The Shawnee Mission Post published an informative series on Mission City Council candidates’ responses to readers’ questions. See Trent’s responses below.
In recent years, developers have become increasingly likely to seek public finance incentives like tax increment financing and community improvement district sales taxes to pay for parts of their private projects. What’s your stance on the use of such incentives? When, if ever, is it appropriate to commit public finances to private real estate projects?
Public incentives should be used with caution, restraint, and on a case-by-case basis. Too often, cities in Johnson County have used such incentives to check the box on short-term goals that do little to address the long-term needs facing our cities – maintaining affordability, encouraging sustainable development, and preserving the spirit of what makes a city attractive. I believe Mission should only consider the use of public incentives when there is clear evidence that public investment is necessary for a project to be feasible and that the project will bring about strong benefits to our residents. With respect to tax increment financing in particular, I am leery of committing future tax collection for 20+ years when real estate trends can shift unpredictably. We should be purposeful and strategic when it comes to our vision for the city, and this includes our approach to using public finance incentives. This is a sentiment I share with many longtime Mission residents I’ve met throughout my campaign. We are fortunate that our city already attracts high-quality development opportunities and my focus as a councilmember would be to strengthen what makes Mission unique – the comforts of a small town with the luxuries of the big-city metro.
Mission was recently named the best city in Kansas for the middle class. What steps do you think the city should be taking to ensure the city remains an attractive and affordable place to call home for the middle class in the years to come?
I was not surprised to see Mission lead that ranking because neighbors always tell me about how much they love living here. I’ve met residents from all walks of life — everyone from empty nesters to young professionals. We share a sense of community and pride here thanks to our historic neighborhoods, locally owned downtown businesses and citywide events. This dynamic makes us a gem of the region and it is important that we preserve this strength. Many of our neighbors attribute their ability to thrive here to affordable housing, nearby schools and quality services. To ensure Mission remains an attractive place for the middle class to call home, we must be proactive in strengthening core services, incentivizing healthy lifestyle choices through bike lanes, green spaces, and sidewalks, and ensuring new development promotes affordable and sustainable housing. Through these strategic initiatives, Mission will preserve its reputation as an accessible place to put down permanent roots.
The biggest challenge facing Mission in the coming years is housing affordability. We have the opportunity to be proactive on this issue and should take advantage by placing it at the forefront of city deliberations moving forward. Ward 1 is home to the highest population of renters in our city. Earlier this summer I spoke with a woman in her apartment who said that she loved Mission but feared getting priced out of her complex. On Council, I would start to address this complex issue by:
- Considering long-term goals when making decisions on new development. We must be wary of inadvertently pricing out portions of the population based on vague promises. Any new development proposals should prioritize the needs of all residents, including our most vulnerable populations.
- Promoting and expanding community housing improvement grants. Mission is fortunate to be able to offer grants that provide residents with neighborly assistance that can help alleviate financial burdens for needed repairs. City grants like the Mission Possible program and partnerships with local non-profits like Habitat for Humanity allow for qualifying residents to receive general home maintenance and repairs. These types of programs benefit all residents by elevating the look and feel of the whole community.
- Partnering with the Johnson County commissioners. We must work with the county to streamline initiatives and learn from best practices elsewhere in the metro area. Together with neighboring cities, we should explore programs and awareness campaigns for attainable housing.Mission was recently named the best city to live for the middle class. I will be a voice for these working families when it comes to housing affordability and maintaining our quality of life.