An AI-generated transcript for an event for candidates for Wichita mayor held on July 20, 2023.
On July 20, 2023 candidates for Wichita mayor participated in a televised forum. I extracted the audio and fed it to Whisper, an artificial intelligence transcription model developed by OpenAI. Below, I provide the results.
Whisper doesn’t divide the transcript into any segments. I manually separated the questions. The audio file is one hour 32 minutes. Whisper required 1469 seconds to produce the transcript, which is 15,077 words in length.
The video is available on Facebook here.
It is your chance to make a side-by-side comparison of the candidates competing in the August 1st primary election for Wichita mayor of course. Consider tonight their ideas, their experience, their demeanor, the attributes that you think are important in a Wichita mayor, in a mayor that will lead our city into the future. Our panel of journalists and I will ask questions. The panel consists of Dionne Leffler of the Wichita Eagle, Pilar Pedraza of Cake News and Craig Andrus from KSN News. Our rules, we’re gonna make it simple for you tonight folks. They’re very simple. Each candidate gets one minute to answer a question. Now in addition, he or she will get a 30-second rebuttal if he or she is mentioned in a previous candidate’s answer. Seven of the nine candidates are with us tonight on the primary. There are nine candidates on the primary ballot. Seven of them are with us tonight. Two of them are not here. Tom Kane who did not accept our invitation and Anthony Gallardo who has a family emergency. Now as a reminder, the top two vote getters in the August primary will square off in the November election for Wichita’s next mayor. But until then, it is a rather crowded field and as you can see we have seven candidates here tonight. We are going to begin with a 30-second opening statement from each candidate to tell us a little bit about themselves and then a bell will ring when time is up. So if you hear a little bell, that means time is up. We’re not being rude. We just have to keep this because there’s seven candidates here tonight. We all want them to get in their answers.
So let’s begin with a 30-second opening statement from each candidate and we’re going to begin with incumbent Mayor Brandon Whipple. Well thank you so much and thank you viewers for participating and watching this debate today. My name is Brandon Whipple. It’s been an honor to be the mayor the last four years. Well we guided the city through the largest public health budget and also economic crisis we’ve seen over a lifetime. I’m proud to say that we’re on the other side of that. In Wichita is now leading the state in economic growth and development. Our budget is balanced and we’re creating more opportunities not just for us but just as importantly for the next generation and for our children and I’m running for re-election to build upon that success to make a Wichita that our kids are worthy of and that’s worthy of our kids to inherit. All right thank you Mayor Whipple. Next we’re gonna hear from City Councilman Brian Frye. Well thank you. Hello Wichita. I’m fighting for your public safety, you and your family. You know Wichita needs a mayor who will fight and support our police and not against them. Earlier today Wichita Police Department graduated nine new officers yet we still have over 90 vacancies. As your next mayor I will work towards solving this staffing crisis and making sure that Wichita is moving forward for a safer and stronger community for everyone. Thank you. Next former journalist Lily Wu. For 30 years I’ve called Wichita my home. For more than 20 years I’ve been a local volunteer and leader and for the past 12 years as your local reporter I’ve been sharing your story and listening to you. I’m Lily Wu and I’m running for mayor because I love Wichita and I’m the political outsider and bridge builder who will bring a new energy and fresh perspective to the mayor’s office. My vision is rooted in public safety, growing our economy, restoring trust in City Hall and building a united community. Thank you. Next former City Councilman Jared Cerello. Good evening my name is Jared Cerello. I’m running for two reasons. I believe my experience has culminated in this opportunity for a fresh new honest ethical leadership at City Hall. We currently have a police department that is in crisis mode. 97 officers short. If you factor in all of the officers that could retire that balloons to 140. We must focus on public safety. We must restore and repair the relationship between the mayor’s office and the police department and I’m the only candidate fighting to bring in a new city