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Get To Know the Candidates for Wichita's Mayor

tags: Election
Posted by: Admin on Friday, July 19, 2019

UPDATED August 23, 2019
The General Election will take place on Tuesday, November, 5. In order to help our members make the most informed decisions at the polls, we asked the two  candidates for Wichita's Mayor a few questions. The answers below have been shared without any edits being made to the copy.

Mayor Jeff Longwell


Please explain why you believe you are the best candidate for Wichita Mayor.

I first ran for public office (the Maize School Board) because I wanted to make a difference for my kids and others like them. I saw, firsthand, that what I and my fellow board members were doing was making a tangible difference in kids’ lives.

From there I was hooked. I wanted to see how else I could help. I’ve dedicated my life to public service since I served on the Maize School Board. I served in that capacity for 12 years, then on the City Council for eight, now as Mayor for four. This job isn’t about prestige, it’s a calling. It’s not glamorous. There are long days with very few weekends and no vacations. You’re never going to make everyone happy, and when something goes wrong, it’s your face on the cover of the paper, regardless of the circumstances. And yet, if you are called to this job, you persist.

It’s all been worth it. During my time, I got to work to help keep Cargill in Wichita, providing an incentive package that didn’t cost the community cash incentives and guarantees a return on our investment, yet Cargill was thrilled with the opportunity to choose Wichita largely because of the direction we are headed. We built a joint law enforcement training center at WSU – a project fifty years in the making. We built a new downtown library, expanded our aquatics facilities, and encouraged new investments in our city.

You can see the physical proof of progress as you walk downtown: from Union Station, down Douglas Avenue to include the river corridor are new buildings or total renovations to old structures. I have helped solve key infrastructure issues that have kept homes from flooding, improved our water supply and has provided better roads to safely carry traffic.

We are now a Triple-A baseball city that will help us compete for talent and opportunities amongst peer cities. We accomplished this without placing a tax burden on our general population. I have initiated a Youth Employment Project that in just four years has grown from serving 100 young people to over 2,000 youth as they receive training to help them be successful in future their future careers. We have been able to secure a budget surplus for two consecutive years while expanding critical programs. But, we now have a problem that we need to solve: Wichita needs workers to fill the excess job positions we’ve created. I am fortunate to work with a city council that can have great discussions and work together to improve our city. I’m honored to have endorsements from several of them.

As Mayor, what would be your top three priorities or areas of focus?
Our areas of focus haven’t changed. We must continue to focus on public safety, safeguarding our infrastructure and growing our quality of life amenities. There are always multiple issues that will be important to growing our city, but these three areas deserve our full attention.

Please rate the overall job performance of city staff on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the best.
City staff is overall made up of hardworking, tireless employees that do so much with few resources. We are always working to improve, and continue to look for ways to best serve the community. Overall, 7+

Does the city of Wichita need more firefighters? 
We are fortunate to have a number one ISO fire safety rating. This is based on staffing levels and resources to include equipment and water, as well as how well we are training our firefighters. We are now one of only 315 out of 47,000 fire departments that are rated to receive a number one safety rating. I believe we have the appropriate staff ready to respond, but as our population and needs change, we must be flexible to best serve our community and our firefighter family.

Does the city of Wichita need more police officers?
We do need more police officers and we must be strategic about it. Public safety has always been a key pillar of focus for the council and myself. We currently have 60 more commissioned officers on the street than three years ago. We also have a new pilot project that brings together an Integrated Care Team starting on August 1st that could eliminate as many as 10,000 calls per year from our police officers. We have a new department that responds to traffic accidents to help keep our officers fighting crime. We now have crime analysts that will provide a more strategic approach to crime fighting. In 2019 we have seen all of our violent crimes drop by double digits with the changes were are implementing. Before we simply add bodies we must look at the new data to be strategic about where we add resources.

Should the city of Wichita spend more money on arts and culture?
We are putting together a policy that will add better structure to the investments we should make regarding art in our community. It will potentially program 1 ½ percent of our capital improvements to include art components. This will be a slight increase from the comparable numbers over the past five years of 1.19 percent invested.
Sharon Fearey and I also lead a team that helped restructure a local mil levy that is dedicated to our cultural arts. We are one of only a few cities that has a funding stream dedicated to helping our arts community be successful.

