From the Business Perspective Newsletter
Voter poll says OP's heading in the right direction
On Nov. 2 Overland Park will elect a new mayor for the first time in 16 years. Voters will choose at least one new city council member, and new members for school boards, the JCCC Board of Trustees, and Water One Board. Decisions made by these governing bodies impact us daily so we shouldn’t allow them to be selected by a small minority of people. Just under 14% of registered voters turned out in the August primary. Better than 2019, but we can do so much better.
This election is a critical juncture for our community. The political divides we’ve seen nationally are manifesting locally. The divisive style that is not successful in DC will surely not be successful at home. Scare tactics and misinformation about issues proliferate in elections. It’s easy to fall prey to what “everyone” seems to believe. Do your homework.
So many issues are at stake in the coming years for the leaders we will elect in a few weeks. In September the Chamber’s Foundation and the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City released results of a community poll which indicates community priorities are largely unchanged from the last poll conducted in 2012. The goal of the project was to determine if the growth in Overland Park, combined with changing demographics and the ongoing Covid pandemic, had altered opinions about quality of life and taxation issues. Largely, the answer was “no”.
The project’s pollster, Neil Newhouse of Alexandria-based Public Opinion Strategies, said one of the key messages of the results is “Don’t screw it up.” In a time when approval ratings are hard to come by across the country, retiring Mayor Carl Gerlach earned a 6-1 approval margin in this poll, with 75% of respondents saying the city is heading in the right direction. While acknowledging growth is an issue, 74% judged Overland Park to be growing at the right speed.
Not surprisingly, pre-K-12 schools and public safety top the list of quality of life priorities voters rate as critical to our success (as they did in 2012), followed by access to mental health care, economic development and job growth, and access to quality health care. Providing mental health education and services topped the list of priorities for which voters would pay higher taxes, though there were others, including pre-K thru 12, higher ed and infrastructure to name a few. Voters nixed higher taxes to replace the much-discussed chip-seal method of resurfacing streets as well as paying more for a new city hall.
What do these results mean to you? It’s data. It’s not real votes, but it does indicate the statistically valid opinions of real voters who say they like our community, believe it’s governed well and are even willing to pay more for quality of life amenities to make it better. They identified new issues including mental health and housing variety as priorities we must work on. Oh, and they LOVE JCCC. So take a look at the poll results at opchamber.org. Check out the candidates at votejoco.com. Match your issues with the candidates who will make your business prosper and build your quality of life. And make it happen by VOTING.
Tracey Osborne Oltjen, CCE, IOM
President & CEO