manager. We need change at the top from the mayor’s office to the city manager’s office. Thank you. Next activist Celeste Rousset. I’m Celeste Rousset and I was born and raised in Wichita. I’m a fourth generation Kansan. I love Wichita. During the past four years I’ve found numerous city financial problems, development deals that haven’t paid as promised and I want to change that. Wichitans don’t trust City Hall so I want to make a difference. I’m the only candidate with accounting skills such as an accounting degree, an MBA and I have also served with the FDIC as a bank examiner and fraud investigator. I’m going to look out for your money and I will make sure we are trusted by you all. Thank you. Thank you. Next Julie Rose Stroud. My name is Julie Rose Stroud, environmental health and safety professional. I was born here and raised in Wichita, Kansas right downtown by the next to the river. I have federal, state and local government experience. I know what it’s like to work as a janitor and work your way up to be a manager. I’ve done a lot of things in between and that’s why I understand the pain and the challenges that you all face today. And I forgot what I was gonna say but oh I believe in you. You can do it. Thank you Julie. And last but not least Sheila Davis. Sheila. My name is Sheila Davis Rainman and my concern is the homelessness. I would like to build a 24 hour homeless center that way they could work on their math, English, job skills and um they wanted to go outside. They’d be in the outside room. I also like to work on a family center on each side of town and also like to work on um a community um property called Richard Clairville where they will work on their English, math, business skills and job training. Thank you very much. 30 seconds from each of the seven candidates. Thank you.
Our debate tonight is being sponsored by the League of Women Voters. So they get the first question in tonight’s debate and it is if elected, how will you prioritize the major issues facing the city of Wichita? Now we all know that there are several major issues facing our city today. Um the League of Women voters would like you to prioritize each one and then say how you will uh change that problem and change that issue. So we’re gonna go in this order. Our first one goes to Julie Stroud. Julie. Thank you. Environmental health and safety. I will ensure that the environment is taken care of that your health and your safety are number one. I believe that it is extremely important to ensure that our rights as human beings, all of us human beings are equally and are equal and taken care of. I also would like to ensure that everyone is encouraged to speak up and all voices will be heard regardless of what you look like or where you come from. Thank you. Thank you Julie. Celeste for set your next. All right. Thank you. So the priorities for the city of Wichita is first, we need to be good stewards of taxpayer funds. I know some of you are struggling with fixed overhead with your home ownership and property tax bills. I’d like to hold that at a revenue neutral state and not increase taxes either by the mill levy or by your assessed values. So taxpayer funds number one. Second quality of life. We have a lot of issues involving quality of life and that’s going to be my next priority with neighborhood pools, parks that are taken care of amenities such as good streets, great roads, street lighting and also the last one, public safety and adequate police force that’s going to be there to protect you to respond to 911 and to be there to assist with community resource officers that may be in your neighborhood area. We’ve pulled three of them off to service foot patrol officers. We actually need this good dialogue between the community and the police officers. And so that’s the last one is to have public safety because I’ve heard that from you all when I’ve been out on my neighborhood tours. So thank you. Brian Fry is next. What are your priorities and how would you fix them? Okay, well, thank you for the question. You know, knocking on doors and visiting neighbors. I hear the number one concern is public safety. People are worried about do we have enough police officers to meet the violence, the rise in violence that we have in our community. And we clearly don’t. There is a staffing crisis and Wichita is not alone. We’ve seen this across the country. It’s gotten worse in the last month and we need to address that immediately. And we fortunately have a budget surplus that would allow us to do that responsibly and reasonably. Second is the budget, making sure that we’re being good stewards of your tax dollars. It’s simple. It’s realigning our