Responses below are from the candidates and have not been edited. All candidates for a race who chose to respond were asked the same questions.
Small Business Owner, High School Graduate from West High, attended Fort Hays State, Democratic Precinct Captain, married to Christina Hoheisel (9 years)
Campaign website/Facebook/Social Media:
What specific Wichita issues deserve your immediate attention and how do you plan to address them?
Access to quality Mental Health and Addiction Treatment is the main problem that, if addressed, can have the biggest impact on the 3rd district. Right now, there are few options for families and friends of people going through mental health and addiction issues, especially for working and low income families. This issue has touched nearly every Southside family. Decades ago, state mental hospitals began to close, passing the responsibility to county and local governments. We have failed to pick up the slack.
We need to ensure that current programs that show promise, such as the ICT+1 police unit that embeds social workers with units responding to mental health crisis, are fully funded and available at all times. We need to work with state and county officials to streamline funding and workable programs to ensure that we are all on the same page, making the process more efficient and effective. And we need to work with local clinics to ensure they meet the CCBHC guidelines set in House Bill 2208, which provide additional funding to clinics to treat residents at low to no cost. The time to act on this issue is now.
What are your thoughts on the non-discrimination ordinance (NDO)?
I’m glad we got the NDO done. This will help make our city more inclusive and safer, and open us up to businesses who wouldn’t move in unless our city had a solid NDO. I’m glad we listened to the diversity, inclusion and civil rights board’s recommendations, and the final product wasn’t watered down. This will help protect people who have been historically discriminated against, and will help with keeping our veterans and elderly residents in their homes as well.
What is your vision for the east bank of the Arkansas River? What do you want to see happen with Century II and the old downtown library?
Right now, as we continue to come out of the pandemic, we see the rising costs of materials and an unsure economic outlook. I don’t think it’s the right time for any large, expensive projects. Additionally, I love having Century II as part of the city’s skyline. As I get older, I realize more and more just how important it is to have links to the past, to have buildings and landmarks that our parents and grandparents would recognize from their years around Wichita. In the end, I am a man of the people, and want to see a binding vote. Regardless of the outcome, I will vote with my district since it is the people’s buildings and they should have the final say as to what to do with them.
What should Wichita do about food deserts?
Unfortunately, most of the 3rd district is in a food desert. What I do know is we cannot rely on big business groceries to solve the problem. They have shown that the profit margin is not going to be large enough to continue in these areas. Short term, we can work with rideshare programs to provide affordable rides to the grocery stores for the elderly, disabled, and people on assistance who reside in these areas. Similar programs are in place in various cities around the country. Also, we can streamline the process for farmers markets to open up in these communities, mobile pantries, and community gardens. We can work through the master food plan for innovative new ideas, and engage the affected communities to come up with grassroots solutions such as community grocery stores and co-ops. With the right level of community involvement and buy-in, they would be able to keep their revenue in their neighborhood instead of sending out of the area.
What should be done about violence in the city?
The first thing we can do is get our hands around the mental health and addiction crisis. The police officer who was shot a month ago was wounded by a man going through a mental breakdown. It seems like a week can’t go by without seeing somebody going through a mental health crisis leading the police on a high speed chase resulting in somebody’s death or suicide. Police Chief Ramsey, when talking about the recent crackdown on violent offenders dubbed Operation Triple Beam, said the operation was the best option they had since we were not addressing the root causes of much of the violent crime, namely chemical dependence and mental health issues. If we can make progress on those issues, we can free up much needed resources to address domestic violence, sex trafficking, drug trafficking, and theft.
How should Wichita address mental health issues and addiction in our community?
I’ll touch on this again. If we can get a handle on this problem we can focus on other areas of improvement, and families can get the help they deserve when dealing with issues that will impact their lives in a major way.
How can the city help to grow businesses and create jobs?
The first thing we can do is clean up our streets. The South Broadway Corridor is a Economic Opportunity Zone, providing tax breaks for businesses that open up or move to the neighborhood, yet it is still struggling to attract businesses aside from car lots. Many businesses are hesitant to relocate or open due to issues we are all familiar with. There are many great people in the surrounding neighborhood who are working to better their community, we need to assist them where possible.
We also need to invest in workforce training, specifically towards well paying blue collar jobs that you can raise a family on. These campuses need to be accessible so people with limited transportation can easily attend. We can promote existing tax breaks and benefits (such as economic development exemptions) for companies relocating or opening using current infrastructure, such as existing warehouses or used machinery, and finally we need to ensure that investment is applied fairly across the entire city, not just the areas of town that are already well off.
Would you change how much the city spends on its different departments (police, fire, parks, transit, etc.)? If so, how?
The recent crises with the Counties EMS department has shown how important it is to examine the current state of our various departments. Our Fire Department is understaffed compared to departments of similar sized cities, and many firehouses have fallen into disrepair. There are many vacancies throughout various city departments, such as inspectors and animal control officers, that need to be filled as soon as possible, and too much of the city’s buildings and responsibilities have been privatized, from Century II and the Ice Rink to the people mowing our parks and public land. I trust Police Chief Ramsey to continue to reallocate funds within the Police Department to ensure a cleaner, more efficient police force that provides a safer community for both residents and the officers who protect and serve. Getting a handle on our debt, reallocating current spending, and redirecting funds from expiring programs such as construction on Kellogg can help make the city a cleaner, safer, and more vibrant community we feel secure raising our children in.