Independence council candidates worry about crime, revitalization

07/27/2014 2:05 PM

07/29/2014 9:01 AM

One candidate is a retired criminal investigator, another is a delivery driver. Still another candidate is an executive with an animal cruelty prevention agency who has worked as both an accountant and paramedic, and a fourth invests in real estate.

All are running in the Aug. 5 primary to represent southwestern Independence on the Independence City Council, filling the seat vacated by Mayor Eileen Weir.

They share similar concerns for the 4th District, which includes some of the city’s older neighborhoods and commercial corridors.

The candidates worry about businesses heading for the East 39th Street retail and restaurant corridor in southeastern Independence, or leaving the city entirely. Crime, utility rates and use of green space also are concerns.

The two candidates who emerge from the August primary will face off in November. Weir is not endorsing any candidate in the primary.

Josh Crocker, a delivery driver for FedEx Ground, says he has a unique perspective of the area.

“I have been delivering within the 4th District for eight years, and so I have been constantly listening to business owners and residents,” he said.

“We are in a changing time in the city. We have a new mayor. I am a younger guy. I work for a living, and I feel that I can represent 95 percent of my district.”

Crocker says revitalization of Noland Road and U.S. 40 should be priorities.

“I come from an era when Noland Road was all hustle and bustle, but today we need more economic development on those corridors, as those are our main tax corridors, “ Crocker said.

“I believe we are losing some of those businesses. They would much rather move out to eastern Independence or places like Blue Springs or Lee’s Summit, and that scares me.

“Once those businesses leave, it will be hard to fill those empty spaces back up.”

Laura Dominik says she could bring a unique perspective to the seat. She spent 13 years as a certified public accountant and then 13 years as a paramedic.

She worked recently with Weir in coordinating the demolition of the old C.R. Anderson Alternative School, long an eyesore in the district after the Kansas City School District closed it in 2000.

She also is a member of the city’s public safety services committee, which is considering how to address the public safety sales taxes that are set to expire in 2016. The taxes are one-eighth of a cent each for the fire and police departments.

“The crime rates on (U.S.) 40 are outrageous, and we also are concerned about response times for the fire department,” Dominik said.

Although the committee had yet to issue a formal recommendation in mid-July on the public safety taxes, some members are considering seeking voter approval for continuing them at the current rate, she said.

“There is a general distrust of government right now, but we need to have better public understanding of the increasing crime statistics,” she said.

Maintaining the current public safety sales tax, however, is not the only way to combat crime in the 4th District, Dominik added.

“I believe that we can have more of a presence in our neighborhood if we sit outside on Friday afternoons after work, or go walking, and get to know your neighbor.

“If criminals see that we are out and about, they are not going to want to be in the neighborhood.”

Tom Van Camp, meanwhile, has a specific concern: Rockwood Golf Club. The 18-hole golf course has been closed for several years, and there has been occasional talk of future development on the site. Van Camp isn’t sure that is the best way to use the 91-acre green space in the middle of heavily residential western Independence.

“I live off the 16th green at Rockwood, and I would like to see the area stay green,” he said.

“You can make half of it a golf course, and let the other half be something for the school district. Or you can make it like a park. I want to be in a position to get answers about this for the 4th District.”

Higher utility rates also concern Van Camp.

“They have escalated significantly in the time that I have been here, which is about 20 years,” he said.

Tim Watkins, the fourth candidate, says the priorities of people in southwest Independence should be paramount.

“The council member who represents the 4th District should represent the concerns of the 4th District as opposed to the whole city,” he said.

Watkins is a member of several city committees, among them the streets sales tax oversight committee and the Independence-Jackson County animal welfare committee.

Like Dominik, Watkins is a member of the public safety services committee. Watkins says city voters should be given the opportunity to extend the taxes at their current rate.

“The fire and police departments need to maintain the taxes at their current levels just to maintain the equipment they have,” he said.

He also is concerned with increases in the city’s electrical and water rates.

“I have a big concern for our senior citizens, and the city should do something for utility rate relief for them as well as for disabled residents,” Watkins said.

To reach Brian Burnes, call 816-234-4120 or send email to bburnes@kcstar.com.

Josh Crocker

Age: 39

Address: 1325 W. 29th Terrace

Occupation: Delivery driver, FedEx Ground

Education: William Chrisman High School, 15 college credit hours

Previous public service: None

Website: Facebook: Josh Crocker for Council

Laura Dominik

Age: 45

Address: 3525 Blue Ridge Blvd.

Occupation: Director, human resources, Great Plains Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Education: Bachelor’s degrees in business and accounting, University of Kansas

Previous public service: Independence public safety services committee

Website: Facebook: Laura Dominik for City Council

Tom Van Camp

Age: 68

Address: 9812 E. 25th Terrace South

Occupation: Retired criminal investigator, Missouri Department of Revenue

Education: Bachelor’s, University of Missouri-Kansas City; master’s in public administration, UMKC

Previous public service: None

Website: No website, but email address: ElectTomVanCamp@comcast.net

Tim Watkins

Age: 51

Address: 12705 E. 40th St.

Occupation: Real estate investor

Education: Raytown High School

Previous public service: Independence public safety services committee

Website: None

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