When it comes to city spending and budget do you believe the city spends too little, too much, or is spending about right?
Considering that I have helped and voted on our budget for multiple years my track record speaks for itself regarding delivering critical serves and helping manage a budget that has not seen a mil level increase in twenty years. Our budget includes a budget surplus for the past two years.

Do you support building a new convention center? Please explain.
We are missing out on too many lost opportunities because our convention center is not adequate to meet most group’s requirements or expectations.
This translates to millions of dollars of lost revenue that could be captured by our city and businesses in our city. 
We need a dramatic upgrade to our convention center. We can also prove that this would be an investment that will return dollars back to our local economy that will far exceed the investment needed.

Do you support building a new performing arts center? Please explain.
We are blessed to have some of the best performing arts programs compared to any city in America. We also have trained successfully performers working in some of the most prestigious venues in America. Our programs deserve a much improved performing arts center that the community will need to weigh in on regarding the investments we should make at what it looks like.

What role does the city of Wichita play in economic development and job creation and what would you do as Mayor to grow our regional economy?
Under my leadership we have seen companies choose Wichita to expand their footprint, grow new jobs or simply call Wichita home for doing business in. We must continue to work every day to promote our city, which includes finding opportunities which will allow future generations to want to call Wichita home. Focusing on industry clusters is a great way to strategically help Wichita grow. Helping our entrepreneurs navigate roadblocks, secure resources and team up with critical talent is important to growing our economy. We must continue to foster talent in our youth and work to attract talent to insure the success of our companies that proudly say Wichita is a great place to raise a family and a better place to grow a business.

Should tax dollars or incentives such as tax abatements be given to private firms in order to retain or increase jobs?
In Wichita we have a policy that allows for certain types of incentives to be used as long as we are getting a return on the tax-payers investments of 1.3 to 1 ration as a minimum. We have proof that these policies are working and today we have more jobs than people to fill them. In the past, the City gave cash incentives to companies that ended up leaving just a few short years later with devastating effects. We have gone a new route, and our current incentive packages invest in companies that ensures in the success of our community.

If elected Mayor, how would you interact with the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce? What role would the Chamber play in your overall decision-making process?
I have a track record of working with the Chamber to help promote the success of our city. I’ve spoken and been the keynote at numerous Chamber events and worked with the Chamber on innumerable initiatives in the community. Supporting our business community is crucial to our region’s success.  It is critical to bring together people and businesses to address, promote and guide initiatives that will make Wichita Metro more successful. The Regional Chamber is the right vehicle to accomplish this task. Whether it is focusing on talent recruitment or better airfares our Regional Chamber has been working diligently with local leaders and key businesses to improve our opportunities and make companies big and small more successful.

Please share any other thoughts or other important information that this questionnaire did not cover and that you believe is relevant to our decision making process. 
We are experiencing unprecedented growth in our community. From the core to all regions, you’ll see growth in our community. That includes south Wichita and the major investments made at south Seneca and I235, the Greenwich corridor, the Maize road corridor and the multiple companies that have added jobs in our community. We’re also working on new innovative ways to fight blight and quickly respond to road concerns such as pothole or traffic accidents. From Uptown Landing to the Starlite Drive In we are witnessing changes that make Wichita a better place to live. I’ve enjoyed building relationships with the community and sharing my vision of how to make Wichita the best place it can be.

Why should young professionals vote for you?
First because I have listened to their concerns and helped bring about change that has made a difference. For the past several years I have gathered a group of young professionals to advise me and provide feedback about the decisions the council and I face. We meet once a month at different hot spots around town and I’ve enjoyed their feedback and frank, honest discussion about their concerns, desires and hope for our community. They are the generation we will turn everything over to and we must use their guidance to move our community in the right direction. We are either moving forward or moving backward and without the help of our W’s we are placing our city at a disadvantage. It is young professionals who have helped us take a struggling Q-line bus service from four thousand riders a year to more than one-hundred and twenty thousand riders a year. Everyone working together is how our community will continue with the momentum we experienced during the past four years. It’s time for us to be bold and work together to make our community the best it can be.

Rep. Brandon Whipple



Please explain why you believe you are the best candidate for Wichita Mayor.

