The following are The Eagle editorial board’s recommendations for the contested Wichita City Council and Wichita school board races in the April 2 general election. While voting is limited to each district’s residents for City Council, voters citywide will decide the school board races. We offer these recommendations as information to consider as you make up your own mind about the candidates.
Wichita City Council
Incumbent Lavonta Williams is passionate and enthusiastic, and should be re-elected in this near-northeast Wichita district. One of her strengths is her ability and desire to engage constituents and other stakeholders. “I love to work with people,” she said. She is neighborhood- and community-focused, and cites several district street and infrastructure improvements among the accomplishments of her time on the council. Williams, a former physical education teacher, also is concerned about health and well-being, and is proud of the new bicycle path master plan. Her priorities in a new term include jobs, infrastructure and public safety.
Also running is Dave Thomas, who has run previously for the Legislature. He has a passion for liberty and fiscal responsibility, and believes that the priorities of the current council are askew.
Incumbent James Clendenin is the clear choice in this southeast Wichita district. Clendenin, who was elected in 2011 to finished Jim Skelton’s unexpired term, has been a thoughtful and pragmatic voice on the council. He is responsive to his district’s needs but also sees the bigger picture on economic development and downtown revitalization. He wants to continue to promote southeast Wichita and make sure it receives its share of infrastructure improvements, including roadwork and a Wichita branch library. He has had some traffic violations, and a 16-year-old medical bankruptcy, but they shouldn’t disqualify him from service.
The other candidate is Clinton Coen, a Wichita State University student who also ran for the seat in 2011.
Joshua Blick is the best pick in this southwest Wichita district because of his extensive community involvement and knowledge of city issues. Blick lost a run for this seat two years ago to Michael O’Donnell, who left for the Legislature in December. Blick has served as a neighborhood association president for the past six years, as a district advisory board member for eight years and as a member of the board of zoning appeals. He wants to help promote the district as being “open for business.” His priorities include flood control, unpaved streets and other infrastructure issues. He is someone who works to make things happen. Past financial issues and speeding tickets, though a concern, should not affect his ability to be effective on the council.
His opponent, Jeff Blubaugh, is a real-estate broker and investor who serves on the Goddard school board and who ran unsuccessfully for the Legislature last year. His top priorities are job creation, economic development and district infrastructure needs.
Vice Mayor Janet Miller is an outstanding City Council member and the clear choice to continue to represent north Wichita. Miller is a problem solver who collaborates to find solutions. She also is dedicated to helping constituents access services and resolve concerns. During her four years on the council, Miller has been involved in a number of important initiatives, including homelessness and environmental issues. Some of the district concerns that she would focus on in a second term include the new Central Library, arts and cultural funding, and blight and neighborhood cleanups.
Also running is Marty Mork, who has run unsuccessfully for a number of offices.
Wichita school board
In a race with two good candidates to succeed the retiring Connie Dietz, Scott B. Poor stands out for his legal and business experience, knowledge of school finance and public policy, and proven leadership skills. A former assistant attorney general under Carla Stovall who chairs the Kansas Real Estate Appraisal Board, Poor would be a valuable resource as the board makes bonding, budgeting and facilities-planning decisions. Poor, who is deeply concerned about the school-funding decisions being made at the state level, thinks the district could be more aggressive and comprehensive in its fiscal forecasting based on property valuations.
The other candidate, Joy Eakins, also would make a capable school board member. Eakins, who owns a software design business and tutors many youths, would like to let data guide her decisions and be a proponent for teachers. She views the district as key to further growing the city’s technology sector.
Michael Rodee, owner of South Central Sealing and Paving, is the best choice to replace Lanora Nolan, who is retiring. Rodee, father of three USD 259 graduates, has been heavily involved with site councils, booster clubs, bond-issue planning and special projects with the district, especially at Northwest High, and won a Good Apple Award in 2004. His business experience should help make him a good steward of taxpayers’ money during what promises to be a tough fiscal time for the district.
Another good candidate is John Crane, formerly a school resource officer at Northwest High and a Safe and Drug-Free Schools officer, who has good firsthand knowledge of schools and their challenges in serving special-needs students. Four-time candidate Peter Grant also is on the ballot.