2015 Candidate questionnaire: Melissa Bynum, At-Large Position 1 UG Commissioner
Melissa Brune Bynum and Mark Gilstrap survived a March primary to move on to the general election for the At-Large Position 1 seat on the Board of Commissioners for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan. While Bonner Springs and Edwardsville voters were not eligible to vote in the primary for this race, they will vote for this seat in the April 7 general election. The following are Melissa Brune Bynum's responses to The Chieftain's candidate questionnaire.
Occupation: Executive Director, Shepherd’s Center of Kansas City, Kansas
Family: Son, Ted Bynum; Daughter, Laura Bynum; Spouse, John Bynum
Years lived in the county: 52
Previous political experience: Previous candidate, previous applicant for this vacant position
Other community service: Welborn Community Church, Women’s Chamber of Commerce of KCK (past president), Liveable Neighborhoods, Leadership 2000 (graduate and past board member), KCK West Kiwanis Club (past president), Wyandotte County Historical Society, K-State Extension Council (past president), Turner Community Connection, Downtown Shareholders (past president, current treasurer), Pomeroy Neighborhood group, Wyandot Inc. (Community Mental Health Center for Wyandotte County), past board member.
Campaign website (if applicable):
What made you decide to run for office?
I have been a passionate servant of Wyandotte County since my return to my hometown after graduation from Kansas State University. My desire is and has always been to be an active participant in making our community better, and to help others join that cause. Serving as the Commissioner would be an opportunity for me to take my 20+ years of active service to the next level; a level of decision-making ability, in order that everyone who is working hard for strong, safe, vibrant neighborhoods knows that in me, they have a real voice in government.
What special qualifications would you bring to this office?
I am an advocate for our community, a life-long passion which I have demonstrated through numerous board positions and other service-related activities. I am a communicator, a collaborator and a cooperator – this can been seen in my work with our grassroots neighborhood groups, and organizations such as Liveable Neighborhoods, which worked tirelessly on addressing many serious issues facing Wyandotte County (code enforcement, crime, delinquent tax properties). We have seen fantastic progress in these areas, thanks to Liveable Neighborhoods seeking to bring both government officials and residents to the table to problem solve around these and many other quality of life issues. For example, it was Liveable Neighborhoods which did the hard work of bringing the Land Bank to reality.
How do you plan to stay in touch with constituents if you are elected?
There are many ways to stay in touch, especially with technology so prevalent in our modern society. I have always been extremely active in the community, so I see no reason why that would change. I serve on a variety of non-profit boards of directors and attend meetings and events regularly. This would continue (to the extent that specific board service would not be in conflict with being the Unified Government Commissioner). In addition, I enjoy interacting with our residents regularly – by email, by phone, by social media. I would create an email distribution list with which to stay in regular contact with those who desire that. I can envision hosting community town hall meetings in multiple locations across the First At-Large District, which would be open to any resident that wanted to attend and interact. Since my long-held position is that one of our main jobs is to not only be a voice for residents, but also help them be empowered to speak their voice, staying in touch is definitely a priority.
As you have been campaigning, what issue have you found is most important for constituents? How would you address this issue?
There are a variety of issues I’ve heard about regularly, and can’t really say that one single issue is standing out. Tax relief is certainly high on the list in every part of our community. I would address finding tax relief by seeking to eliminate inefficiencies in our 2016 budget cycle, and working with the rest of the Unified Commissioners to collectively resolve to dedicate some of the STAR Bond revenue to 2017 budget tax relief for our homeowners and small business owners.
It seems to me one of the ways I can serve the residents of both Bonner Springs and Edwardsville most effectively, is by seeking to reduce the County portion of the mill levy, instead of shifting costs to that side of the budget in order to deliver a mill levy reduction for the Kansas City, Kansas mill levy. Additionally, it would be important to attend the City Council meetings of both Bonner Springs and Edwardsville, in order to have a full understanding of the issues these cities deal with on a regular basis.
In your own opinion, what are the three most important issues facing the city? If you did not do so in a previous answer, please share how you would address these issues.
Tax relief, continued economic development and continued strong, safe neighborhoods are the three most important issues. I would work alongside each commissioner and the Unified Government Mayor, as well as the City Councils and Mayors of both Bonner Springs and Edwardsville to continue to seek relief for our taxpayers and continue our amazing and innovative economic development across Wyandotte County. My background in neighborhood development will be important, as we also seek to revitalize and redevelop those areas in Wyandotte County that have not enjoyed the same level of vitality as other areas. It is my firm belief that we are all better together — that by working together we can continue to rewrite our history for our next generation and those to come. My record is one of collaboration. This is a critical skill in successful serving our community for everyone.