priorities with yours, making sure that we’re spending the money based on what your needs are. And we only get there by listening to you. You know, I have to balance my budget at home and we do the same with your money. Finally, it’s infrastructure, making sure that we’re taking care of simple things like water treatment plant and our roads, making sure that we’re properly maintaining them and taking care of them. Thank you, Brian. Brandon Whipple is next. Thanks for the question. Just like my colleagues have just said, public safety, of course, is front of most voters minds. I’m glad that as mayor I’ve been able to have more public engagement sessions than mayors of the past, including online sessions to really figure out exactly what voters want out of their city. And it’s not just throwing money at the problem, it’s actually being strategic with the problem. What folks might not know is when I first came in as mayor, our police department was funded at 90 million dollars. Today, it’s funded at 120 million dollars. We have had more police officers on my watch as mayor at the beginning of every year than the beginning of every year before I was mayor, and that’s because we’re making those strategic investments. We also got to invest in our firefighters, and I’m proud to say that on my watch we were able to get them a contract they deserve so they could actually get the money that they deserve by fighting fires and saving lives. And of course, we’ve made record investments in public works to make sure that our streets are safe. So those are some of the top issues. But of course, economic development, ensuring that we have the jobs of tomorrow so we can keep our kids right here in Wichita when they’re ready to meet their calling in this world. Lily Wu is next. There are four key priorities. The first is ensuring public safety. Right now, the Wichita Police Department and the mayor’s office have a fractured relationship, and we need to rebuild that. Not only that, we also have a relationship that needs to be restored with our community, and that’s another aspect of as mayor that I would work on. The second is about strengthening our economy. We need to make sure that Wichita becomes the best city in America to start and grow a business. So we need a mayor who is a leader, an ambassador and promoter of Wichita. Third, we need to restore trust in City Hall. We need to make sure that City Hall is transparent and communicating with clear, concise and ongoing communication. And so how are we going to do all of this? We’re going to do this by building a united community. We need to work together all in one team. The number one issue, though the number one priority is ensuring public safety. That includes police, fire, infrastructure, water. These are all things that local government needs to focus on. Next is Jared Cerello. As I mentioned a little bit in my opening statement, I believe priority number one has to be bringing in a new city manager. The average tenure of a city manager for a city our size is six to seven years. The current city manager, Bob Layton, has been here 14. It’s just time for a fresh face with fresh ideas. If you look at economic development numbers, business growth, population, our U. S. Census numbers in 2020 were terrible. The city of Wichita grew by only 1% in 10 years. The census is done every decade. Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Colorado Springs. They grow by 1% every single year. What is holding Wichita back? I believe it’s bad leadership. We need to get back to the basics. After we bring in a new city manager, we also we obviously have to focus on public safety. As I mentioned again at the top, we have a crisis within the Wichita Police Department right now. Restoring trust in City Hall. The city’s own survey that was done in late 2022 showed only about 28% of a random 500 people trusted city government. That’s acceptable. Sheila, you are next. Sheila Davis. Um, mind is on police training. I think, um, the police’s should have some medical background, like in medicine and disorders and C. N. A. And a little bit of home health aid. Um, also raises for the police fire apartment and the nurses. Also, we should have more, um, police and city get togethers with the community to know what’s going on, but also have fun. Also, with the mental health, some people have problems getting mental health. There should be, um, different ways for people to get mental health, like a therapy dog or something like that. Um, legalizing marijuana, um, teacher raises. I think if we legalize marijuana, we’ll have more revenue in the downtown area and, um, tax it. Thank you. Thank you very much. Okay.
