The city election season begins March 1 with one city council primary and many cities in transition to move future municipal votes to the fall of odd-numbered years.
Mission is the only Johnson County city with a primary March 1, but any excitement over that may be dampened by the fact that one of the three candidates has since withdrawn.
Nicholas Shigouri cited the time commitment as the reason he has dropped out of the race for Mission’s Third Ward, which covers the western parts of that city. However, since he withdrew after the deadline, the election will still be held and his name will still be on the ballot. The other candidates are incumbent Jennifer Cowdry and challenger Kristin Inman.
Inman, retired as an account manager and tech support worker for a data processing company, is seeking her first elected office. She said she was inspired to run because of the controversy over the Gateway development project at Johnson Drive and Shawnee Mission Parkway. The Mission City Council recently approved a preliminary development plan for retail, hotel and apartments and a Wal-Mart store at that intersection.
“I feel like we could do a better job, get something better in here than a Wal-Mart,” Inman said. She said she would also be against the special taxing districts that may be considered to help pay development costs. Gateway developer Tom Valenti has said he plans to ask for public financing for the project.
Development of that intersection has dragged on for about a decade and has been controversial with residents who dislike the idea of a big-box retailer at the city’s eastern entrance. Inman echoed some of those concerns, noting that the 155,000-square-foot store would be difficult to repurpose should Wal-Mart eventually leave. She cited the former Kmart on Shawnee Mission Parkway near Interstate 35 as an example.
Cowdry, who voted for the latest Gateway preliminary plan, said city officials can’t legally deny development because they dislike a particular store. Any development plan has to be judged by whether it meets the city’s zoning ordinances on how the property can be used, she said.
The Gateway plan is in compliance with those codes, she said. Valenti “did a beautiful job planning it, it has green spaces, it’s fun,” she said. “I would like something to be done after a decade and to get something successful in there because we need revenue for our streets.”
The city will have to replace about $800,000 per year that will not be coming in from the Transportation Utility Fee, also called the “driveway tax,” Cowdry said. The measure, enacted in 2010, was ruled an illegal excise tax by the Kansas Court of Appeals last year.
This spring will be a light election year because of changes the Kansas Legislature made in the election calendar. The new schedule puts municipal elections in November of odd-numbered years. Only Mission, Prairie Village and Westwood will hold April elections this year.
Cities have been considering two options — either shortening or lengthening terms of elected officers to eventually sync with the new schedule. Prairie Village planned to shorten by three months the four-year terms of city council members who will be elected this year and in November of next year.
The Leawood City council took another approach, doing away with elections this April and lengthening the city council terms. Council members whose terms would have expired in April of this year will now serve until January 2018, and those whose terms would have expired in April 2018 will serve until January 2020.
Olathe and Lenexa have also extended the terms to match the coming change. Overland Park and Shawnee have made no changes yet.
Roxie Hammill: email@example.com
Education: Bachelor’s in physical therapy, University of Missouri-Columbia, 1988
Occupation: Physical therapist
Elected experience: Mission City Council, 2012-present
Education: Bachelor’s in business administration, Iowa State University, 1983
Occupation: Retired account manager and tech support
Elected experience: None
Website: Facebook/Kristin for Mission (planned)