OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — With the general election less than a month away, 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. After securing roughly 44 percent of votes in the August primary, Scott Mosher will take on incumbent Stacie Gram to represent the 4th Ward on the Overland Park City Council.
Here’s a look at what Gram and Mosher they had to say:
Q:What policies can the city adopt to improve transparency and public engagement?
Gram: I have been on the Council since May 2020 and in that time, have seen the city grapple with transparency issues arising out of the tragic death of John Albers. I have had many conversations with city staff about releasing relevant information about that situation. While I believe the city has learned from that experience, in future, city staff should be more forthcoming with information to the public and should advise the Council if it’s dealing with an issue of public disclosure so that Council Members can represent the views of their constituents.
With regard to city events and issues facing the Council, the city works hard to keep us informed, but it is clear that we need to do more to engage residents. Next year’s budget adds a Communication Specialist to city staff to enhance community outreach and social media engagement. That addition will help spread the word about important issues coming before the Council.
The city’s print publication, the Overview, can be used to communicate more substantively about issues and can be used to encourage residents to connect to the City and their Council Members on social media. Council Members themselves can be better educated to use social media to inform residents about upcoming votes and the budget process. The Mayor, Council Members and city staff can be tasked with leading regularly scheduled public forums to engage with residents.
Mosher: The city council hasn’t been responsive to those that elected them for a long time! Leadership is serving in a way that others want to follow and trust. Our council members come across as people that know best and act accordingly, say they seek input but then ignore it.
There are many examples of this in how they vote! The streetlight issue is one, Ranchmart, Brookridge, chipseal, to name a few. How does this change, change the council! Being elected means to listen and represent those that put you there.
At the council meetings, public speakers have 3 minutes to say what they want, and no answers are given. I would like to see a recap of questions asked in writing and published the next week.
Transparency is open communication not a one sided conversation. We as a council need to say what we think, give all the information, seek input and with those that elected us come to a conclusion that benefits all of us! They currently come in closed minded, ready to vote and when the public comes in to speak, they are discounted and told they don’t understand and then vote their way for what they think. Please attend a meeting, or watch one on the web, you will see this as I do! We need change!
Q:How can Overland Park improve connectivity and public transportation?
Gram: Improving connectivity within the city is a key focus area of ForwardOP, our vision for the city. I am on the Board of ForwardOP and committed to its initiative areas. We are already making some positive moves toward improved connectivity: we’ve added bike lanes around the city, incorporated walking paths in new development and we recently voted to pilot a scooter program. In addition, microtransit is available in our city as a low-cost method of ride sharing.
There is much still to be done. We are currently studying the College Boulevard corridor for improvements to connectivity in that area. We must continue to fund infrastructure improvements to allow for additional walking, biking and public transit options. This includes executing on OP’s Bicycle Master Plan for 263 miles of biking infrastructure. We should consider the future potential for a mass transit option to connect Johnson County cities with Kansas City.
Mosher: Public transportation and connectivity is a topic that I don’t really know where we are at currently. I don’t really have an answer. This is something that I’ll have to come up to speed on. If I don’t know something, I’ll tell you!
Q:What changes, if any, would you like to see in the city budget?
Gram: I believe our current budget is fiscally prudent and makes good use of our taxpayer dollars. With the lowest property tax of any city in Johnson County, living in Overland Park provides great value for our money in an award-winning city!
My ‘wish list’ for the city includes enhancements that are important to us all. Infrastructure is a key priority as we address aging streets, sidewalks, and stormwater drainage and move away from chip seal on our roads. These improvements will require significant investment.
As our population grows, we’ll need more resources for police and fire departments and public works. I would like to see us employ a sustainability director on a part or full-time basis to help implement environmentally friendly policies across all city departments. I would like to establish additional funds to help improve and maintain the residential areas in north OP and develop varied housing choices like cottage homes, and to help fund the initiatives of ForwardOP.
Mosher: The city budget needs to first and foremost give what is needed for essential services first, to include infrastructure. There is a model used by other cities called zero budgeting, where intake equals income, what we all use in our lives.
We need to live within our means. To start, we need to quit giving money to developers and businesses to move and build here. We need to be that “destination” of choice. It really hurt when we gave some much to BlueHawk, especially after their representative basically stated “This is where we needed to be from all of our research, the perfect location”. We’re they coming anyway? If so, why the tax incentives? We shouldn’t be limiting our future income in this way.