Property taxes, mature tree preservation, partisanship and attracting businesses to town were some of the pressing topics at a Thursday evening candidate forum for Roeland Park City Council candidates hosted by the Shawnee Mission Post.
The forum at Cedar Roe Library featured four candidates vying in two contested races in Wards 1 and 2. In addition, three other city council candidates and the city’s current mayor are running unopposed.
This is part of the Post’s ongoing election coverage this year. Here is a schedule for the Post’s other candidate forums leading up to the Nov. 7 general election.
Who are the candidates?
- Nonprofit executive Emily Hage is running unopposed
- Architect and planning commissioner Matthew Lero is running unopposed.
- Councilmember Miel Castagna-Herrera is running unopposed for a full term.
- Mayor Michael Poppa is running unopposed.
How to watch the forum
- The Post’s recording of the forum is embedded in a link below.
- Immediately following the video are questions each candidate answered during the forum.
- Timestamps are included in bold to easily jump to specific questions throughout the video.
- The Post experienced some technical issues with sound during this forum recap, and you cannot hear the candidates between 34:55-36:10 and 38:55-41:30. We have asked the candidates to submit written responses for those instances and will update this recap when we receive them.
- Candidate opening statements [4:23]
- With rising property values, many cities are seeing their annual revenues go up even if they hold their municipal mill levy — or property tax — rates flat or decrease them. Roeland Park plans to lower its local mill levy slightly in 2024. Should the city consider cutting its mill rate in the future? If yes, what would you cut from the budget to account for any lost revenue? If not, are there other forms of tax relief the city can provide residents? [9:30]
- Let’s jump into this idea of economic development. The Rocks are coming, also, of course, a key part of the city’s retail revenue is Walmart and the area surrounding it. There have been some vacancies in that complex recently. What would be your approach if elected or re-elected to making sure that the economic development in Roeland Park is vibrant and providing the revenue that the city needs? [15:47]
- Some of our readers say they want to see their cities in Johnson County — not just Roeland Park — explore ways to encourage the development of so-called “missing middle” housing, like duplexes, townhomes and small starter homes in addition to multifamily housing. This is in response to skyrocketing housing costs in Johnson County. Roeland Park’s challenge is that it is small and landlocked, meaning there are not very many places for new developments. Are there any feasible ways for Roeland Park to add “missing middle” housing? Or are there other ways you’d like to see the city address housing affordability? [21:47]
- What is your stance on invoking a mature tree preservation ordinance and how would you go about educating the public on that topic? [28:16]
- It’s been mentioned a couple of times about encouraging new businesses. How would you go about promoting businesses to move to Roeland Park? What would be your pitch and what specific steps would you take as a councilmember to try to get businesses to come to Roeland Park? [33:58]
- Jan Faidley’s response: The city in partnership with Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce implemented an innovative program in 2023 called Project RISE – which stands for Recruit, Identify, Support and Encourage. Project RISE aims to support existing businesses and recruit new business to the city. As a former small business owner, I recognize the value and potential for this program. Council voted to fund Project RISE again in 2024 and is currently working out the details of deliverables. Running a business in a post-Covid world is more than challenging. If the city can help in any way, we should do so – whether by simplifying licensing and permits, providing connections to resources or encouraging our residents to support businesses within the community.
- Haile Sims’ response: The Rocks development is unique opportunity to grow our city’s population and bring in more visitors. On council I will support continuing Project Rise and working with chambers of commerce to bring in small businesses now to capitalize on this opportunity. Also I will encourage property owners to bring businesses into their empty storefronts.
- It was alluded to earlier by a couple of candidates but what are some innovative ways to bring in additional revenue to Roeland Park in your opinion, beyond what’s been discussed already tonight? [38:10]
- Jan Faidley’s response: Phase 1 of the Roeland Park Community Center improvements will soon be complete. This 50s era school building, which has served as a community hub since the city purchased it, is a vintage gem just waiting to be revitalized with programming. Currently Johnson County manages the facility and we are looking forward to the return of programs and rental revenue from the newly renovated spaces. In addition, with the recently updated aquatic center fully staffed, we will conduct a promotional campaign to increase usership of the pool making it a “destination spot” and bringing in additional revenue over the summer.
- Stephanie Marriott’s response: In my opinion, it goes back to rebranding our city and advertising what we have in our city. Our community center has so much to offer everyone. Our aquatic center is necessary for our city as well as surrounding areas. Our summer concerts in the park. There is so much more we could be doing. We could also have a farmers market on the weekends or maybe even start having a yearly fair. All of these things need to be advertised.
- Candidate’s closing statements [42:44]