Our first question from our panel tonight. Second question of the night is going to come from Dion Leffler of the Wichita Eagle. Dion. Thank you, Susan. The city has privatized numerous services and facilities in these past few years. Please provide an example where you believe privatization has worked and an example where you think it hasn’t performed as expected. And are there any programs that have been farmed out that you would like to see returned to city control? First one to answer that question will be she look um, programs. I think when we tell our citizens about business training like we do the kids, which it tell the adults to because everyone doesn’t qualify for a loan. So we should tell people more about business grants to better themselves and how to get more people to start businesses downtown and on their own and in their community. Um, teach people how to do more than one business. Thank you. All right. Next is Jared Cerullo. Well, while I served on in 2021, I voted in the affirmative to privatize the operations of Century to the management of Century to Century two is currently being operated and managed by the same company that operates interest bank arena. I do believe that situation is working. It’s still very young to answer the question where it has not worked. We currently have an ice center that is crumbling and non functional closed to the public, and that is not acceptable. We had a previous prior council in previous years that, quite frankly, structured a deal to line their friends pockets. Sweetheart deals have to end at City Hall. Our council gave a 10 year agreement to a local family to run the ice center, leaving the city completely defenseless. And now we’re paying the price for it. Privatization has not worked at the ice center because we cannot continue to line our park, our friends and business associates pockets with these deals. Sweetheart deals have to end. Lily Wu is next on privatization and finding efficiencies is important. But when something doesn’t work like the ice center, which was something that the community was not open enough to understand because the local government wasn’t transparent enough in that deal, we need to make sure that communicating those deals need must be communicated well, transparent. But what has worked is century to privatization. I know that our community wants to make sure that they understand how local government works. As someone who works in news, we know that we need to be clear, concise and transparent. And those air things that we need to provide as local government in order for all of our community members to understand how privatization works. And when it doesn’t work, we need to hold those accountable because these are taxpayer dollars that need to be be spent wisely. Brandon Whipple. Hey, thanks for the question. Privatization of services usually works best when the type of services that are outside of City Hall. For example, we took a trial run at hiring a bunch of goats. Really, we privatized the cleanup of Sim Park, particularly some very dangerous areas for lawnmowers to get into. Also, a lot of poison ivy really wasn’t a job that we want folks worked for the city to have to do. So we privatized with the company to bring in a herd of goats, and they did an incredible job. Also, we utilize privatization, we want to beef up staff or finances. For example, we will hire third party auditors and utilize accounting staff when we have federal grants coming in or other types of monies that we need to get on top of that’s temporary income. Now when it comes to stuff that doesn’t work, I agree with what was said about the ice rink. I think it was so important that we followed the will of the public by getting new management. And I’m proud to say that the folks who basically wrecked the ice rink are now being held accountable because we’re taking them to court. We’re going to make sure that we get the taxpayer money back and that money goes back into the ice rink. Thank you. Next to answer the questions Brian Fry. Thank you. Example of where it’s worked well is ASM operating century to ASM brings a wide variety of skills and assets. They operate interest bank arena. So they’ve been able to not only lower our operating costs, but they’ve been able to bring in a variety of shows and events. And so that’s working very well. Early on the ice center worked well, but over time it’s changed and it lost a lot of its ability to manage it effectively. One other area I would point to is outsourced mowing. Several years ago, the city used to take care of all of the public areas and mowing. And we outsource that. And I think you’ve seen much taller grass and weeds and that adds to the desirability of our community. And so I think we need to get a better handle and hold those contractors and that outsourcing more accountable. Celeste. All right. Thank you for the question. So I would say it’s still unknown whether ASM Global’s management is century two is paying off or not, because I’ve already heard that they’re charging more for water. They took the parking meters down and they put in an app with a five dollar minimum. So I’m not going to make a decision one way or another on century two. What did work is when we sold the Hyatt Hotel to Phil Ruffin. Now we did take a 12 million dollar loss and he is scraping revenue out of century two for food and beverage services, which we should renegotiate. But the city should not have been in the business to be a hoteler. The one program that I feel like has not worked out and there was complete transparency is the Wichita Ice Center. There is a petition signed by 2000 people that said, please get rid of them. They’re tearing down the Wichita Ice Center. And I actually spoke with several of the ice center folks before city council and we were not listened to. It took until the end of the contract to get new management. And in the meantime, when they moved out, they were allowed to rip the carpet off the floor, tear the lockers doors off and steal appliances from the ice center. A bad deal all around. All right, Julie. We too much and too often, I’m gonna let that out right now. We need to partner with our schools, utilize the work that can be done by students while they are in an educational program and invest in developing our youth and young adults to do these services that we are spending large amounts of money to contract out. And then also local many local Hispanic or Latin owned businesses due to a lack of translation services are not able to take part in those biddings that happen when the contracts are being dealt it out. And then that would in itself build all corners of our city to uplift everyone regardless of what you look like or where you came from. Let me see, especially in regards to long term services that happen over time, right? We don’t want to contract this out when we can build something within our city government that’s going to thank you. All right. Thank you, Julie Stroud.