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. No one leader can manage for this responsibility himself, and I believe the incumbent has done a wholly inadequate job on this score. Instead of openness and innovation at City Hall, Wichita gets backroom deals and the same failed processes with the same players, pitting neighborhoods and other interests against one another. Meanwhile, the public has steadily lost trust in City Hall’s ability to make these developments wisely and effectively. I believe the only way out of this cycle is growth. We can continue to grow the pie, building on the successes of downtown investment. But we need to make sure we have the infrastructure and resources in place to help 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 an efficient services for our citizens.

As Mayor, what would be your top three priorities or areas of focus?
My top priority will be to change the culture of City Hall from a place for insider deals made behind closed doors to a transparent and professional body that is accountable to the people. I could name five examples of recent times when our Mayor and the Council pushed through seemingly pre-determined results, or inappropriately scheduled hearings and votes all to be blamed on staff. We all know this hurts our City government’s standing among its constituency, and makes the business of improving our image next to impossible. I understand inside players and the desire for expediency will always exist in government. However, I think we can all agree we must as a City do better, and that’s why I believe transparency to be so important.

Second, I will focus on examining our resources and moving to properly increase funding for our police. Further, we must coordinate mental health services more effectively so the WPD is not expected to deal with that burden alone. For years, our City leadership, including the chief of police, has told us how underfunded and understaffed our Police Department is. We see the effects of this neglect in the newspaper and in statistics. And many across the City know how deeply our area’s lack of access to proper mental health care affects our families.

Third, I will continue the pattern of strong investment in and inclination toward downtown development projects, while working to make sure our City has the means to draw the best and brightest minds to come live, work, and play here. We must ensure that we find ways to fully invest in our neighborhood resources like swimming pools,libraries, and City resources like museums, and world-class performing arts and convention facilities. These resources make up a key part of our City, and I believe to be full of untapped economic potential: growing our civic infrastructure.

Please state why you believe incumbent Mayor Jeff Longwell should not be re-elected.
Jeff Longwell points to his success as Mayor, claiming things have gotten better under his watch. Yes, undoubted, by his numbers things look rosy.  However, his cited achievements are much like when a student grades his own paper. Mayor Longwell touts growth in Wichita by comparing where we are now in 2019 with Wichita during the depths of the Great Recession. When you examine comparable numbers during this wider span from our sister cities like Tulsa and Oklahoma City, you see Wichita fell behind, and has lagged in recovery. Sure Mayor Longwell, things are “better.” The bleeding has stopped, but growth has been anemic. It’s as if I was at one time at the hospital in critical condition and am now “better” having moved to “stable” condition. And I think we from all neighborhoods can feel that pain as a City. Beyond any other criticism of Jeff Longwell, he’s grading faulty numbers and calling it an A+. That incompetence is disqualifying on its own. As Mayor, I want to dig in deep to find innovative paths forward for Wichita, grading ourselves against comparable markets, learning from their experiences, and partnering with civic and business groups, and beyond to the state and federal level, to break this new ground. I’m eager to make this City better for my three boys when they start their futures. I want to use my energy and leadership experience to bring Wichita into the future so we can not only rival cities in our region, but lead them. If we say we “love Wichita,” do we not want the best for our City? We’ve had enough of leaders who spend time patting themselves on the back. I say judge me and my work for the City by my results.

Please rate the overall job performance of City staff on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the best.
Overall, 8: Above average, with room to improve. Here’s how: I’ve met and worked with dozens if not hundreds of City employees in my work and in my private life. Without reservation, I’ve found Wichita City employees are hard-working people who genuinely care about our community. However, ineffective leadership at the top can often times make their jobs very difficult, if not impossible. We must do everything we can to support our City staff and ensure they have the training and resources to do their jobs well. As Mayor, it will be a priority to establish clear plans and directives, and public-facing expectations for staff. With clear direction, management can focus on achieving our goals and City staff will have the resources and support to provide top-notch services to our community.

Does the City of Wichita need more firefighters?
Public safety is a top priority and I applaud the City for moving towards consolidation of our fire department with the county. However, my priority will be to ensure that we do not lose the brave men and women who currently work for the fire departments during this transition. Investing in properly trained staff at adequate levels will always be a top priority for me as Mayor.

