The following are The Eagle editorial board’s recommendations for the three Wichita City Council districts holding primaries on Feb. 26. The top two candidates in each district will advance to the April 2 general election, when incumbent Lavonta Williams and challenger Dave Thomas also will be on the ballot in east Wichita’s District 1. We offer these primary recommendations as information to consider as you make up your own mind about the candidates.
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James Clendenin has earned a four-year term of his own representing southeast Wichita, after having been elected in 2011 to finish the unexpired term of former council member Jim Skelton. A machinist who resigned his day job last year to focus on his city duties, Clendenin has proved a thoughtful and pragmatic voice on the council bench, responsive to his district’s needs but also able to see the bigger picture on economic development, downtown revitalization and more. He wants to strengthen neighborhood partnerships, engage more citizens, and push for a southeast Wichita branch library and more progress on an elevated rail corridor through his area.
Community activist Mary Dean, a retired Boeing employee who twice ran for the Wichita school board, also seeks the seat. She has been critical of the city in the wake of a series of police-involved shooting deaths and would push for an independent citizen board to review such incidents. Dean, who has had personal financial problems, also wants to see more redevelopment in the Planeview and Hilltop neighborhoods.
The other candidate is Clinton Coen, a Wichita State University student and strident critic of the council’s use of economic incentives, who also ran for the seat in 2011.
Joshua Blick is the best candidate in this southwest Wichita district because of his extensive community involvement and knowledge of city issues. He ran for this seat two years ago but lost to Michael O’Donnell, who resigned in December to serve in the Legislature. Blick has served as a neighborhood association president for the past six years, as a district advisory board member for eight years, as a member of the board of zoning appeals, and as a committee chairman for the Wichita River Festival. His priorities include flood control, unpaved streets and other infrastructure issues. He has had traffic-violation problems in his past, but that shouldn’t disqualify him from service.
Jeff Blubaugh is also a good candidate. Blubaugh, who ran unsuccessfully for the Legislature last year, is a real-estate broker and investor who serves on the Goddard school board. His top priorities are job creation and economic development. His business and sales experience could be valuable on the council.
Also running are David Glover, a Walmart employee who has run for the seat before, and Craig Gabel, a businessman and political activist who ran unsuccessfully last year for the Legislature and has had past tax and legal problems.
Vice Mayor Janet Miller is the clear choice in this north Wichita district. During her first term on the council, Miller has proved to be a good listener and a problem solver. She collaborates to find solutions and is dedicated to helping constituents access services and resolve concerns. She has been involved in a number of important issues, including homelessness and environmental issues. She is smart, capable and deserves to be re-elected.
Also running are Richard Stephenson, an Occupy Wichita member who has appeared at council meetings to protest police-involved shootings, and Marty Mork, who has run unsuccessfully for a number of offices.