2021 general election forum: Overland Park City Council Wards 4, 5 and 6

Overland Park city council

Candidates competing for Overland Park City Council seats in three wards participated in a public forum Tuesday night at the Blue Valley Recreation Center at Hilltop. Post editor Kyle Palmer (far right) moderated the event. Photo credit Leah Wankum.

A coming property tax increase, the upsurge in apartment projects and the city’s response to COVID-19 were just some of the the topics covered Tuesday evening at a Post forum for candidates vying for three seats on the Overland Park City Council covering the southern part of the city.

In Ward 4, incumbent Councilmember Stacie Gram, who was appointed in 2020, is defending the seat against retired police officer Scott Mosher.

In Ward 5, candidates Sam Passer, an executive for a local software company, and Sheila Rodriguez, a long-time manager at Sprint/T-Mobile, are vying for the seat currently filled by outgoing Councilmember John Thompson, who is retiring this year.

And in Ward 6, incumbent Councilmember Chris Newlin faces a challenge from insurance executive Jeff Cox.

The Post livestreamed the forum on its Facebook page. The entire video can also be found embedded below.

Here are the questions and the corresponding time stamps so readers can find answers:

Stacie Gram
Scott Mosher
Sam Passer
  1. In line with current guidance from the county, Overland Park at this time is strongly recommending, but not requiring, masks be worn indoors. Some Johnson County cities, namely Prairie Village and Roeland Park, have mandated masks in most public indoor settings amid spread of the Delta variant. If elected, you may be confronted with a decision that involves the city’s response to the pandemic. A two-part question: what is the best approach, in your opinion, for the city to take in helping mitigate spread of the disease? And under what circumstances, if any, would you support imposing a citywide mask order? [11:36]
  2. Property values have increased sharply across Johnson County in recent years, making many of our readers nervous about the burden of property taxes on their incomes. Overland Park has the lowest mill levy rate by far of any city in the county, at just around 13 mills. Though that will be going up this coming year. The current city council voted to pave the way for a 1 mill increase, which will raise additional revenue that will go primarily towards mental health supports for police and first responders. For a homeowner with a home appraised at $350,000…the rate increase translates into about $40 more dollars per year, according to the city. Is this property tax increase for the purpose its intended worth it, in your opinion? Why or why not? [22:11]
  3. In a related follow-up question concerning the budget: What is one area you would like to see cut? And one area towards which you think more money could be allocated? [33:10]
  4. A recent survey commissioned by the Overland Park
    Sheila Rodriguez
    Jeffrey Cox
    Chris Newlin

    Chamber of Commerce showed that residents, in general, have positive feelings about living in Overland Park. The poll surveyed 500 registered voters over the phone in May, and one major conclusion was that 75% said the city was headed in the “right direction” compared to only 16% who said it’s on the “wrong track.” Likewise, a different citywide survey of more than 1,000 residents conducted by mail and phone earlier this summer found nearly 90% of respondents were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with both Overland Park’s quality of life and image as a city. What do you say to these results? Do you agree that the city is generally going in the right direction? Or are these surveys missing some deeper issues you think do need to be addressed? [42:00]

  5. Overland Park, like a lot of Johnson County cities, is feeling tension as some residents, especially single family home owners in established neighborhoods, push back against developments that, generally, are aimed at trying to address housing needs in a rapidly growing city. If elected, what would be your stance on how Overland Park should tackle its future housing needs? And what steps would you take on the council to make that happen? [53:29] 
  6. Some Post readers have expressed concern over the increasingly divisive tone of some city council meetings, the lack of decorum during some debates and the tension apparent between some members. If elected (or re-elected), you will likely have to work with people who share very different ideological beliefs from you. What steps would you take to ensure that you have productive governing relationships with council peers who may have different views than your own? [1:02:22]