Does the City of Wichita need more police officers?
Yes, and fixing this problem is a top priority. According to the City’s own study, the police department only has two-thirds of the police officers we need to keep our community safe. It is critical that Wichita families are safe no matter what neighborhood you live in. As Mayor, I commit to finding the funding to give the WPD the additional officers they need within my first 100 days in office.

Should the City of Wichita spend more money on arts and culture?
In the Legislature, I have supported increased funding for the arts because it is a direct economic driver for our cities, and it is a key source of quality of life and educational enrichment for our working Wichita families. In order to retain young and diverse talent, we need to invest more in quality of life in Wichita. I call it our civic infrastructure. Also, cities that invest in the arts are more innovative, thus stimulating the economy directly. Our arts community has told us plainly Century II is outdated, no longer serving Wichita as a world-class facility. I think for our economy’s sake, and for Wichita’s future, we have to recognize the deep potential in our arts, funding it appropriately.

When it comes to City spending and budget do you believe the City spends too little, too much, or is spending about right?
Like all governmental bodies, the City of Wichita spends money in inefficient ways. During my time on the Higher Education Budget Committee, I focused on cutting costs by ending the duplication of services, creating collaboration between libraries on paid subscriptions for journals and using technology to maximize efficiency. I think one of the most important jobs of Wichita’s Mayor is to spend time combing through our budget and providing the resources the data tells us should be a priority, instead of wasting money on insider deals that do not help the City as a whole.

Do you support building a new convention center? Please explain.
Creating a world-class regional convention center is another question of investing our civic infrastructure. Such a center could be a major driver of downtown revitalization with runoff effects across the state. We are the largest city in Kansas and we must work with our business community to provide the type of facilities they need to host large events and that drive more money into our economy. This is not a project the City should take on alone. As Mayor, I will emphasize collaboration with the community, opening relationships with more national business partners like hotel chains, restaurateurs, and developers, to create the type of space we need to compete with other cities in our region. Like the need to create a world-class performing arts facility, I believe a cutting-edge convention center should go hand-in-hand with this wider plan.

Do you support building a new performing arts center? Please explain.
Again, we must invest in our civic infrastructure. If we want Wichita to grow into the future as the City we dream for our kids to inherit, we must invest in our arts and culture. When leaders of the arts community warn they cannot host leading performances due to facility restrictions, we are faced with a decision: do we limit the experiences available to our community and our children? Or do we choose something more? I am running for Mayor because I want to bring this City together for a greater purpose: acting on the pride we feel. I want our kids to grow up in a City worthy of their dreams, just like folks did back in the 60s when they realized The Forum was outdated. We must demand a world-class home for our performing and greater arts communities. The task won’t be easy. I want to work with community and business leaders to gain the trust and buy-in of the entire region and get this performance center done right. Maybe it’s renovating Century II. Maybe it’s envisioning an entirely new center, as part of a larger civic plan, that will serve the next century of Wichitans. We need a leader who will sit down with various community leaders in our City and work with them to provide what they tell us they need to be successful. In my experience as a legislator, these solutions are usually less involved than we’d expect, but finding those solutions requires innovative leadership to put the pieces together. I look forward to the challenge.

What role does the City of Wichita play in economic development and job creation and what would you do as Mayor to grow our regional economy?
As Mayor, I would take an active role to ensure that the City is collaborating with the county, state and Federal government to maximize the potential resources we secure. I consider providing a leading transportation, digital, and civic infrastructure to be a top priority for our City leadership, led by the Mayor. In terms of economic development, I would hope my leadership in office would be marked by a focus on governmental efficiency and an opportunity and partnership-minded outlook.
This leadership includes making sure that government stays out of the way of growth in areas where it would likely be more successful in the private sector. A responsible Mayor knows when to step in,making sure that there is transparency and equity in City partnerships.

Should tax dollars or incentives such as tax abatements be given to private firms in order to retain or increase jobs?
Yes, but in limited, and highly-scrutinized, circumstances. Like with all incentives, City incentives must be tied to concrete economic goals and objectives that act as safeguards for the taxpayer. Too many times we see incentives work well...for those who design the incentives, but leave the average working family on the hook. That’s not an ideology problem, that’s a cronyism problem. As Mayor, my job is to ensure that tax dollars and incentives are used to benefit the whole and not just the best-connected.

