A Q&A with the next mayor and a loser
Yes, we really asked the mayoral candidates these questions — and they answered.
Shortly after the mayoral primary, in which we're sure you voted because you're all intelligent people, we contacted the camps of each of the candidates for mayor going forward. Jeff Longwell and Sam Williams gamely agreed to answer whatever questions we chose to throw at them, and we took full advantage of that. What follows are our questions and the responses; after reading this you will know all you need to in order to make your decision at the ballot box.
1. In your opinion, what is the most culturally attractive thing about Wichita for people who might consider moving here?
Longwell: The vibe downtown and in the arts district is one of a city on the verge of greatness. We have a plethora of amazing events and attractions across the city, but the energy downtown is contagious. It's attracting attention from visitors and will continue to be a draw for artists, musicians and the individuals who make our town unique.
Williams: I think that the Music Theatre of Wichita is most amazing. World class right here in Wichita.
2. Everyone asks you "what is the biggest challenge facing Wichita today," but as mayor you'd face many challenges. What is the sixteenth biggest challenge facing Wichita today?
Longwell: The sixteenth biggest challenge facing Wichita is the lack of a Cheesecake factory according to my son and many other people around the community. We got our Whole Foods, now we need our cheesecake fix.
Williams: BB size gravel that pits windshields and car paint after each ice or snow event.
3. One of the most pressing issues facing Wichita, as well of the rest of the nation, is our crumbling infrastructure. If we held a bake sale to fund repairs for our city water system, what would you contribute to this sale and how would you price it?
Williams: Like you really think this would solve the problem? If it were really only this easy.
Longwell: Flan. Flan takes planning, careful strategy and flawless execution. It's the same tactic we need to take with upgrading our infrastructure. Plus everyone else always brings brownies.
4. What would you, as mayor, do to support the development of the arts in Wichita?
Williams: I believe the most important thing I can do to develop the arts is to help us replace the 30,000 jobs we have lost the past 8 years. Prosperity leads to proper funding, both private and public, for public art. And a healthy economy leads to a market for artists — in every corner of our city.
Longwell: Awareness and support. I'm not sure if everyone is aware of all of the amazing cultural opportunities Wichita has. From Wichita state's sculpture collection to Botanica's new Chinese Garden of Friendship opening this summer — we have an impressive and diverse arts culture.
5. What is your favorite film starring Burt Reynolds and Dom Deluise, and why do you think that answer will make you a better mayor?
Longwell: I suppose Smokey and the Bandit II, which should tell you that I believe in giving people chances and always addressing and can handle a challenge.
Williams: The Cannonball Run. Because liking the movie shows that I don't and won't ever take myself too seriously.
6. You both address the police in your campaign materials — Longwell emphasizing training and equipment, and Williams emphasizing community involvement and officer diversity. What are the differences in cost and effectiveness in these two approaches?
Williams: I like to think that when we solve the core causes of challenges — we really fix them. I'm in the camp that what I am suggesting will solve the core problem — and therefore save money.
Longwell: Our law enforcement professionals put their lives on the line for us everyday. Let's give them the best tools possible to protect our community and make it a safe place for everyone, which will help in our recruitment of a wider audience of potential new officers and deputies. We have already made great strides in making documents publicly available, reaching out via street teams, holding press conferences and communicating police protocol, and we can continue to do more and create a clear line of open communication.
7. What is the economic feasibility of a Bat Signal?
Longwell: Let's not spend tax payer dollars on it, but if somebody wants to sponsor it they can give me a call.
8. Kansas has an image problem on a national level due to almost weekly regressive actions and statements made in Topeka. What can Wichita do to combat this and appear more attractively progressive to exciting new startups and small businesses?
Williams: Hummm … I don't quite understand the connection you are trying to make here. Wichita is the largest city in Kansas, the 49th largest city in the United States. We will create our economic power by creating the environment where entrepreneurs will again do what they have done historically in Wichita — create hundreds of jobs. We will create the place for new business incubation, acceleration and mainstreaming. We will make sure money is available for such to happen. For small businesses, we will make sure the regulatory environment does not hinder business (for example, requiring parking lots to have spaces painted) and that taxes and fees are reasonable. Wichita will be a business magnet.
Longwell: We're a leader in the state. If we take bold strides toward progress, we can influence those around us. Supporting amazing community endeavors like Startup Weekend, the Innovation campus and more, we can attract more innovators and economic opportunities.
9. Finally, the office of mayor offers you a great deal of power. If elected, what will you do to prevent yourself from going mad with this limitless power?
Longwell: I'm not here to be king: the mayor works for you and for our community. And if I ever forget that, my wife Susie will always be here to keep me in line.
Williams: Listen to my most important, secret weapon — my wife Marilyn. She always keeps me grounded. And, are you sure about that power thing?
10. While economic study after economic study shows that tax incentives do not create jobs, many politicians still tout them as part of a way to boost an economy. Neither of you are doing that, but both of you talk about job creation and attracting small businesses. What, specifically, is your plan?
Williams: Much of this has been mentioned already in questions answered above. Don't see need to be redundant.
Longwell: Innovation that will act as an incubator program to help support the BREG plan Blueprint for Regional Economic Growth that defines job clusters that we can grow naturally. We add to that the export plan that will help the industry clusters expand into new markets and we have a well thought solution for growing jobs in our area.
11. Cheney Reservoir provides about 60 percent of Wichita's water, and it is estimated that it will no longer be able to do so this summer. Has there ever been a better time to build a Thunderdome and have our surrounding bedroom communities war with each other for the rights to our scraps? Do you think you could get the Sedgwick County Commission to go halfsies?
Longwell: We're not building a Thunderdome. Our surrounding communities are our partners and friends. This is not the Hunger Games.
Williams: Why halfsies — let the county pay the whole thing.
12.The role of city government in people's lives is typically described as being limited to police and fire departments, utilities and infrastructure planning and repair. How does stopping "brain drain" fall into this view of government?
Williams: Let me see — are you suggesting that if we have a fantastic place for business to grow that we won't stop the brain drain? I beg to disagree.
Longwell: That view of government is flawed. The role of city government is to support success and growth of a city. Attracting and retaining a core base of young professionals, intelligent individuals and entrepreneurs can be supported by making plans for the economic and cultural longevity of a community.