Each candidate for the Wichita City Council in District 3 says he has the majority behind him on the issues.
Incumbent James Clendenin, 38, a machinist, says he is focused on jobs and the District 3 economy.
Clinton Coen, 21, a college student, also is focused on jobs. He calls the city’s overall performance with taxpayer dollars “something I think most people are dissatisfied with.”
He said he has to turn around Clendenin’s name recognition to make a significant dent in the landslide loss he suffered to the incumbent in the Feb. 26 primary. Clendenin got 72 percent of the vote to Coen’s 13 percent and Mary Dean’s 12 percent.
“As people learn there’s an alternative, that will help,” Coen said. “As I meet with more people, I’m getting a better reception.”
Coen said some voters are skeptical about his age, but added, “As far as the issues go, I’m pretty solid with the majority, I think.”
Coen, who expects to graduate from Wichita State University this spring with a degree in economics, said the city needs to create economic and political climates that encourage growth by having low taxes, lower debt, reduced spending and low regulatory burden. He says the city should not pick winners and losers with development incentives.
Clendenin is completing the final two years of a term after Jim Skelton moved to the Sedgwick County Commission.
He touts his work to help develop a concept for a southeast Wichita elevated rail corridor, to partner with neighborhoods to fight crime and blight, to help develop a plan for a southeast branch library and to reduce odors at the city’s treatment plants, among other things.
He said the district needs to return to its old days as a self-sufficient retail economy, citing the planned development of the Southfork mixed-use retail and office development at 47th Street South and I-135.
“People used to be able to go to the doctor, to go to the dentist, to go out to eat and buy clothes right here without having to drive somewhere else in Wichita,” he said. “We need to focus on getting Southfork up and running to get back to those days.”
Southfork is critical to restoring the district’s sense of community, Clendenin said.
“Everybody knew each other. Everybody looked out for each other. When you have those quality of life advantages, the people in the area are happier. It deters crime. It deters blight. It gives people a sense of ownership in their community.”
Both men are focused on the city’s developing water shortage. City officials say Cheney Lake, a main source of water for the city, could go dry in two years if the drought continues.
“As far as taxing people more for water, charging more, I don’t think you’re going to see that,” Clendenin said. “This council, with the adoption of its new water policy, is committed to the current rate structure, to paying down our debt and repairing the water system. Our goal has not been to raise taxes on people to do that.”
Instead, he thinks the city should emphasize conversation and launch a community dialogue on potential new water sources.
Coen blames past councils for the water shortage.
“We need to be proactive instead of reactive,” he said. “It seems short-sighted we didn’t see these water issues coming. It’s kind of something we don’t face too rarely.”
He advocates capturing water that’s being pumped into the Equus Beds and using it for drinking and other uses.
He opposes increasing water rates and says the city shouldn’t operate fountains or use water for public lawn-watering or recreation during the shortage.