Northeast Joco

Discrimination ordinance continues to vex Roeland Park council

The Roeland Park City Council continues to discuss an anti-discrimination ordinance it passed earlier this month.

On Monday night the conversation during the council’s committee of the whole meeting shifted from sexual orientation and gender identity protections to the language providing protection to those with military service. The council was concerned that the law, which takes effect January 2015, would unintentionally be harmful to veterans.

Many private sector businesses offer discount programs for veterans, members of the military and their families. Those discount programs could be made illegal under the new anti-discrimination ordinance because they might be seen as discriminatory to anyone outside the military.

Councilwoman Sheri McNeil, who proposed adding military service to the law, was upset at the idea anyone would consider discounts for veterans to be discrimination.

“It’s ridiculous,” she said.

The council quickly came to a consensus to add exemptions for military discounts to the law. They will vote on the matter at its Sept. 2 council meeting.

During the regular council meeting, the council approved $28,600 for construction of a walking path at R Park, 5535 Juniper Drive. The city will only spend about $7,000, however. A group of residents, dubbed Citizens Fund Raising Initiative for R Park, has been gathering private funding since May to redevelop the former school site into a park.

Of the $7,000 that the city is paying for the walking trail, about $3,000 will go toward the design of the trail and the rest is hourly wages for a city supervisor to oversee the project, City Engineer Matt Elben said.

Councilman Michael Rhoades questioned whether it was necessary to spend $4,000 on supervision when the walking trail could be inspected at the end of construction. Elben said a city employee should be on site during construction to ensure the path complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and to catch any mistakes sooner rather than later.

Gretchen Davis, head of the Citizens Fund Raising Initiative, said the group has raised about $11,000 so far. Most of that has come from private citizens and small businesses in Roeland Park, Fairway and Mission.

“They understand we’re an area where we share each other’s amenities,” she said.

The group has applied for a $24,00 grant from the Sunflower Foundation of Kansas. If awarded in full, the grant should cover $12,000 treescape improvements and walkway signage. The other $12,000 would cover a portion of the trail’s $28,600 construction cost. The group has not yet heard how much they will receive, but Davis said she is hopeful it’ll be the full amount.

The additional $16,600 needed for the trail will come from private donations, including the $11,00 already raised. Davis said she hopes to raise most of what remains through ticket sales to the Bacon, Blues and Brews festival to be held on Oct. 11 at the Roeland Park Community Center. The event will feature bacon-inspired foods, brews from Cinder Block Brewery, the Roasterie and soda from Mass Street Soda. Kansas City blues singer Toni Gates will provide music.

Tickets are $35 and can be bought at or by contacting