PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. —Ahead of the general election on Nov. 2, FOX4 is working to help voters get a better idea where candidates stand on issues impacting residents in the metro.
FOX4 sent out a questionnaire to candidates in more than 50 races in Johnson County. Dave Robinson and Jessica Priestland are competing for voter support to represent the 4th Ward on the Prairie Village City Council.
Here’s a look at what Robinson and Priestland had to say:
Q: What is your top policy issue for the City of Prairie Village?
Robinson: My top policy issue for Prairie Village would be to assure that we continue to execute the fundamentals of City Government in an efficient, effective, and open manner. Everything from public safety, public works, code enforcement, and overall fiscal management.
Priestland: One of my top priorities as a council member would be to make sure the city budget is effectively scrutinized in order to ensure that city funds are being spent on appropriate, necessary expenses that benefit the majority of residents.
Prairie Village is very well managed by our city administration. We have first-rate public works and public safety departments. It is important that services provided by the city continue to be high-quality and reliable. However, it is equally imperative that residents’ property taxes are moderated and those funds are used responsibly.
While speaking with many residents, it is apparent that there is concern regarding their rising property taxes. This is primarily due to the increase in home appraisals. These rising property taxes greatly impact our fixed-income residents and some have felt pressure to consider selling their homes of 30+ years. Prairie Village needs to create ways to protect our longtime residents and alleviate the burden of rising property taxes.
Q: Prairie Village was the first city in Johnson County to issue a city-wide mask mandate. Do you feel this was the right decision? If elected, what metric would you use to determine COVID precautions in the future?
Robinson: I believe it was the right decision and I saw it for what it was. A reminder to people to refocus precautions as the virus resurged in our area. The city exercised caution and accepted its responsibility to educate citizens and take reasonable steps to ensure everyone’s safety during unprecedented times. They listened to the experts, deeply considered the impact to people and local businesses, and listened to a loud minority against any masking mandate.
Going forward, I would watch the official numbers closely and follow the guidance from governmental and medical institutions, such as the CDC, that are experts in this area. We are all in this pandemic together. However, we are clearly not together on how to live through it.
Priestland: As I’ve been out walking the Ward 4 streets and introducing myself to residents the past couple weeks, this mask mandate has been a “hot topic”, with residents on both sides of the issue voicing their opinions and concerns.
I do understand that this an important issue, however, I feel it is an ever-changing, “situational” issue, in the sense that it doesn’t have any true bearing on the future business state of Prairie Village. It doesn’t affect the condition of our streets. It doesn’t affect whether we decide to refinance our GO bonds for the Meadowbrook project. It doesn’t affect the new discussion on “affordable” housing. It doesn’t affect the balancing and examination of the budget. It doesn’t affect the deliberation of big-budget future projects.
As a 4-year term council member, I’d like to focus on these issues and provide solutions and ideas that will benefit all residents and continue to keep Prairie Village a highly sought-after community, where all residents feel heard and appreciated. My biggest hope is that as a nation we find ourselves out of this pandemic and back to a sense of normalcy in the next six months. So many people have been affected; from the loss of loved ones, to the loss and interruption of livelihood and employment security. We need to heal and restore our communities.
Q: What changes, if any, would you like to see in the city budget?
Robinson: The city does an excellent job in managing the overall budget. With more than 80% of budget dollars going to public safety, public works, and city staff, the remaining balance must be wisely allocated in order to continue to provide the things that move the city forward and enhance the lives of people who live and work here. So big changes, to me, are not in order. Rather it is continued focus on fiscal oversight, maintaining the city’s excellent bond rating, and finding the best ways to allocate those remaining dollars.
Priestland: FOX4 did not receive a direct response to this question. Priestland addressed this issue in question 1.
Q: The city council is in the process of researching a potential plan to decriminalize marijuana possession within the city. Would you support the decriminalization of marijuana in Prairie Village? Please explain why or why not.
Robinson: It is obvious that the decriminalization of marijuana is trending across the United States. So it’s coming, like it or not, and sooner than later right across our state line with Missouri. As in many states already taking this step, there appears to be no major unraveling of society or civil unrest, but it does come with consequences.
Our Chief of Police earlier cautioned the city council that by being on the front end of this issue, the city would invite a criminal element to operate from a more protected position within our city. And, also recognizing that the city’s position does not relinquish current drug enforcement penalties at the county and state levels. As such, he has advised against decriminalization at this time. So my position would be to listen to our public safety leader and wait until such time that a broader acceptance of decriminalization is accepted and passed at the state level.
Priestland: My rationale is based on the following: I’ve not had the opportunity, personally, to dig really deep into the research and data, More importantly, I feel that I should look to those professionals that work with this matter day to day and have a much better sense of the current situation and possible consequences of the proposed policy. With that, I would stand with our Chief of Police, Byron Roberson’s, prospective and would not support it at this time.