If elected Mayor, how would you interact with the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce? What role would the Chamber play in your overall decision-making process?
As a legislator, I’ve always worked first for the people who I am elected to represent, and that of course includes our business leaders. The Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce plays a vital role bringing together diverse stakeholders in our City, and it’s unquestionably a crucial organization in the work toward our greater success. The success of the Wichita business community is success for all our working men and women. As Mayor, I will make it a priority to meet within the first week of my term with leadership and members of the Chamber of Commerce with one goal: to listen. By that time, you as my constituents will have simultaneously become my boss, and I need to know as your public servant how I can help make you more successful. And moving forward, I commit to making the Chamber a leading partner of my Administration. I envision regular staff and principal meetings, providing more venues for listening, progress reports, and feedback. Constant, candid communication will be key to our shared priorities.

Please share any other thoughts or other important information that this questionnaire did not cover and that you believe is relevant to our decision making process.
I have represented Wichita in the Legislature and have seen up close how our City is missing out on opportunities for state and federal infrastructure and project investments. Unlike Topeka and the Unified Wyandotte County Government, our local leadership has failed to fight for our City for these limited state and federal resources. This is a challenge I’m eager to take on.

One point I’ll leave with you: When I make policy decisions, they are based on data, and out of consideration for my constituents. I do not, and have never, take marching orders from political bosses. I take marching orders only from the people I represent. That includes business owners, working families, and community groups here at home. Wichita is the home my wife and I chose, and I want it to be the place my sons can achieve their dreams. One day, I hope all of our kids choose to continue calling Wichita home themselves. And that’s why I’m running for Mayor. Thanks for your consideration.

 

Posted in Election

Comments

7 comments on "Get To Know the Candidates for Wichita's Mayor"

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CLD on October 9, 2019 at 6:31:09 pm said:
I do not think Wichita is left with a good candidate for Mayor. Instead of building a baseball stadium that obstructed a great well traveled roadway, Wichita needs roadways that can handle larger volumes of traffic. The downtown area is littered with homeless people and trash along its streets. The blind and handicap can not walk down the streets of Wichita because the sidewalks are tor up or there is no sidewalk. The train tracks were suppose to be raised through the city years ago and it never happened. Let's see a candidate that is interested in the communities of Wichita instead of its beauty that ads no utility for the people.
Andrew Knight on September 9, 2019 at 5:49:31 pm said:
I guess only After Wichita has enough police will downtown get a grocery store.
Floyd DeBarber on August 6, 2019 at 8:53:11 am said:
I would steer clear of Mr. Mork. He's a nice enough guy face to face, but he holds some very toxic and archaic viewpoints. He is on record calling gays "ungodly". I want a mayor who doesn't base their views solely on what the Bible says. Mork has an irrational axe to grind with gays, the police and incumbents. He has no higher education and doesn't have a clearly articulated platform. He seems overly focused on legalized cannabis at the expense of far more pressing matters germane to Wichita.. We need a mayor who has a better grasp of economics and budgets than someone with no track record. Except for his pot arrests and two listed jobs in his bio, we know next to nothing about him.
Christopher Cutler on July 30, 2019 at 11:24:08 am said:
What about TAXES? seems there is sales taxes added for the development, i.e Intrust Bank arena, Why is it the responsibilty of the tax payers, I don't use it! If I do I pay a very expensive ticket prices for event.
E.L. Puko on July 23, 2019 at 5:02:38 pm said:
Marty seems obsessed.
Lonny Wright on July 20, 2019 at 10:26:59 pm said:
This is better than the forums.
I finally get to know who is pro jobs and who is against.
Unfortunately both Wells and Whipple are less supportive of even Longwell who cut on back on incentives big time.
It's stupid to turn down new money and jobs because a business also makes money. That's hurting us.
It's embarrassing how little some of the candidates understand how the City operates or what is going on.
Sarah on July 19, 2019 at 5:51:52 pm said:
Thank you Wichita Regional Chamber for providing this information and in this format that has all candidates treated equally. This is extremely helpful for me to be an informed citizen and voter.
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