This district covers a wide swath of central and east Wichita, including the downtown core. The seat is open; incumbent Lavonta Williams cannot run again because of term limits. Only district residents can vote on this race.
Brandon J. Johnson
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Occupation: Program coordinator
Education: Friends University, Wichita State University
Political experience: None
Community involvement: Co-Founder/Executive Director of Community Operations Recovery Empowerment, lead several organizational and community efforts to empower the wichita community with the skills and tools necessary to live happier, healthy, and increasingly successful lives. Past: Volunteer for Male 2 Male, and Second Chance at Family Services Institute; Program Director Summer Youth Employment Training Program (Family Services Institute & Saint Mark UMC); Kansas Advisory Group on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; Grant Chapel A.M.E Community Victory Garden Coordinator; Youth Services Worker (Salvation Army); Youth Care Worker (NuVision);
How long lived in district: 30 years
Occupation: Photographer My PictureMan LLC
Education: Bachelor’s degree, business administration
Political experience: Board of Education, USD259, 2001-05; board president, 03-04
Community involvement: Youth Educational Empowerment Program Board; Greater Penecostal church photographer. Past: President Gamma Nu Chapter Phi Beta Sigma Inc.; Chair Juneteenth Celebration; League Commissioner McAdams Park Summer Softball; Head Coach Little League Baseball-NE Optimist Club; Community Voice Radio Show Co-host ; Board member Communities United Credit Union; Community Mediation Services mediator; SCKEDD Micro-loan Credit Committee Chairman; Wichita-Sedgwick County Weed & Seed Board; North Branch YMCA Board; Urban League of Kansas Board; Urban Inititatives Church of God In Christ Financial Literacy Co-Chair; mentor program Jackson Elementary; My VA Communities Board Chair.
How long lived in district: Since 1975
Why are you the most qualified candidate?
Brandon Johnson: I am a collaborator with a track record of service and results. I have directed a summer youth employment training program that taught 1,000 young Wichitans entrepreneurship and job skills. I served on a state group for juvenile justice and delinquency prevention. I am the co-founder of Community Operations Recovery Empowerment, which has worked to build community gardens and positive relations between law enforcement and community. I serve on the District I Advisory Board. I worked with the community as well as city officials to secure body cameras for police. Working with Chief Ramsey, we organized the First Steps Cookout to build trust with the community.
Mike Kinard: As a lifelong resident and graduate of Friends University, I'll bring to the position a 30+ years experience working in both the private and non-profit sectors. During that time I've worked in small business development and owned my own small business. I have served as a volunteer for numerous boards and I've served as a member of the USD259 Board of Education where I served one term as president of the board. I've demostrated a commitment to our community, to business and economic development and to supporting local government. I am prepared to go to work for the City of Wichita and will hit the ground running.
What is the city’s role in creating and retaining jobs?
Brandon Johnson: I believe the City can create the right environment for businesses to flourish. As a council, our job is to set policy that helps support and strengthen business within our city. As a council member for District I, my goal would be to promote our district in new ways that entice businesses to locate and grow. Retaining jobs typically comes from the amenities a city provides. If we are building strong and safe neighborhoods, quality roads, and taking care of parks and bike lanes; we can be sure that businesses will be more likely to remain in our great city.
Mike Kinard: City government must take an active role in establishing a culture and support structure that helps business and entrepreneurs start and grow. I will support private-public partnerships that are beneficial to the City and establish and ensure opportunities for employment. Towards that goal, we must collaborate with local Chambers of Commerce, Sedgwick County, Kansas World Trade Center and Wichita State University. We must develop and implement programs that will entice our young talent to remain while strengthening our culture and arts to attract them here.
Most pressing issue
What is the most pressing issue for the city and what do you think city leaders should do about it?
Brandon Johnson: The most pressing issue we are seeing in Wichita continues to be diversifying our economy and ensuring that citizens have access to living wage employment opportunities. This issue is even more present in District I where we have seen divestment and some businesses closing their doors. The City needs to continue its efforts to support the Blueprint for Regional Economic Growth (BREG), Entrepreneurial Task Force, efforts to increase summer youth employment, and support entrepreneurial efforts.
