To help voters get a better idea of ââwhere candidates stand on issues affecting subway residents, FOX4 sent out a questionnaire to candidates in more than 50 races in Johnson County.
Here’s a look at what Hammond and Rider had to say:
Q: Why are you running for office?
Hammond: As a longtime 30-year-old resident of Merriam, Kansas, I have seen the higher tax burden on homeowners push them into their fixed income level.
Seniors, veterans and long-time residents have paid 30, 40 and 50 years in taxes. Incentives and subsidies should be given to help these residents. I like to keep residents informed when grants are available. Commercial properties must meet the needs of residents, such as a grocery store.
Safety is another concern. Our roads in Merriam, Kansas, need [to be] reassessed for safety. Pedestrian lights should be a must at Merriam Elementary School for the safety of our children and pedestrians. Merriam, Kansas has always been a wonderful community to raise a family. I have spoken to so many residents and I want their voices to be heard. The importance of our community voice is when someone listens and takes action. I want to be your voice in Merriam, Kansas.
Rider: I am running for City Council because I want to be the voice of the people and I want to see Merriam thrive. I think the city has a good trajectory and I want to help us keep moving forward. I believe that a strong economy, affordable housing and a sustainable environment will position us well for the future. As a representative of your city council, I would be dedicated to making Merriam work for families, for the elderly, for people just starting out; for people at all stages of life.
Question: What qualifications do you have that set you apart from other applicants?
Hammond: I am very well qualified with years of volunteerism and hard work: a former member of the Shawnee Downtown Beautification Committee. Member of the Water Garden Society, bringing 1,000 people to Merriam, Kansas each year. Former First Vice for the Auxiliary of the American Legion. Former reporter for the Kansas City Kansan newspaper. Former entrepreneur. Member of the Crowns Committee across America. Community emergency response team. Horticulturist for 30 years.
My sister is also on the Baldwin City Council [City], Kansas. We are always exchanging ideas on improvements in our cities.
Rider: After graduating from Kansas State University, I moved to this area to be near my twin sister and her family. I fell in love with Merriam and am now raising my own family here. I have been working in the service industry for over 15 years. In addition, my sister and I own and operate a small business. Through these experiences, I developed relational and managerial skills. I am a hard worker, a team player and a good listener, and a strong believer in consensus building. I believe these strengths would enable me to serve Merriam.
Question: What do you think of the use of tax incentives for new business developments? What criteria would you use to determine whether incentives should be given to developers wishing to build in the city?
Hammond: If we offer incentives, make sure it benefits the community. Incentives, the TIF should be given in increments to ensure that development is happening. Merriam doesn’t need a half-done development and [allow the developer to] let. It has already happened.
I would like to see new businesses develop and prosper in Merriam, Kansas. The more income the better. Merriam must raise each different plan that would bring more income to the city. I would look for solutions to get new business in Merriam, Kansas. We also need to keep the subsidies for small businesses to grow and improve. The better the income, the better our tax burden.
Rider: I am not opposed to using tax incentives to attract businesses to Merriam or, better yet, to help start and grow local businesses. However, the use of tax incentives must be carefully structured to ensure that existing local businesses are not disadvantaged and citizens are not overtaxed to compensate.
In addition, it is necessary to ensure that companies benefiting from tax incentives respect the values ââof the city and offer quality jobs. Companies receiving tax incentives must commit to maintaining or enhancing their property and paying living wages to their employees. We also need to close the loopholes that allow landowners and businesses to profit from neglect. I believe it is possible to structure our policies in a way that enables businesses to succeed, while protecting our citizens, our community, our environment and our resources.
Question: What initiatives would you support to improve affordable housing options in Merriam? How can the city provide a range of housing options for residents of different income levels?
Hammond: We have a diverse income in Merriam, Kansas. It’s like going door-to-door with our residents. We need to take care of our residents here first. Fixed income for our seniors, veterans and the disabled living with higher tax burdens. Long-time residents who pay taxes for 30, 40, and 50 years should have incentives, subsidies to stay in their homes that they have owned for years.
Not all residents I spoke with wanted apartments, [or] condos coming into their communities. First, let’s tackle the real housing issues in our community. Make residents a top priority. Let’s start encouraging long-term residents, veterans and the elderly to stay in their homes.
Rider: Merriam is essentially landlocked. We don’t have the capacity to expand outward and we also need to maintain commercial property to generate income based on sales. Working with these constraints can be difficult, but it’s a challenge that I think we can overcome.
I am in favor of supporting initiatives such as a housing tax credit linked to the obligation for owners to reserve a percentage of their housing stock for low-income families, such as young couples who have just founded a family and the elderly on fixed incomes. Housing Development Bonds can also be a useful tool to increase the availability of safe and affordable housing.
Many small towns have well-established programs that encourage homeowners to maintain and improve their properties. These are both owners and owners of commercial residences. I believe Merriam would do well to study existing programs to find out what worked well and what did not have the desired or expected results. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel when so many other cities have programs that we can draw inspiration from and draw from.
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