Two quick things before getting into the recap for this week.
I’m going to streamline this recap, I think; or at least try. Let me know which format you like better.
2. Yesterday’s Events
I can’t start this week’s recap without addressing in some small way the activities of January 6th in our U.S. Capitol:
I was watching Congress’ election certification from the very beginning yesterday, and I watched the events unfold in real time, in complete horror, and with a feeling of altered reality. I hope you, too, watched fair and accurate news reporting on the events, and were as ashamed as I was of these fellow countrymen and women.
We reasonable, curious (channel Ted Lasso here), and multicultural citizens of the United States need to rescue America and democracy from hate-filled, violent, conspiracy-theorists, and stop letting them make this an unwelcoming country to live and visit for human beings who don’t look like them.
I purchased a small-ish U.S. Flag* in December intending to display it on Inauguration Day on January 20th. I ended up hanging it earlier, on Tuesday, in anticipation of the Georgia runoff election. I’m glad I did. What happened yesterday just further resolved me to reclaiming the U.S. Flag and my hopes for our country.
I encourage you to purchase and/or hang your own U.S. Flag, too, and take back this symbol of our country that has been co-opted and used to manipulate and devalue fellow Americans. Those brandishing the flag alongside the confederate flag and other banners don’t deserve to be able to fly the U.S. Flag; though, because this IS the United States, that is their right to do so. But that does not make them patriots.
Instead, I’d love to drive through every street in our community and see the Stars & Stripes hanging from every house, maybe even alongside a Black Lives Matter sign in the yard, too, to show that the residents of Prairie Village, Johnson County, and Kansas respect democracy AND all human beings. Love of country and love for ALL of our neighbors are not mutually exclusive, and how we got to this disgusting point is a long and sordid story. It’s not new. We’ve just tried to ignore it for 400 years, and we can’t do that any longer.
*I purchased my small, manageably-sized outdoor U.S. Flag from the (local!) VFW headquarters in KCMO.
Taliaferro Park Construction Project
In 2021 Taliaferro Park will receive a new restroom and a new shelter. The Council Committee of the Whole approved the contract with a design firm in December, and City Council officially approved it this week via the consent agenda. I was remiss in commenting in December, so prior to the vote this week, I just shared that I hope the design for these structures (or single combined structure, whichever it may be) is more proactive and thoughtful in regards to aesthetic quality and sustainability features than the last two projects were at Wassmer and Porter Parks. As a designer and resident, I was underwhelmed by the design of those structures and disappointed in the 11th hour scrambling to consider sustainability and energy reduction. Overall, both projects were successful, but we can do better, and I don’t want our designers phoning it in.
Diversity Task Force
City Council voted to approve staff putting together a proposal to make the Diversity Task Force a permanent standing committee, and also to research what the City can do to remove or mark in some way documents still showing racist deed restrictions, etc. on properties in Prairie Village.
The latter topic was approved unanimously, but the former only passed with a 9-3 vote. The two Diversity Task Members presenting were actually asked by a councilmember, basically: “if PV is so unwelcoming, why did you move here?” That was a pretty low moment for the Prairie Village City Council, but it illustrates exactly why we need this task force.
Blue Moose’s PV location is staying open after all.
PV admin and staff are not in the loop of when or where vaccines will be available. Please don’t waste your time calling them to ask. Check with KDHE for information on this.
Chief of Police
Former Major/Deputy Chief Byron Roberson was sworn in as Prairie Village’s 7th Chief of Police. Chief Roberson has over 26 years of experience right here in Prairie Village, and City Council unanimously ratified this mayoral appointment.
Courtney McFadden, Ward 5 representative since 2016, was unanimously elected Council President. That means she runs the Council Committee of the Whole meetings, and works with the mayor and city staff to set the agendas. Sheila Myers, Ward 4, was our President in 2020.
Council gave final approval to adopting the League of Kansas Municipalities’ Statement of Municipal Policy with 7 additional top legislative priorities not covered by LKM’s policy:
- Tax Policy & Dark Store Theory
- Tax Lid Repeal
- Addressing the Climate Crisis as a Public Policy Priority
- Internet Sales Tax Collections
- State Funding of Public Education
- Local Control
This was not a unanimous vote. Four councilmembers voted nay, at least two of which because they believed PV should have their very own platform and not just adopt LKM’s. The other two: I didn’t catch why they were voting nay.
This was still a better outcome than last year, though, when the Council was tied 6-6 and the mayor broke the tie to approve the 2020 platform. When the new council was sworn-in in January 2020 (including me), we voted to ratify it, and it was ratified 10-2. The two nay votes then were also the two same nay votes from this year for which I didn’t catch their reasoning.
Now, I know we don’t need unanimous votes on everything, but I’m also not going to be one to govern by passing anything I want with the barest minimum of a majority and just push things through that way. We, as councilmembers, are representing a relatively diverse group of people (no, not racially, but economically) and we need to work together to come to decisions that also represent that broad group of people. I know it’s more productive to meet people where they are and slowly earn their support, rather than forcing them outside their comfort zone too soon to meet you where you are. 🤷
So, adopting the LKM policy was my proposal back in early December as a way to streamline our platform and make it more agreeable to the whole council. I’ve been stewing over it all year, since the contentious discussions in 2019, and trying to brainstorm ways to make it better. This was the solution I ultimately settled on. Additionally, I proposed, and we passed, new language for the 4th bullet point above (climate policy).
If we had more time to review the platform item-by-item as a group, I would be more than amenable to going back to a fully PV-specific platform, but we need more time to do that than just two council meetings (we managed to stretch this out to 3 meetings, but that was pushing it). I think we’re in a good place for 2021, and I look forward to revisiting the platform again later this year for 2022. We’ll see what happens! 👍
Large Trash Pickup
We all know that Republic had a tough time picking up ALL of the unprecedented amounts of bulky items left out during the Large Trash Pickup weeks in 2020, so this year Council voted to split the city into four sections instead of just two, and have four separate weekends for pickup. Here is the current proposed map:
Watch for more information with dates and the final map. There will be a write-up in the Village Voice, there will probably be one or more postcards, and I will also try to keep you in the loop. 🧐
Exterior Grant Program
For the 2021 Exterior Grant Program, Council voted to increase the maximum home value from $250k to $275k to allow about 950 more homes to be eligible for the program. And we also set aside the remaining $20k from the 2020 program that wasn’t used due to COVID for a proposed “environmental grant program” that staff will start drafting again in 2021.
Tree Protection Ordinance
The Tree Board and the Environmental Committee, both volunteer committees populated with Prairie Village residents, came together in 2020 to propose a tree protection ordinance for Prairie Village. It defines “protected” vs. “restricted” trees and more, but I’m going to refer you to page 112 of the agenda packet to read up on it. The proposal still has to go before the Planning Commission for a public hearing, and then it will come back before City Council for final approval in February or so. Watch for the final details here and, probably, in the Village Voice.
So that’s it for this week. We did a lot for our first meeting of the year, and here’s hoping 2021 settles down soon like we had all been looking forward to after the last crazy last year.
Take care and please wear your masks.