Mike Kinard: Our system of public transit is often overlooked as an important quality of life component. By providing this basic public service we offer mobility for our residents, reduce traffic on our streets and increase economic opportunities for businesses. Yet, we need partners from other governmental units: such as Wichita State University, Wichita Public Schools, and Sedgwick County (WATC),and private buinesses, such as: Old Town (late night,early morning service), Towne East and Towne West malls, and major employers (for second shift workers),such as Spirit Aerosystems, Cessna and Koch Industries. The City of Lawrence partnership with University of Kansas is a good model for us to consider.
Top district issue
What is the most pressing issue in your district, and how would you address it?
Brandon Johnson: Economic Development is the key issue in District I. Zip codes such as 67214 really need an economic boost to improve income levels and battle other issues. As a council member I will support and engage with the Blueprint for Regional Economic Growth, the Entrepreneurial Task Force, Greater Wichita Partnership, and the many groups intent on teaching our young people the skills of being a successful entrepreneur.
I will commit to promoting our district as the location to build a business, meet with small business owners on a regular basis to discuss ways to continually improve the way we support as a City, and help promote the many opportunities around our District to start a business.
Mike Kinard: District one is home to some underserved neighborhoods 67208,67214, and 67219 that need more outlets to purchase basic need items like milk, bread, and eggs. We need gas stations, shopping outlets and entertainment in our neighborhood. However, this is not something the City alone can provide. While the City can provide TIF zones; we need private developers to utilize the incentives offered. In order to spur development, community organizations and churches — in conjunction with the City — must help with this effort by creating safe zones that provide a sense of security and comfort.
Proposed tax increase
What do you think of the proposal to increase the property tax mill levy to pay for more police officers? How would you vote on it in next year's budget?
Brandon Johnson: I am a supporter of the vision of Chief Gordon Ramsay and have been working with the department to improve community policing to be sure that we have the ability to hire more officers to make this a reality for our citizens. I want to be sure that we, as a city, have exhausted all means of alternate funding for more officers prior to voting to increase the mill levy. If we cannot find other funding sourcing within the budget, then I would support increasing the mill levy to ensure that our citizens are safe and that we begin to lead the nation in law enforcement/ community relations.
Mike Kinard: Public Safety must be our highest priority. Yet prior to supporting a proposal to increase the mil levy I will look under every rock, and leave no stone unturned, in an attempt to find available funding for more police officers. It is important to remember that funding is also needed for our Fire Department.
What should the city do about Century II?
Brandon Johnson: Century II provides us a great opportunity to positively impact our city for generations to come, and we need to ensure that any decision made is going to create a facility that will be a source of pride and inspiration for all citizens. Now that we have the option from the City Manager and the report from Arup Advisory Inc., I believe it is incumbent upon city leaders to directly reach out to the citizenry and groups that utilize Century II with the facts from the study and also hear their perspective and ideas.
Mike Kinard: I will be an advocate for arts and culture. This is more than a 'Quality of Life' issue it also stimulates the local economy. A study done by Arts & Economic Prosperity concludes that the nonprofit arts and culture sector is a $94.7 million industry and one that supports 2,841 full-time equivalent jobs in the city. It is imperative that we move our facilities into the 21st century and modernize Century II in order for us to capture our market share from state of the art performances and conventions to our City. Can we design a new facility that will pay tribute to the iconic structure while taking advantage of modern technology. I believe that a new facility that will provide us with the ability to expand our convention and cultural entertainment events and opportunities.
What do you think about the city's plans for Naftzger Park? What would you advocate doing there?
Brandon Johnson: I am always supportive of investing in our current parks, but I believe Naftzger Park is a beautiful piece of our downtown and would love to see it maintained mostly as it is now. Basic infrastructure improvements are necessary, but the layout and water are attractive to our city, and I know thousands of Wichitan’s have used this park to photograph special moments in their lives. I am open to seeing the newly proposed ideas, and would be supportive of improvements and/or a similar type of park there.
