The future of the old Kmart on Shawnee Mission Parkway, the renovation of downtown Merriam in the Turkey Creek floodplain, and concerns about rising property assessments that inflate the tax burden on homeowners, were all the questions. that readers wanted to pose at the Shawnee Mission Post’s Merriam 2021 Municipal Forum.
Current Ward 4 council member Bob Pape, who is also the city‘s former fire chief, and Angel Lopez III are vying for the mayor’s seat vacated by Ken Sissom.
Pope was first elected to city council in 2015 and is in the process of fulfilling his second term.
Lopez did not participate in the forum and did not give the Post the reason for his absence.
The Post broadcast the forum live on its Facebook page, and the entire video can be found below.
Here are the questions and corresponding time stamps so readers can quickly find answers:
- What do you think is Merriam’s strongest asset and how would you try to exploit it if elected? [4:30]
- What do you think is the biggest challenge Merriam will face over the next four years, and what steps will you take in office to meet this challenge? [5:22]
- What can the city do to protect the revenues from big box retailers as well as car dealerships? [7:20]
- In accordance with current county guidelines, Merriam currently strongly recommends, but does not require indoor masks to be worn. Merriam hasn’t gone as far as some other towns in Johnson County, namely Prairie Village and Roeland Park, both of which impose masks in most indoor public places amid the spread of the Delta variant. Evaluate how the city has responded to the pandemic over the past year and a half: do you agree with the city’s approach? Is there anything you would like to see changed if you are elected? [8:34]
You wouldn’t want to see anything change [with mask mandates]? [10:00]
- Property values have risen sharply in Johnson County in recent years. That, coupled with the continued economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, has made many residents nervous about the impact of taxes on their income. Merriam City Council voted last year to keep the town‘s mill levy rate at just over 27.5. But there have been discussions about the possibility of lowering it. Recognize the trade-off: lowering taxes can help residents pay their bills, but also erode payment for city services. Evaluate Merriam’s value for money, so to speak for taxpayers in these tough economic times. Do you think the city’s current tax rates are appropriate for what residents see in return? Would you be in favor of increasing or decreasing taxes in the future? [10:42]
- Merriam town center has seen some major tenants leave in recent years, including the town’s only grocery store. The city has worked with the Confluence company on a comprehensive plan that suggests the possible redevelopment of the shopping center into a mixed-use area with housing and green spaces mixed with shops. As for the old chicken coop… two discount retailers, a Bob’s Furniture and Ross Dress for Less… are about to enter this space. What, if anything, can the city do to make the city center a vibrant draw for residents of Merriam in the coming year? [14:08]
- Let’s continue to talk about development with the old K-Mart site at Shawnee Mission Parkway and Antioch Road. It remained vacant for almost nine years. The current mayor, Ken Sissom, called the property “devastated”. The city has begun the process of modifying the I-35 TIF neighborhood to include this property… to pave the way for the potential use of tax incentives for development on this site. If you were elected (or re-elected), would you be in favor of using tax incentives for this site? What would be a successful development in this area, in your opinion? [16:08]
- The heart of downtown Merriam lies in the Turkey Creek floodplain, which has hampered the region’s revitalization efforts for years. A proposal submitted to Congress could provide $ 43 million in funding for dikes that would remove it from the floodplain and allow for real redevelopment. What is your vision of downtown? What, if anything, should the city government do to make this vision a reality? [18:28]
- Readers of messages in Merriam and elsewhere continue to voice concerns about the effects of climate change on life here in Johnson County. They point to some of the torrential rains we’ve had this summer… up to five to six inches in a few hours on some occasions, which has put a strain on local flood control systems. Does the city have a role to play in building resilience to climate change? What policies, if any, will you support as mayor that will better prepare Merriam for our changing climate? [20:52]
- Earlier this year, Merriam received a dismissal of an order prohibiting people from standing in the medians at nine intersections. Critics say it is an attempt to curb begging, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas (ACLU) and the National Homelessness Law Center have sent a four-page letter to the city about the order being an unconstitutional violation of the rights to freedom of expression. Did you support the ordinance? Why or why not? [22:29]
- What would you say to people who say that the prescription as written may have been a superficial response to a deeper problem of homelessness or homelessness, perhaps pushing people towards other cities. What would you say to that? [24:18]
- What achievement or achievement on your curriculum vitae do you think best illustrates your desire to become mayor?[25:10]