Overland Park City Council wards 4, 5 and 6 candidates on the issues: The future of Overland Park

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In August, we asked our readers about the issues you wanted to hear the candidates running for Overland Park City Council address.

Based on your feedback, we developed a five-item questionnaire touching on the most important issues to the citizens of Overland Park.

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 Overland Park four years from now that you can’t say today? What should the city government be doing to make that a reality?

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

Ward 5

Sam Passer

As a business professional, attracting top talent is a frequent challenge that’s encountered. Overland Park certainly has a degree of talent that allows our city and companies located within the city to be successful, but we need to amp up efforts to have the ability to attract and keep talent, accommodate all residents, and continue to be cutting edge as a community. To make this vision a reality, the city should continue funding the Economic Development Council and invest in bringing more businesses to OP and we need to invest in our infrastructure to have the facilities and environment to be an even more desirable city.

Sheila Rodriguez

Four years from now, I’d like for the city to have PROVEN how much they value and respect the opinions of its residents by their ACTIONS, not just talked about it. We elect members of our governing body to make decisions on our behalf. We trust and expect each to invest their time listening to those on all sides of an issue, weighing differing opinions, seeking input from the community and embracing change when needed.

Council members have a responsibility to serve the people they represent and be their voice at each council meeting. Alignment of common goals and objectives for the betterment of OP and a respect for each other’s opinion are crucial to ensure our city continues to thrive.

Residents deserve to have recent decisions revisited which did not align with the majority opinion of residents to determine whether they should/could be reversed or amended (i.e., Hwy 69 toll, Brookridge development, chip seal in neighborhoods). If the root cause for many of these decisions is lack of funding, then let’s solve that problem.

With a new City Manager and Mayor, 2022 is a great time to explore an alternate budgeting process to ensure we’re not unnecessarily raising taxes in order to solve funding issues. Implementing “Zero Based Budgeting” (ZBB) could help to reallocate funding where it’s needed/desired most. ZBB requires a budget to be built from the ground up starting from zero. All expenses must be justified for each new budget cycle, not just rolled forward from year to year. Not only does this method of budgeting encourage cross-department collaboration, it improves financial transparency, accountability, and prioritizes funding for essential services and programs.

Ward 6

Chris Newlin (incumbent)

Over the next year, Overland Park will be embarking on its first experience developing a Comprehensive Plan in the interest of retaining its status as a top-ranked city with an excellent quality of life. As we enter the next 60 years, it is important that we provide the public with knowledge of what to expect from Overland Park in regard to trends for housing, commercial planning, and recreation needs.

ForwardOP, the 2018 community strategic visioning plan, should be a factor in the decision the city makes toward our new Comprehensive Plan. The city council needs to consider specific initiatives to further implement ForwardOP and make it relevant to Overland Park. Other plans we should review are recommendations from Vision Metcalf, OP Parking Study, College and Metcalf Plan, Johnson County Housing Study, and Climate Action Plan.

The ultimate Comprehensive Plan should address the impacts on land use and other specific plans to ensure that they meet the goals set forth by the community. A few examples might be:

  • Redevelopment strategies for established neighborhoods, aging commercial centers, or major development sites
  • A creative and compatible approach to housing
  • Impact of land-use decisions on the environment
  • Future trends in transportation including accessibility and mobility

This process will also require a robust public engagement process. I plan to hold my “Coffee with Councilmember” series of town halls to keep the community involved and pique interest. I will invite experts from the city to present and gather feedback. This will help us learn exactly what Ward 6 residents are thinking to make appropriate decisions that will be beneficial to the communities south of 135th street.

Overland Park should create projections to help assess performance; any revisions of the plan should utilize public feedback

Jeffrey Cox

I would like to say that the Mayor and City Council of Overland Park prioritize the needs of their citizens over those of the special interests – this is the primary reason I chose to run for the City Council.

Ward 4

Stacie Gram (incumbent)

I’d like Overland Park to rank #1 on all surveys as the best place to live in the country! That would mean to me that Overland Park provides a high standard of living for anyone who wishes live, work and play in the city. In order to say that, we will need to continue to provide reliable city services and a high degree of public safety. We will also need to be forward looking, which means we should continue partnering with the business community to attract new jobs. We will need to offer varied and attainable housing for those entering the workforce and those who want to age in place in the city. We will need to expand our offerings for parks, gathering places and entertainment.

Our city should establish itself as a leader in incorporating sustainability in its operations and development and offer many walkable and bikeable neighborhoods to improve our connectivity and health. Much of this vision was set out in ForwardOP, the goals set forth by Overland Park residents. If we continue to push that vision forward, in four years we will have built an even stronger community for all our neighbors.

Scott Mosher

What I see is change in a positive way over the next 4 years. I see the citizens of OP making the choice in a week or so to make a sweeping change in city leadership. The atmosphere of status quo will change from no involvement and participation to inclusion, one of hope and change for everyone. It doesn’t matter one’s party affiliation – good streets and lower taxes work for everyone! This is what I see.

This is what the new council will do. It is time to stand up and know that all the new members running in each Ward made promises that they will keep. They will not just listen to those that will elect them, they will hear them. We can’t just do a small change, it needs to be a sweeping one – we will have good streets to drive on, and chipseal will go away. Our first responders will be motivated and appreciated because the silent majority will stand up this election and make it so! We will work together with them to improve our safety.

I saw this last year when my son was honored. I was so inspired by what I saw on the “Night of the Blue”. We will see a workable budget, and taxes not being increased long term. We just simply need to stop taxing people to the extent those on fixed incomes feel compelled to move.

I thank you all, those that will vote for me and those that aren’t. Thank you for voting and standing up for your beliefs. I’m no different from you, I work everyday, struggle to pay the high taxes etc! I’m just everyday, like everyone else. We will work collaboratively and do our best together to improve our lives in OP.
We can start this by cutting the tie of lobbyists and return our tax dollars to our city services, public safety,
schools, parks and libraries.

An old saying says: When your “Green your Growing, you ripe you rot”. Old vrs new!

This is what I see! This is what we can all do together!

Read these candidates’ responses to questions about bringing camaraderie and collegiality to city council, changes to the city’s budget, plans to incorporate affordable housing and flooding and climate change.

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