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District 3 City Council race mostly amiable

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, at 6:49 a.m.

The District 3 primary race for the Wichita City Council is mostly an amiable one.

Incumbent James Clendenin, completing the final two years of a term left vacant when Jim Skelton became a county commissioner, has nothing to say about opponents Mary Dean and Clinton Coen. He says he’s focused on growing jobs in his district.

Dean says she’s “got no issue” with Clendenin, instead choosing to focus her energies on improving police/public relations.

And Coen’s got nothing to say about Dean, saving his energy to criticize Clendenin’s job performance, which he calls lacking.

District 3 covers parts of south and southeast Wichita. Only residents of the district can vote in the primary. Two candidates will advance to the April 2 general election.

Clendenin, 38, says he has worked to help develop a concept for a southeast Wichita elevated rail corridor, to increase funding for city street maintenance, to partner with neighborhoods to fight crime and blight, to help develop a plan for a southeast branch library and to improve the banks along the Arkansas River.

“What’s good for District 3 is good for the city, and that has to be our focus,” said Clendenin, a former machinist. “I certainly will work to represent the people of my district, but I also believe that we represent the entire city.”

Clendenin said he’s running for re-election because south Wichita has for years lacked “someone who will be an advocate for them at City Hall, willing to be that tether between them and City Hall.”

Skelton started to do that, he said, “and I feel it’s my duty to make sure people have a voice there. Public service is something that makes me click.”

He said the south side of the city has fallen victim to the prosperity and growth on the east and west sides of Wichita.

Clendenin also cites preservation of the city’s five golf courses, including Clapp in south Wichita; completion of construction on the 47th Street corridor; a balanced city budget; reductions in odors at the city’s treatment plants; improvements to Mount Vernon; a new southeast Wichita multi-use path; the Southfork mixed-use development at 47th and I-135; and the 34th and Broadway bridge slated for completion in 2014.

Dean, 64, a retired Boeing employee and community advocate, said her candidacy is driven by the “people who I’m in contact with, the people in need of a voice.”

“A lot of people are tired of business as usual — you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” she said. “The people who are really in need of help are the ones being ignored. I want to be that voice. I’m rooted in the community.”

She said she’ll have to learn a lot about the city’s issues, but is focused on last summer’s police shootings. She wants to create a citizens review board with subpoena power to regulate racial profiling and police brutality, an idea pushed by Occupy Wichita. Dean does not consider herself a member of Occupy Wichita, but says she has worked with the group.

She advocates redevelopment of neighborhoods, including Planeview and Hilltop.

A background search by The Eagle turned up two bankruptcies filed by Dean, in 2005 and 2011, with the latter still in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and four state income tax warrants between 1993 and 2005, all settled.

She said her financial troubles make her more, not less, qualified to help regulate the city budget.

“I’m no worse than Ty Masterson,” she said. Masterson, an Andover Republican who heads the Senate’s Ways and Means Committee, filed for personal bankruptcy in 2011.

Coen, a 21-year-old college student, said Wichita city government tries to do too much.

“I don’t know if it’s a vision problem or a communications problem. It could be both,” he said. “We seem to have our hands in too much. We’ll subsidize businesses west, east, downtown, and then they complain about people not wanting to locate downtown. They have their hands in too many places at once to have a decent vision.”

Unlike Clendenin, who pledges to weigh incentives for private business on a case-by-case basis, Coen is opposed to such subsidies.

“They result in a dead weight loss, rely on tax money collected from businesses that is distributed to their competitors,” Coen said. “It doesn’t allow for a free market and a free flow of goods. I’d say local businesses and the taxpayers are the losers in that scenario.”

Coen pledges to support economic growth, low taxes and fiscal accountability.

He said the council needs to be more transparent in its actions.

“For example, the weekly meeting consent agenda,” Coen said. “They are allowed through that to hide items that would ordinarily be controversial.”

Reach Bill Wilson at 316-268-6290 or bwilson@wichitaeagle.com.

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