Shawnee City Council 3rd Ward candidates tackle city spending ahead of general election

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SHAWNEE, 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. 

In Shawnee, Angela Stiens is challenging incumbent Lisa Larson-Bunnell to represent the 3rd Ward on the Shawnee City Council. 

Here’s a look at what Larson-Bunnell and Stiens had to say: 

Q: What is your top policy issue for the City of Shawnee?

Larson-Bunnell: Diversifying our revenue sources. Too much of our annual revenue comes from residential property taxes. We must diversify our revenue so as to protect our budget from the impact of a future housing crisis or recession. In the long run, this will give us the ability to lower property taxes on individual homeowners.

Stiens: I have 3; preserve our neighborhoods, stand with residents, not developers, this has been an very important issue in Ward #3. Respect for taxpayers. 

Q: What do you feel will be the biggest challenge to the city in the next 10 years and how should it be addressed? 

Angela Stiens, Shawnee City Council Candidate, Ward 3

Larson-Bunnell: We are nearing the end of developing our first Comprehensive Plan in nearly 30 years. This is a very important process for the future of our city. Over the next 10 years, it will be important for us to stay focused on meeting the goals of the plan. [One] step in our biggest challenge over the next 10 years will be generating community, councilmember, and staff buy-in to take meaningful actions to support the plan. 

Stiens: First and foremost we need to make sure we continue to invest in repairing any aging infrastructure and ensure our neighborhoods remain strong and safe. Finally, we need to make sure that Shawnee remains an affordable place to live and where small businesses want to grow.

Q: What changes, if any, would you like to see in the city budget? 

Lisa Larson-Bunnell, Shawnee City Council Candidate, Ward 3

Larson-Bunnell: I am very pleased with the budget as approved. The budgeting process was long and involved many ideas and compromises from all council members. Ultimately, we managed to create a budget that allowed us to expand essential city services and approve a mill levy rate reduction for the first time in over twenty years. Budget highlights include:

-An additional 6 police officers and an additional mental health co-responder. 

-Funding for fire stations 71 and 73 facility improvements.  

-Establishment of a property tax rebate program for low income and senior homeowners.

-A part-time Special Populations programmer in the Parks and Recreation Department.

Stiens: I[n] general, [my] view of government at any level is that it should be limited and focused on core services such as public safety, roads, parks, and the lake. It is the taxpayers money, not the city council’s money. A thorough review of the budget with this mindset would likely present ideas for changes. Certainly the Shawnee [City] Council voting to give the city manager a 25% pay raise during COVID, when many Shawnee residents were facing unemployment, was deeply problematic, which is an example of a poor decision the city has made in recent years. I would also like to see more transparency in our budget. 

Q: Would you support the city issuing a mask mandate or any other health orders beyond what has been recommended by the county health department? Please explain why or why not.

Larson-Bunnell: Not at this time. Our county, guided by its health department, is better equipped and has the expertise to determine whether such a step should be taken. Our city staff has done a fantastic job of helping the city weather the public health and financial impacts of COVID. We have followed science and public health guidance as closely as possible, and I trust our staff to continue to do so. If circumstances change, I would of course consider appropriate steps to help protect both city employees and our residents.

Stiens: No, I would not support a mask mandate beyond what was recommended by the county health department. I don’t believe the city council should impose restrictions on businesses. The city needs to again, listen to businesses and listen to the people. The county’s decision to close or restrict businesses had a devastating impact on a number of local businesses and our city leaders were silent during this process. We need to stand alongside our local businesses and for the rights of individuals to make their own healthcare decisions.

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