Mike Kinard: As a photographer, I have often used Naftzger Park for Senior pictures and other photo shoots. The problem is not the park itself, the issue is the homeless that call the park home. The open space floor plan, while sold as better use of park land for open concerts etc., is not addressing the homeless issue; it's only making this space undesirable for them to stay. I am not in favor of dismantling Naftzger Park for open space concept. Let's find solutions for the homeless.
What is your evaluation of the current state of relations between your district's community and the Wichita Police Department? And what do you see as your role in that relationship as a council member?
Brandon Johnson: The state of relations between law enforcement and community is good and getting better. My role as a council member will be to continue the work I have been doing with the Police Department and ensuring they are transparent, inclusive, and actively working to build bridges in the community among our citizens. Under the leadership of Chief Ramsay and the work I have been a part of in Wichita, we are seeing more opportunities where community is coming together with law enforcement. When it comes to building relationships, I believe that we need to ensure that law enforcement is intricately connected to the community and that both sides are working together.
Mike Kinard: Since the arrival of Chief Ramsey there has been improvement but more must be done to repair and strengthen the relationship between the community and the officers that are entrusted to protect us. I am a staunch advocate for our police but as a resident I too have had a bitter experience with an officer and understand why some have resentment. There is no place in our community for negative relationships with those who have sworn an oath to protect us. I applaud Chief Ramsey’s decision to allow some discretion by officers in traffic stops and the proposed 'Citizen Review Board' for transparency within his department. I will have ongoing dialog with the Chief and key staff to ensure that I can help build positive relationships between the community and Police.
What is your stance on the City Council’s decision to remove the pool at McAdams Park and replace it with a splash pad?
Brandon Johnson: Although I understand the financial argument behind closing the pools, I would rather see the pools open. We must, as a community, do a better job of using our resources but closing the pools also removed an opportunity for our young people to not only learn how to swim but also have something to do. The McAdams pool is historic, and designed by Wichitan Charles McAfee. I believe the pool is worth saving, and my goal as a council member is to usher in the growth and development of the McAdams area in order to breathe new life into the neighborhood and support the historic park.
Mike Kinard: I learned how to swim at McAdams Park pool so I was disappointed in the decision to close the pool. But we must look historically at McAdams. In 1968 the MLK highway divided the park from the neighborhood, and urban renewal removed the remaining homes west of the highway leaving the park and L'Ouverture Elementary school with an industrial park to the north and west side and limited access from the south and east side neighborhoods. I too have sentimental attachment to the pool yet we must recognize the evolution of the times and be mindful of the budget constrains for the City. If the decision cannot be reversed, I will advocate keeping the existing structure and work with community leaders and neighborhood associations for the best options available as a splash pad for family use.
Do you think your district receives its fair share of city funding? If not, how would you propose to change that?
Brandon Johnson: District I receives a great deal of support in regard to arterial roads, bike and walk trails, and infrastructure surrounding Wichita State University. I do believe that more investment could and should happen within neighborhoods. Neighborhood infrastructure, parks, and urban infill could use more resources. The current CIP has funding allocated to begin the process of addressing these issues, and I would continue to emphasize that a focus on neighborhood revitalization is needed to be sure Wichita is attractive to families and businesses.
Mike Kinard: Former Mayor Carl Brewer and Council member Lavonta Williams have done a tremendous job bringing City funding to District One. Several upgrades to major thoroughfares(i.e., 21st street from MLK highway to Wichita State University, 17th street from Hillside to Grove, 13th street from MLK to Oliver) were funded. The Red Bud bike path and infrastructure upgrades for Innovation Campus are beneficial to the City of Wichita not just District One. Yet there are more necessary upgrades in District One that I will advocate, including- the Dunbar district, McAdams park baseball fields, College Hill street flooding and bring attention towards the former Boys and Girls club building at 21st and Grove. Once elected, I will be a supporter for appropriate projects outside district one such as Striker Soccer Complex and Lawerence-Dumont Stadium. We are OneCity.
