Flooding remains a concern in southwest Wichita, roads need to be improved, and seniors who live there could use some help.
But there isn't much doubt among candidates for the City Council's District 4 seat that job creation is the top priority.
Five people — June Bailey, Joshua Blick, Don McManamey, Michael O'Donnell and Donna Roberts — are seeking the seat that Paul Gray will vacate after serving the maximum two terms.
And each cited jobs as the primary focus.
"I think our district is one where most people work blue-collar jobs, and for them the jobs are more important because they can't keep a roof over their heads without it," Bailey said.
Bailey, 55, former executive director of Community Housing Services, expects that the district will grow, and that it will need to improve infrastructure as that happens, so the community needs to attract businesses.
"The businesses have to be there, the jobs have to be there, to keep the tax base," she said.
That's not so easy with all the red tape companies have to go through at City Hall, Bailey said.
"We keep hearing there's so many rules and regulations they can't even get thing off the ground until it's too late," she said, "and you're not going to bring in too many businesses unless we can open those doors and communicate better."
Blick, 33, who works in admissions at Wichita Technical Institute, said the city needs to build better relationships with existing businesses and go from there.
"Wichita needs to look at the private sector and find out what it can do to help them grow, instead of looking outside and trying to pull jobs from other cities and outside our county, because that's pretty much what everybody else is doing right now," he said.
Blick also cited a need to improve the quality of life for seniors in the district.
"There's a huge community of seniors in that area, and making sure we have resources for them because they are living on a strict income."
O'Donnell, 26, a sales and marketing representative for Clear Channel radio, said blue-collar workers have been affected by job losses far more than white-collar workers.
"So we've got to fight for those jobs with the aircraft companies and by expanding into other sectors, too," he said. "Manufacturing and industrial would be fantastic."
There must be frequent communication between the city and employers to retain them and help them expand, he said.
"Instead of waiting for the emergency button to be hit, like with Hawker, and then scramble, we need open dialogue beforehand. We need to be proactive with the business community and attract other companies to invest in Wichita."
McManamey, 60, who works at Hawker Beechcraft, said the city should create an environment that is conducive to bringing businesses to Wichita and keeping those already here.
It also needs to reduce the burden of taxes and regulations on businesses, he said.
"If we lessen that burden, then businesses will flourish and the city will grow," McManamey said.
Roberts, 50, a homemaker and independent state lobbyist on children's issues, also wants to work on attracting businesses to the district.
"We have a couple of restaurants, and they do really well," she said. "I'd like to see more businesses locating out this way."
Roberts said she would like to see the southern part of the district grow.
"If we could build the southern part we could keep people from going to Derby and spending their money," she said.
All the candidates said flooding remains a problem in the district. Some improvements have been made, but it took the city a long time to act, they said.
O'Donnell remembered the time his car was wrecked when he was caught in floodwaters on Meridian.
"That was in April, 2009," he said. "It's insane that we are still at this place where the flooding isn't addressed."
Wichita City Council District 4
The Wichita City Council provides policy direction to develop, implement and maintain services to residents. The council enacts laws and policies, and also sets the budget, levies taxes and appoints residents to advisory boards and commissions. Council members, who are elected by district, earn $34,870. Two of these candidates will advance to the general election April 5.
1. What are your top three budget priorities, in order, and where should the money come from?
2. Please explain how your experiences in your job and education qualify you for the job.
3. What is the biggest issue in your district, and how would you address that?
4. Name someone who is relatively famous, whom you admire, and explain why you admire them.
Occupation: Not currently employed
Education: Includes Harvard-Kennedy School of Government, certification in community development
Political experience: Citizens Participation Organization; District Advisory Board; co-chaired first Wichita schools bond oversight committee; Board of Parks Commission, eight years
1. Public safety is my top priority. Infrastructure, parks and open space cannot be ignored. Our streets, bridges, signs, signals, lights, storm water drainage, parks and housing all play a vital role in a healthy, clean and safe community. That type of community attracts business and businesses means jobs for our citizens.
2. I ask a lot of questions, seek all the facts and figures before making a decision. I have not always liked the decisions I had to make, but understood it had to be made. I have had a lot of life experiences that have helped me to make hard choices and deal with outside influences.
