Wichitans will vote in November whether to keep their current mayor, Jeff Longwell, or replace him with his challenger, state Rep. Brandon Whipple.
The active age asked both candidates six questions, which appear below followed by their responses.
1. What are your top priorities for the city of Wichita and its residents?
2. Why do you think you are the best candidate for the job of mayor?
3. Do you have any plans or proposals geared specifically toward improving the quality of life in Wichita for residents who are 55 and older?
4. Currently, the city of Wichita relies on the Sedgwick County government to deliver virtually all senior-related services and programs to its residents. Is that an arrangement which you think should continue?
5. Currently, Wichita is the only municipality in Sedgwick County which does not contribute money to senior centers located within it. In fact, it charges rent to two of them – Linwood and Orchard Park. Do you think the city should contribute funding to these centers?
6. Currently, the senior transportation systems of Sedgwick County and the city of Wichita operate with little coordination. Is that something you think should be addressed?
1. First, we have to place emphasis on public safety. We have added ninety police officers to our budget from four years ago. This has translated to reducing crime year to date in nearly all categories by double digit crime reduction.
Second, fix our aging infrastructure. During the past four years we have committed to catching up on the decades of infrastructure needs partially by selling the Hyatt hotel that the government didn’t need to own.
Third, we have a new focus on quality of life for all citizens. To include water playgrounds, safe walking paths and much more.
2. I have the experience in both business and local government with a track record of getting things done. Four years ago the biggest concern was jobs. Today we have more jobs than people here in Wichita. We focused on a new plan called Blueprint for Regional Growth.
I have also fought hard to keep taxes low while accomplishing much improvements to many areas of needs including building a new Law Enforcement Training Center at WSU.
I grew a small company from five to eighty-five during my business career and I have brought that experience to the Mayor’s office.
3. We have invested in improving our walking and bike paths throughout the city to provide safe places for all to enjoy. Our new library along with adding to our library branches is emphasizing programs geared to seniors.
4. Since the county government collects our tax dollars and part of it was specifically supposed to be set aside for seniors, we should make sure they are fulfilling the promise to seniors. Because we have a great relationship with the county we need to be working in tandem to help accomplish the goal of improving life for seniors.
5. Understanding that I am sixty years old and can better appreciate the need for senior activities we need to work on more programming and activities for seniors. We do have some contracts with the county but would look at how we could help more financially.
6. Yes, we need to work better with limited resources to address our transportation needs for everyone. Our new transportation director is building better relationships with all our different groups.
1.Wichita’s biggest export is not wheat or airplanes, it’s educated young people. As a father, I want to ensure that my boys have the same opportunities to achieve their dreams in Wichita as I did. That starts by rebuilding trust in City Hall. Currently, City Hall is run by connected insiders who do not spend enough time listening to the people who elected them. Big decisions are being made behind closed doors without public input. If we want to compete with our sister cities like Tulsa and Oklahoma City, we need innovative leadership willing to talk to the people and put their ideas into action.
2. I’ve served in the Legislature for the past seven years, and I’ve seen how strong local leadership can work with business and state entities to improve the quality of life in our local communities. We can continue to build on the successes of downtown investment, but we need to make sure we have the infrastructure and resources in place to draw the best talent and business leaders to Wichita. That’s a job that requires a Citywide view.
I have the leadership skills and depth of experience in the political process to get this critical task started on day one. As Mayor, I will use my experience and energy to set specific policy objectives for our City and to actively engage in the process of achieving those objectives from start to finish. I am the leader Wichita needs to bring our City into the future by engaging policy makers from all levels of government to work together and create efficient services for our citizens.
3. One of the reasons I’ve made preserving our neighborhood resources a top priority is to service Wichita residents 55 and older. I have a lot of grandparents in my district that provide childcare services and raise their grandchildren. Shutting down neighborhood libraries and pools makes access to these amenities especially difficult for older residents. This is made even more complicated by our lack of an efficient public transportation system. We cannot close neighborhood resources and expect our residents to spend 2-3 hours a day on a public bus to go downtown to take advantage of a resource that used to be close to home.
4. Many services provided by the City are inefficient because there is a lack of communication with the County. Even if the City is not going to provide a service, it is critical to have an open dialogue with the County about these important issues. If the City refuses to coordinate with the County, they are unable to accommodate the needs of the service providers, such as ensuring public transportation is functioning properly for our citizens. The City is also in a great position to fill the gaps in County services that overlap with City services, but it will require leadership and dialogue that is currently lacking at City Hall to accomplish these objectives.
5. Currently, City Hall is prioritizing creating a budget surplus over funding the services our residents need. Wichita is stronger thanks to our seniors who have contributed so much to our community. Wichita should look into following the lead of the other cities in Sedgwick County and support our senior centers. This should be included in a larger plan of preserving our neighborhood resources.
6. Yes. This needs to be addressed as part of a larger conversation about making the City of Wichita’s public transportation efficient for all residents of Wichita. Right now, the bus is not a feasible option for working people. It is also falling short when it comes to coordinating with other public transportation options, such as senior transportation system and the school busing system. This is an issue that needs serious public dialogue and action to make the changes to our transportation system needed to make it more efficient and user friendly.