MISSION, Kan. —In Johnson County, advance voting by mail for the general election starts Wednesday.
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 Mission, two current city councilmembers will go head to head to become the next mayor. Sollie Flora and Arcie Rothrock are vying for voter support to take over the role from current mayor, Ron Appletoft, who has served in the position since 2017.
Here’s a look at what Flora and Rothrock had to say:
Q: What is your top policy issue for the City of Mission?
Flora: My top policy issue for the City of Mission is ensuring that Mission has a strong foundation upon which to build by delivering on our core services, like streets and parks.
Mission has decades of deferred infrastructure work, and we continue to hear from residents that making improvements to streets, in particular residential streets, is their top priority. In addressing this important work, we must engage residents and look for collaborative solutions, pairing Mission’s resources with county, state, or federal dollars wherever possible. We must also ensure that we are building a city that is ready for the future by being intentional about this work and engaging in long-term planning that prioritizes sustainability, including walkability and bikeability, which we also hear from residents is a high priority.
Rothrock: Enriching community engagement and experience is a big one for me. When we first moved here in 2009, the Arts & Eats Festival, Battle of the Brisket, Mission Days Parade, and so many other events gave me small town vibes. Mission’s small-town charm is very real, and I hope to preserve every bit of that I can. Responsible development investments and partnering with our Mission Business District in combination with community events, opportunities, and involvement are key.
Q: What changes, if any, would you like to see in the city budget?
Flora: As far as changes to the budget, I would first and foremost like to see the city work to more meaningfully engage the public in the budget process. I would also like to see increased investment in streets, storm water, and sustainability measures. This is supported by the results from our recent statistically-significant resident survey, which show strong support for increased investment in residential streets, commercial redevelopment, public safety, parks, and sustainability.
Overall, I believe that Mission residents and businesses receive a high value of services for their local tax dollars. In addition, I appreciate that in recent years we’ve been smart about our spending vs. our savings. In fact, the fund balance in our general fund reserves helped us to weather the worst of COVID-19 from a budget perspective.
Rothrock: In addition to our normal city budget process, I would like to add a prioritized wish list. Not just for our departments, but also for each of our boards and commissions. It would give us the ability to pick, choose, and adjust throughout the year with items that have already been researched and discussed.
I would also like to enrich programs within our neighborhood services and businesses. The governing body has increased funding for our BIG (Business Improvement Grant) over the years, but I would love to expand on that by exploring additional ways of adding value. Not only with the businesses in mind, but for their patrons as well.
Q: What is your view on the use of tax incentives for new development? What criteria would you use when determining if incentives like Tax Increment Financing (TIFs), tax abatements or the creation of a Community Improvement District (CID) should be granted to developers wanting to build within the city?
Flora: As a land-locked, mostly developed city, we have to continue to look for redevelopment opportunities that will provide growth and move Mission forward. This means that we can’t completely write off the potential use of incentives like Tax Increment Financing (TIFs)/Community Improvement Districts (CIDs). But we have to be smart about our use of incentives and think through any tradeoffs.
In my view, incentives should be evaluated on a project by project basis and used strategically to encourage high-quality projects that align with the needs and wants of our community and reflect our priorities as a city. With that in mind, I would say that the Mission Bowl development has set a new baseline for the use of incentives in Mission. If you are a developer looking for incentives, you better be able to not only show why they are necessary, but also be ready to partner with the city to advance our sustainability and affordable/workforce housing priorities. Developers can’t expect the governing body to be a rubber stamp for their incentive demands. I certainly haven’t been on council and won’t be as mayor.
Rothrock: Over the last almost 8 years on city council, I have gained knowledge and experience from multiple project developments. Some successful, while others not so much, but still very educational.
- Tail end of the Gateway Project
- Neff Property Demo and Brinshore Development Application
- The Martway Project
- Mission Trails (Locale)
- Cornerstone Commons (former Keystone car lot) – Pepper Jax, Natural Grocers, Five Guys
- Welstone at Mission Crossing – Chick-fil-A, Toppers, Culvers
- More recently – Tidal Wave Auto Spa, Jefferson’s WingStand
Each development has its pros, cons, risks, and rewards. Each project deserves to be reviewed individually to explore options and consider which of those options best fits the needs and wants of Mission. If citizens express concern, those concerns must also be heard and considered.
Q: In your opinion, what responsibility do the city leaders have in addressing climate change? What initiatives would you support to improve environmental sustainability?
Flora: In my view, city leaders have an enormous responsibility in addressing climate change. My work on sustainability is a key distinguishing factor in this race.
Prior to my election to the city council, I served as a member of Mission’s Sustainability Commission. During my time on the city council, I’ve been a leader on advancing sustainability measures. I’ve continued to work with our Sustainability Commission as Council Liaison, supporting the creation of a “sustainability lens” by that group to ensure sustainability and forward-thinking solutions are centered in our daily work as a city.
I’ve also secured several sustainability policy wins for Mission, including city participation in Evergy’s Renewables Direct program (wind energy), and ensuring that the new Mission Bowl development will be LEED Silver Certified (a “green” building).
In addition, I’m a foundational member of Climate Action KC, and have previously served as chair of its Policy Committee, where I helped develop the Climate Action Playbook and participated in the planning process for the development of the metro-wide Climate Action Plan. Six out of seven of my council colleagues have joined me in supporting the work of Climate Action KC as Climate Leaders (Thomas, Boultinghouse, Schlossmacher, Kring, Inman, and Davis). To improve environmental sustainability, we should continue to empower and support our own Sustainability Commission. We should also endorse Climate Action KC’s Climate Action Plan and use that as our framework for action. Our infrastructure (streets, storm water) and buildings provide great opportunities to make an impact.
Rothrock: Mission already does many things to support climate action and I would continue to add and build upon those.
- Continued progress towards a more walkable/rideable city for all ages and abilities. Bike lanes, trails, street crossing beacons, etc.
- Multiple developments have been and continue to be built creating the option for those who work in Mission, to also reside here. Resulting in shorter work commutes and the possibility of walking instead of driving. Fewer cars = Less carbon emissions.
- Continued empowerment of Mission’s Sustainability Commission as well as partnerships with groups such as Climate Action KC, GFL, and many others.
- Our Sustainability Commission does an amazing job at keeping our citizens educated and is always working to maintain and explore sustainable options, actions, and habits for Mission citizens. Our plans are only as good as our execution/implementation and our Sustainability Commission plays a key role in many of our achievements and successes.