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Voter Guide: What To Know About The Overland Park Mayoral Primary Election

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Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
The primary election in Overland Park is Aug. 3 and the top two vote-getters advance to the Nov. 2 general election. Advance, in-person voting has already begun.

Four candidates are competing to replace longtime mayor Carl Gerlach, who is not running for re-election. The top two vote-getters on Aug. 3 advance to the Nov. 2 general election.

Overland Park routinely ranks as one of the best cities in the country for quality of life, for raising a family, for business prosperity and safety.

Four candidates are competing to lead that city into the future, to succeed Mayor Carl Gerlach, who chose not to run for re-election after 16 years in that office.

City Council members Faris Farassati and Curt Skoog are running, along with two newcomers, attorney Clay Norkey and longtime business executive Mike Czinege.

The primary is Aug. 3 and the top two vote-getters advance to the Nov. 2 general election.

Key issues are the use of development incentives, management of growth while supporting older neighborhoods, the need for affordable housing, and policing in the wake of the 2018 fatal officer-involved shooting of a teenager.

Here’s what you need to know:

The Election

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Aug. 3.

A photo ID is required. There are no COVID restrictions or mask mandates. Voters can verify their registration and check their polling place here.

The deadline to apply to vote by mail is July 27.

In-person advance voting has started. Advance voting locations and additional information can be found here.

The Candidates

072321_cm_MayorFarassati
City of Overland Park
Faris Farassati is a cancer scientist who has represented Ward 5, which covers part of the city’s southeastern area, since May 2017.

Faris Farassati: Farassati is a cancer scientist who has represented Ward 5, which covers part of the city’s southeastern area, since May 2017. He is one of the fiercest critics of Overland Park’s use of development tax incentives and frequently clashes with the council majority.

He says his priorities include providing a voice for regular people, opposing over-development of luxury apartments, preserving Overland Park’s traditional character, and directing tax dollars to basic public services.

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Courtesy Skoog for Mayor Campaign
Curt Skoog, whose career is in business development, has represented Ward 2 in Overland Park, the area just south of 87th Street, for 16 years.

Curt Skoog: Skoog, whose career is in business development, has represented Ward 2, the area just south of 87th Street, for 16 years. He is endorsed by Gerlach and former Mayor Ed Eilert. He says he is proud of the city’s progress during his tenure, including the revitalization of downtown Overland Park and of aging shopping centers on Metcalf Avenue and elsewhere.

His priorities include building a consensus for the city’s next 10-year comprehensive plan and improving neighborhoods, parks and infrastructure.

072321_cm_MayorNorkey
Courtesy Clay Norkey
Norkey is an Overland Park attorney. His blended family has nine kids and he says he’s running to provide new perspectives and ensure Overland Park remains great for families.

Clay Norkey: Norkey is an attorney who ran unsuccessfully for the Kansas House in 2020. His blended family has nine kids and he says he’s running to provide new perspectives and ensure Overland Park remains great for families. He has served as Church of the Resurrection board chair and on the Blue Valley Recreation Commission.

His priorities include more transparency and accountability from police, infrastructure improvements to prepare for climate change, and more affordable housing options.

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Courtesy Mike Czinege
Mike Czinege has been an executive with Ernst & Young, AMC and Applebee’s. He says he is running for mayor because he is concerned that Overland Park’s quality of life is eroding with too much density and congestion, too many new high-rise apartments, and an increase in crime.

Mike Czinege: Czinege has been an executive with Ernst & Young, AMC and Applebee’s and says he would bring 44 years of business experience to city government. He says he is running for mayor because he is concerned that Overland Park’s quality of life is eroding with too much density and congestion, too many new high-rise apartments, and an increase in crime.

His priorities include supporting single-family residential neighborhoods, limiting tax incentives, avoiding highway toll lanes and strong law enforcement.

Issue: Development and incentives

Farassati says he has been a rare voice on the City Council opposing tax giveaways to wealthy developers, and he wants to stop the proliferation of luxury apartment complexes. He says tax dollars should go for public education, public benefit and public safety.

Czinege also opposes tax incentives except in blighted areas and says they shouldn’t be used for such mixed-use projects as Prairiefire at 135th and Nall.

Norkey wants more collaborative public engagement and sustainability in development. He supports progressive infrastructure and transportation improvements to combat climate change.

Skoog defends the way Overland Park has grown in recent years, with a variety of different development styles and low taxes. He has supported most developer incentives for new residences and job growth.

Issue: Affordable housing

Skoog says the city is already converting three hotels into apartments, and such building re-use is an innovative way to keep rents more affordable. He says he is working with neighborhoods near 87th Street on a higher-density project for more affordable housing near Johnson County’s Central Library.

Farassati says the council’s support for luxury apartments has made things worse, not better. He says his priority is workforce housing and Overland Park should look to affordability models from Denver, Minneapolis and other cities.

Norkey says more affordable housing is essential so middle-class workers like teachers and police officers can live in the city. He recommends using strategies outlined in a recent housing study by United Community Services of Johnson County as a good roadmap.

Czinege said Overland Park has good neighborhoods with homes at all price points. He said his daughter, a Catholic school teacher, was able to buy her first home with her own savings and that home ownership is still possible for young people who are frugal and work hard. He said current homeowners shouldn’t be forced to live with high density apartments nearby just to promote affordability.

Issue: Policing

Czinege says he is concerned about rising violent crime and property crime and is a strong supporter of the Overland Park police department. He is endorsed by Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden.

Farassati says he was one of just three city council members who supported hazard pay for police at the height of the pandemic. He recommends creation of a citizens’ public safety advisory commission to improve communication between residents and police.

Norkey says he supports police, but he is critical about the lack of transparency over the police shooting of John Albers in 2018. He recommends more mental health specialists to help people in crisis, rather than the use of police with guns.

Skoog said he is the only candidate who has attended the council’s public safety committee meetings in recent years. He said police are well funded and not underpaid. He said the next budget calls for 11 new police department positions to help citizens dealing with mental health issues.

Lynn Horsley is a freelance writer in Kansas City. Follow her on Twitter @LynnHorsley.
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