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.
Here’s a look at what Hammond and Rider had to say:
Q: Why are you running for office?
Hammond: As a long time 30 year resident of Merriam, Kansas, I have watched the burden of higher taxes on homeowners push them into their level of fixed income.
Senior citizens, veterans and long time residents have paid 30, 40 and 50 years on taxes. Incentives and grants should be given to help these residents. I like to keep residents informed when grants are offered. Commercial properties should fit the needs of residents, like a grocery store.
Safety is another concern. Our roads in Merriam, Kansas, need [to be] re-evaluated for safety. Pedestrian lights should be a must at Merriam Elementary School for the safety of our children and pedestrians. Merriam, Kansas, has always been a wonderful community to raise a family. I have talked to so many residents and I want their voices heard. The importance of our community voice is when someone listens and takes action. I want to be your voice in Merriam, Kansas.
Rider: I am running for city council because I want to be a voice for the people and I want to see Merriam thrive. I think the city has a good trajectory and I want to help us continue to move forward. I believe a strong economy, affordable housing, and a sustainable environment will position us well for the future. As your city council representative, I would be dedicated to making Merriam work for families, for seniors, for people just getting started; for people at all stages of life.
Q: What qualifications do you have that make you stand out from the other candidates?
Hammond: I’m very well qualified with years of volunteer and hard work: Former Downtown Shawnee Beautification Committee member. Member of The Water Garden Society, bringing 1,000 people to Merriam, Kansas each year. Former First Vice for American Legion Auxiliary. Former journalist for Kansas City Kansan Newspaper. Former business owner. Wreaths Across America Committee member. Community Emergency Response Team. Horticulturist for 30 years.
My sister is also a part of the city council in Baldwin [City], Kansas. We are always exchanging ideas on improvements in our cities.
Rider: After graduating from Kansas State University, I moved to this area to be near my twin sister and her family. I fell in love with Merriam and am now raising my own family here. I have worked in the service industry for over 15 years. In addition, my sister and I own and operate a small business. Through these experiences, I have developed interpersonal and managerial skills. I work hard, I am a team player and a good listener, and I am a strong believer in consensus building. I believe these strengths would allow me to serve Merriam.
Q: What is your view on the use of tax incentives for new commercial development? What criteria would you use when determining if incentives should be granted to developers wanting to build within the city?
Hammond: If we are giving incentives, make sure it’s beneficial to the community. Incentives, TIF should be given in increments to insure the development gets done. Merriam doesn’t need a development half-done and [allow the developer to] leave. We have had this happen before.
I would love to see new business expand and thrive in Merriam, Kansas. The more revenue the better. Merriam needs to elevate each different plan that would bring more revenue to the city. I would be looking at solutions to get new business to Merriam, Kansas. We also need to keep the grants for small businesses to get bigger and better. The better the revenue, the better on our tax burdens.
Rider: I am not opposed to using tax incentives to draw businesses to Merriam or, better yet, help launch and grow local businesses. However, the use of tax incentives should be carefully structured to ensure that existing local businesses are not placed at a disadvantage and the citizens are not being overtaxed to compensate.
Additionally, care must be taken to ensure that businesses receiving tax incentives uphold the values of the city and provide quality jobs. Businesses receiving tax incentives must commit to maintaining or enhancing their property and to paying living wages to their employees. We also need to close loopholes that allow property owners and businesses to profit from neglect. I believe it is possible to structure our policies in ways that will allow businesses to be successful, while still protecting our citizens, our community, our environment, and our resources.
Q: What initiatives would you support to improve affordable housing options in Merriam? How can the city offer a range of housing options for residents of different income levels?
Hammond: We have a diversity in incomes in Merriam, Kansas. This comes back to going door-to-door talking to our residents. We need to take care of our residents here first. Fixed incomes on our senior citizens, veterans and handicapped living with burdens of higher taxes. Long term residents paying taxes for 30, 40 and 50 years should have incentives, grants to stay in their homes that they have owned for years.
Every resident I spoke with did not want apartments, [or] condos coming to their communities. Let’s tackle the real housing issues in our community first. Make residents a top priority. Let’s start enticing incentives to long term residents, veterans and senior citizens to stay in their homes.
Rider: Merriam is essentially land locked. We do not have the ability to expand outward and we also need to maintain the commercial property to provide sales-based income. Working within these constraints can be challenging, but it is a challenge I believe we can meet.
I am in favor of supporting initiatives such as a housing tax credit that is tied to a requirement that property owners reserve a percentage of their housing stock for low income families, such as young couples just starting families and the elderly who are on fixed incomes. Bonds for housing development may also be a useful tool for increasing the availability of safe and affordable housing.
Many small cities have well-established programs that encourage owners to maintain and enhance their properties. These include both homeowners and owners of commercial residences. I believe Merriam would do well to investigate existing programs to learn what has worked well and what has not had the desired or expected results. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel when so many other cities have programs we can learn from and model after.