The increased use of city money for commercial development is a source of concern for the candidates running for City Council in Overland Park.
John Thompson, Ron Williams and Carl Waldenmaier are vying to represent Ward 5 in Tuesday’s primary. The top two finishers will compete in the April 2 general election. The seat is open due to Councilman Jim Hix’s retirement.
Thompson, who represented Ward 5 from 2003 to 2007, is hoping for a second chance to make a difference in Overland Park.
He says one of the main issues facing the city is the council’s increased consideration of tax abatements and special taxing districts for development or redevelopment.
“It would appear that a broader discussion by the council should occur so that the merits and potential problems associated with these tax policies can be fully vetted and better direction can be given to the development community and to the public as to how the council and city view these incentives,” said Thompson, a lawyer. “Currently the ad hoc process of evaluating each proposal on a case by case basis may create future inconsistency and uncertainty for all of the stakeholders.”
If elected, Thompson also would like to help maintain Overland Park’s roads, promote economic growth, ensure open communication with residents and increase safety.
Williams, who has lived in Overland Park for 18 years, agrees the growing number of tax incentives being issued in the city needs to be addressed.
“I would call for council guidelines to be established for the consistent application of what constitutes a project worthy of consideration for taxpayer dollars,” he said. “Currently, the council relies on their personal opinions in this area. Guidelines would lead to a smoother, clearer and more open process for all parties to review the value of amenities and economic benefits of projects seeking taxpayer subsidies.”
If elected, Williams plans to use his 30 years in the insurance business to help the city government remain fiscally responsible. He also wants to see improved economic development, such as more reasonably priced single-family homes being built.
Waldenmaier, a small-business owner, says he can bring a positive experience and value to the Overland Park City Council.
“As our community grows we will continue to be faced with the balance of new development and the aging image of existing parts of our community,” he said. “This dichotomy of older and newer raises sensitive issues regarding public/private partnerships, community responsibilities versus owner or citizen responsibilities, along with the everyday requirements to serve and protect for our community.”
One of his main goals, if elected, would be to make sure every resident has an opportunity to understand city programs and policies. Waldenmaier also said he hopes to help provide residents with an opportunity to readily inject their opinions into the decision-making process.