4Star Politics: Skoog and Czinege face off in Overland Park mayoral forum

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Voters in Overland Park have a big decision to make. For the first time since 2005, current Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach’s name will not be on the ballot in November.

After beating out local attorney Clay Norkey and city councilmember Faris Farassati in a four-way primary, Mike Czinege and Curt Skoog are going head-to-head in hopes of becoming the next mayor of Overland Park.

The two candidates joined FOX 4’s John Holt and The Kansas City Star’s Dave Helling on this edition of 4Star Politics to share their views on a variety of issues, including star bonds and how development should be paid for in the future.

Policing, crime and public safety were also hot topics during the FOX4 Overland Park Mayoral Forum. A new survey said 98% of Overland Park residents said they feel safe in their neighborhoods and are happy with police and fire services, but the candidates say there are improvements that must be made and problems to address.

“Since 2016 to 2020, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, which uses Overland Park city numbers to do this. Violent crime, rape, murder, aggravated assault, is up 37%, from 307 to 438. Property crimes, up 36% from about 2800 to 4000. Those are dramatic increases,” Czinege said.

“But I can tell you, again, from walking neighborhoods and from reading Nextdoor everyday, people are concerned about rising crime. In particular property crime. Just yesterday at 1:37 a.m. in Overland Park someone interrupted a robbery in his car and there were shots fired from the perpetrator. He took off and the homeowner followed him and shots were fired behind him. Things we need to do, we need to make sure our compensations to our officers is fair, adequate and the absolute best we can afford. We need to make sure they are trained well. We need to restore the ratio of police to residents we had before the rift. We have to build that up over time,” Czinege said.

“Well, it’s good to hear that Mike agrees with what we’ve been doing in the city of Overland Park. All of those things he mentioned are things we’ve been doing in the city. The current budget has 26 officers, 26 positions for the police department, so we are adding police officers as we are able to,” Skoog said. “Increasing crime is a national issue. We’re far below surrounding cities in the state. It’s important to put percentages in context. In Overland Park our total crime rate has been flat for the last five years, under 11,500 crimes a year. That’s across the whole city, including everything. There’s been an increase in violent crime, I agree with that. The biggest culprit to that has been domestic violence. That’s why in our police department we have hired a social worker that is helping spouses to deal with their issues at home in domestic abuse. Almost all of that increase can be attributed to domestic violence.”

You can watch the candidates answer a number of other questions during the hour-long Overland Park Mayoral Forum in the above video player.

The election is scheduled to take place on Nov. 2.

FOX4 and The Kansas City Star are partnering to bring you 4Star Politics, a special digital venture with new episodes released Wednesdays at 5 p.m.

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