3. Loss of jobs is the biggest, but apathy for city government is also strong. We must find ways to increase jobs and business (while) helping the citizens understand why certain agreements are done to bring businesses to Wichita.
4. I admire the ones that put themselves out there to help others. Like our soldiers, police and firemen that put their lives on the line daily; the volunteers that give the gift of time to take a senior to a doctor, mow a neighbor's yard, paint or even build a home. The ones that give expecting nothing in return.
Occupation: Admissions coordinator, local business owner
Political experience: District 4 Advisory Board, Board of Zoning Appeals, Community Service Block Grant board, Community Development Block Grant board
1. Public Safety
2. For many years I have worked for local business making difficult decisions in regards to staffing, budgets, policy and business development. I have given back to my community by serving on numerous city boards for nearly a decade.
3. Finish road improvements on Meridian. The citizens are also concerned about jobs, taxes and a growing government. Improving the park system and creating a bike path that connects to the rest of the bike paths in town.
4. Tom Devlin has been an inspiration of mine for many of years, his entrepreneurship has motivated (me) as a business owner to dream big then put your dream into action. Mr. Devlin has inspired me to become a better person not only in my business but also as a community leader.
Occupation: Aircraft manufacturing
Education: Some college
Political experience: none
1. Top priorities of the city government should be public safety (police, fire, etc.), infrastructure (roads, bridges, water and sewer, etc.), and economic development.
2. I am not beholden to anyone. My moral foundation will not allow me to intentionally play favorites. I will listen to constituents and, within those moral confines, do what I believe is best for everyone. Among my work experiences was involvement in cost cutting at Beechcraft. As a team, we cut costs and improved the lives of those affected using proven tools and concepts.
3. I can see that unemployment is a very significant issue throughout the city, and we need to do find ways to spur economic growth to get Wichitans back to work.
4. Ronald Reagan. He understood that government's role should be limited to those things the individual cannot do for himself. On the local level this would include police, fire, and infrastructure such as roads. We were founded on the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To the extent it can, government should get out of the way and let us pursue.
Occupation: Radio marketing and sales
Education: Friends University
Political experience: None
1. Public safety: Continually promote and encourage the WPD and WFD.
2. Streets: Continue the upkeep of our city streets and cure flooding issues that have plagued southwest Wichita.
3. Lower taxes: Will help existing businesses grow and attract new businesses.
2. I work with hundreds of local business owners who have different needs. Each business has a common theme, doing what is best for their employees and long-term viability. At church I work with 100s of people who are affected by our economy, both good and bad. These people come from every walk of life, this has prepared me to work for ALL citizens.
3. For decades it has seemed economic improvements have overlooked southwest Wichita. I am committed to the revitalization of southwest Wichita and with that comes curing the flooding which has plagued us for years.
4. Former Congressman Todd Tiahrt is a fantastic example of a tireless leader for our region. He fought for our jobs and against government regulation. Whether you are Republican, Democrat or Independent, you can admire his dedication to aviation, our largest employment sector, as well as his push for diversification.
Occupation: Former co-owner of two Wichita companies; independent lobbyist on children's safety issues.
Education: High school
Political experience: Spearheaded effort to bring Jessica's Law to Kansas. Drafted proposed Kansas Protective Parent Reform Act.
Web site: votedonnaroberts.com
1. Public safety — general funds
2. Economic growth— by offering all businesses a low tax incentive
3. Street maintenance — general funds.
2. I believe my experience and knowledge advocating on behalf of the citizens in Wichita allows me to look outside the box when it comes to issues. I am not a person that can be influenced or pressured by special interest groups. Talking with thousands of citizens in the last five years has gained me knowledge on what the citizens of Wichita desire..
3. There are different issues that affect different parts of my district. I know there is a flooding issue within parts of my district that needs to be addressed and in the far southern part of my district citizens have expressed they would like to see more business growth.
4. Actor, director, playwright, screenwriter, producer and author Tyler Perry. He didn't let his past as an abused child stop him from fulfilling his dreams. His strength shows us that we can overcome obstacles and move forward to make a difference in others' lives. He brings laughter to so many families and I admire his courage to speak out about child abuse. He is an inspiration.