
2. The Overland Park police department has faced ongoing criticism and scrutiny over how it handled Officer Clayton Jenison shooting and killing teenager John Albers in 2018. Last September, the FBI opened a civil rights investigation on the matter, which is still ongoing. The city recently released the Johnson County Officer Involved Shooting Team’s report on the incident after months of public outcry. Do you agree with how the police department and city have handled this issue to date? If not, what should have been done differently? How should the city handle the issue of police transparency and accountability going forward?
I strongly support our law enforcement community. Police officers have a difficult and often dangerous job to perform in their mission to keep our city residents safe. That mission is made all the more difficult when the city needlessly obstructs transparency surrounding both this tragedy and the dismissal of the involved officer. Such obstruction sows distrust in the community, and residents lose confidence in city government.
The circumstances of this tragedy are not simple by any means, but concern over nuances and public perception should not have prevented at least the Albers family from having had access to the information surrounding the death of their son. There may be reasonable need to keep some information confidential in these matters, but this limited need should not be a shield to shut down all inquiry. Most importantly, a more beneficial focus resulting from this incident should be to ensure that the police department has appropriate resources to recruit and retain the best officers, and to provide training that meets the highest standards of law enforcement. Such a strong focus prior to this incident may have provided Officer Jenison a stronger skill set to have avoided this tragedy.
It’s disappointing that the current city leadership would hold fast to conflicting logic that standards were adhered to, and no wrongdoing occurred, yet at the same time deemed the officer’s performance unacceptable and required termination — a situation made even more contradictory by the city paying a substantial severance to incentivize the departure of the officer. These actions by city leaders have failed our residents and failed our Overland Park law enforcement officers.
City leaders should have addressed this matter first with the upmost integrity and prudent transparency, rather than soft pedaling it the shadows. The fear of public perception or the inconvenience to political ambition should never supplant honesty in the stewardship of the public trust.
3. Climate change continues to be top of mind for many of our readers. What steps can Overland Park take to prepare Overland Park 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?
The number one thing Overland Park can do to positively impact the environment is to stop the short-sighted approval of high-density residential property. There is an overburdening of existing infrastructure, creating run-off, unsustainable demand on utilities and requiring more and more asphalt and concrete parking structures that both eliminate natural grasses and trees as well as raising climate temperatures.
High-density development not only negatively impacts the environment, but through unreasonable levels of congestion and demand on resources, also directly impacts our quality of life.
4. There have been a number of complaints about the city’s use of the chip seal technique for road repairs in recent months, but less discussion about alternatives and how much they would cost. Do you support the city’s current chip seal program? If not, what should the city be doing instead to repair and maintain its roads? How much would an alternative cost and how would the city pay for it? If you do support chip seal, how do you respond to residents who say it is both dangerous to pedestrians/cyclists and damaging to vehicles?
I do not support the current use of chip seal.
Chip seal was intended for rural roads and not for urban or suburban use. We need to find an alternative resurfacing material and find the money in the budget to pay for it.
The Tax Foundation rated Kansas as the 8th highest state for state and local taxes. Property taxes have risen 320% since 1997 at 6 times the rate of inflation. The city council needs to challenge every line item in the budget to get spending in line with revenues by starting with essential services (like fire, police, and road maintenance) and building up from there by prioritizing discretionary items.
5. The city’s use of tax incentives to attract businesses and spur new development have become the subject of extensive debate in recent years. What’s your general view on the use of tax incentives? Should they ever be used for greenfield projects? Are there any tax incentive tools you believe should never be used? Why or why not?
I support tax incentives for business development when used judiciously. Tax incentives should be used as the exception and not the rule, in areas that would not attract development on their own.
Specifically, tax incentives should be used for blighted, high crime, or geographically undesirable locations and not prime real estate in desirable areas. Too often in Overland Park tax incentives are given away to developers in areas that would have attracted development without the incentives, increasing the tax burden on existing Overland Park residents, schools and businesses.
Reforming city development incentives must be done to restore equity to the local tax burden. Every dollar abated is a dollar that comes directly from residents through an increasing residential tax burden. The Tax Foundation rated Kansas the worst state in the nation for taxes on mature businesses, partly because of the subsidies for new businesses. We must reverse that trend.