Residents of Prairie Village Ward 5 are the only Johnson County citizens who will cast ballots for a City Council primary election on Tuesday.
The four-year term to represent the ward has been held by Charles Clark since 2006, but he decided not to run this year. Ward 5 is home to the former Mission Valley Middle School, the site of a planned retirement community dubbed Mission Chateau. The development has been the topic of considerable disagreement in Prairie Village.
Marc Baratta, Roger Bennett, John Robinson and Dan Runion will appear on the ballot. The two who receive the most votes will face each other in the general election on April 1.
Baratta wants to be the voice of the next generation of Prairie Village residents while respecting those who have lived in the city for decades. He said that he’s heard concerns that Prairie Village is seen as a retirement community, but that he understands the city has a diverse population and serves people of all ages.
Among his goals, Baratta would like to improve public parks, make retail locations in Prairie Village regional destinations and work with festival committees to boost attendance at events like the Jazz Festival. He hopes that attracting shoppers and festival goers from out of town will boost tax revenue.
Baratta lives near the Mission Chateau development and said it’s important for the City Council to stay involved with the developer, Tutera Group, as construction begins on the project. He said he would be proactive about talking to residents so he could make an informed decision based on the ward’s needs if a similar development comes up.
A 24-year resident of Prairie Village, Bennett’s interest in the City Council was spurred while leading a protest of variance in the city’s Planning Commission. As a small business owner and former member of the Peace Corps and U.S. Coast Guard, Bennett said he believes he has the right experience to help Prairie Village move forward.
Bennett would like the city to support and promote growth and change that fits the character of Prairie Village neighborhoods, increase property values, and increase the current tax base to insure there is enough revenue for the city’s future financial needs. He is concerned about the city’s housing stock and would like to explore ways to improve property values and make housing desirable to younger families. Additionally, Bennett would like to boost commercial opportunities. He sees the Meadowbrook Country Club and properties along 75th Street as locations for potential redevelopment.
He said the main goal of a council member should be to help residents navigate and understand city government.
Robinson has lived in Prairie Village since the mid-1980s. He is interested in a seat on the City Council as a way to give back to the community.
Robinson said it is unfortunate that developers and neighbors of the Mission Chateau project could not come to a satisfactory agreement. He is concerned that long negotiations place a heavy burden of time and money on the city. Robinson is also worried about increased taxes.
Runion said he has been interested in running for a seat on the City Council for some time. A 20-year resident, he believes his experience as a certified public accountant and attorney gives him the necessary knowledge to navigate the city’s issues and help negotiate deals.
Because a considerable amount of time and money was invested in developing the Village Vision, the city’s strategic investment plan, Runion said he’d like to see the city focus on adhering to the plan as much as possible. He said one the of the tough issues the city will face is deciding if increased population density is the answer to boosting tax revenue. He said the city does a good job of maintaining infrastructure and public safety, and he would like to see that continue.
Runion said the Mission Chateau project is a good example of the decision making process. If he had been involved, he said, he would have asked more questions so he could be as informed as possible and to ensure that developers have quantitative proof that projects will improve the city. If elected he said he would use that standard for any new development.