How would you address problems with blight and abandoned and/or dilapidated housing in your district?
Brandon Johnson: In regard to blight, I would first begin a series of meetings with property owners and community members to begin to build a consensus of how to deal with these issues on a neighborhood level. As we are working toward solutions together, I would invite other council members and state representatives to the table to see how we can come up with a comprehensive plan and partnership. With this approach, opposite of the current Urban Infill Committee, I believe we can begin making more impact. Of course, living wage employment opportunities help to empower citizens to keep their property up, increase home ownership, and fill empty lots with new families.
Mike Kinard: There is current legislation (Senate Bill 31) that is a promising remedy for the City, yet the details still must be ironed out. I will work with Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau and Representive Gail Finney to clearly define our role when using eminent domain. This is a City-wide issue and we need the proper tools in order to address some of the loopholes used by some of (mostly out of State) property owners that will not allow the City to move on these abandoned and/or dilapidated houses.
A great deal of new development is taking place on the campus at Wichita State University. How could or should the surrounding neighborhoods work with the university to build on that growth?
Brandon Johnson: In my opinion, as a staple in our City, I would like to see the University continue the method of the Fairmount Community Outreach. The university should be leading the effort to reach out to surrounding communities to see on a grassroots level how the University could be of service to the surrounding community. The Fairmount Neighborhood Association successfully led the community engagement piece with the Hugo Wall School at Wichita State. In this way, the neighborhood associations can better state the needs of their specific area than the university could.
Mike Kinard: The real question is how could the university help build the neighborhood. In 2014 President Bardo announced the formation of the 'Enough is Enough Task Force'. He stated "Our success and future is tied in every way to the success of the surrounding area..." The development of the Innovation Campus is truly exciting, yet the growth of the neighborhood surrounding the campus is stagnant. Employment opportunities are a key for the success of the surrounding community, and with expanded employment coming to the campus, I would work with WSU and its expanded campus partners to aggressively recruit and hire people from the surrounding community. My role as a city council member would be to work diligently with the university to make its resources available in a way that can help grow the surrounding community, economically and educationally.
Is your district adequately served by public transit? If not, what would you propose to improve it?
Brandon Johnson: District I suffered a few route changes due to the recession and cuts to transit. Routes were moved based on highest usage and that has caused some hardship to citizens who have a more difficult time getting to the newer bus stop locations. My goal as a council member is to find ways to increase funding to transit to make it a more robust service offered by the city of Wichita.
Mike Kinard: Much research has been done on identifying upgrades and changes to municipal transportation. More needs to be done to address this basic quality of life issue. Most will agree public transit currently is not adequately serving the needs of District One. We must change our mindset become innovative in our solutions. We need partners like Wichita State University that instead of a park and ride system, provide home to school service. The City of Lawerence and University of Kansas is a good model we can consider.
What other priorities do you have and how would you address them?
Brandon Johnson: My priorities are to improve the economic environment in District I, continue building community and law enforcement relations by improving community policing, begin work on the abandoned housing and empty lot issues to bring more families into the neighborhoods, identify and implement sustainable funding for public transit, improve the City infrastructure, and ensure greater government transparency. Put the focus back on neighborhoods and build our community.
Mike Kinard: I stand with Mayor Longwell to end homelessness for our Veterans. Yet, we must also do more to address the issue of homelessness overall. The United Way is working tirelessly to identify the chronically homeless- individuals with a disabling condition that has been homeless for at least 12 months. Efforts are being made to get them housing that will meet their needs.
Please state, in detail, your position on open records, open meetings and transparency in government.
Brandon Johnson: I fully support a transparent and open government. I believe the press and citizens should be informed of what happens with Government and the decisions being made. I support that government operations should be open to citizens, and that the city could be much more open than it currently is.
Mike Kinard: My 'position' is to follow the Statutes that address access to open records and open meetings and will look for ways to provide more transparency in the City government while protecting the information that needs to be kept safe.