Um, our next questioner is Pilar Pedraza of Cake News. She has the next question. Pilar. Well, the Wichita Police Department has had a troubled few years from spats between the previous chief and the city manager to the Jensen Hughes report. So from your perspective, do you believe the police department is now headed in the right direction? And how is mayor? Do you foster the department heading in the correct direction while at the same time dealing with the staffing shortage they have there? And we would there is a rise in violent crime, but there’s also a rise in non violent crime as well as many of you candidates know. So I would just add the rise in non violent crime to how do you fix that and fix the relationship with the Wichita Police Department. Celeste, you’re first on. All right. Thank you for the question. Pilar. That’s a good question. So unfortunately, there is a troubled relationship with the Wichita Police Department. And I’m not going to say who is responsible, but I have read the Jensen report. And part of the problem has been this bickering that’s occurred between city council and certain elected officials and our men and women in blue. So that has to we have to treat them with respect. I’ve worked with the FBI. I’ve worked with law enforcement when I was with the FDIC, and we have to respect our law enforcement. At the same time, there needs to be controls at the top of people that have such unchecked power. And I suggested when we were interviewing Wichita Police Chief Sullivan, that we install a whistleblower hotline. And the whistleblower hotline is something I’m familiar with when I was working for fraud investigations. And it allows someone internally in the department to roll their complaint outside of the Wichita Police Department to get help without retribution. And I’ve asked repeatedly for a whistleblower hotline to be installed. Violence interrupter domestic violence is another problem. Thank you. I know we don’t like that bell ringing. Do we? Brian Fry, you’re next. Thank you. Pilar, I believe it begins with having a good civil open relationship between city management, city council, and the union, working together to find the middle ground, making sure that there’s respect given and respect taken. You know, we all have positions that we want to stake out. And we want to work to support our respective sides. But if we’re not finding that common ground to begin with, we’re never going to find the solutions. The Jensen Hughes report also established that we need to develop a mission statement for our police department. And what are those actions and goals as a department that we’re going to work towards? And everyone on that staff needs to know what those goals are, what is that mission, how we’re working every day to make this a safer community. That’s where it begins and getting people at the table together to figure out what those goals and mission is. You know, we have had some issues, it’s been tough. But I think there’s an opportunity with Chief Sullivan, the leadership to help make us better and safer. Thank you, Brian. And as you know, we have had issues. Brandon Whipple, you are next. Hey, the role of the mayor is not to be a pseudo police chief. The role of the mayor isn’t tell isn’t to tell the WPD what to do. The role of the mayor is asked to WPD, what do you need? What do you need to be successful? And I’m glad that on my watch, we have contributed over 30 million more dollars to our police department. They’re the best paid right now that they’ve ever been. They have more staff, more access to technology than they have in the past. And we are down about 40 officers from where we were in the beginning of the year. And we’re going to make up for it because Chief Sullivan has the right plan moving forward. I believe in his plan. I believe in his leadership team, and I want to make sure that they are supported the entirety of the way for the entirety of my term. Now, as we continue to fight crime, we have to also fight the variables that cause crime. When petty crime goes up, there’s an indication that also means that sadly, drug use is going up. That’s why on my watch, we were able to use harm reduction strategies to help those who are struggling with addiction, because we got to be smart about crime, not just tough with crime. That’s something that we have been able to do again by making strategic investments. Thank you, Mr Whipple. Lily Wu. Our streets are less safe. That is the number one concern that Wichita and say to me as I knock on the doors of our community members, priority number one has always been ensuring public safety. And that has been my priority since I launched this campaign, and I’m glad to be the first one to really go after and explaining that we have a police shortage that now has increased nearly 100 police officers and next year, 100 more officers will be eligible for retirement. So we have a recruitment and retention problem. What we need to do first and foremost is repair the relationship between the mayor’s office and the Wichita Police Department. That is the first priority, because right now the chief needs to know what we can do immediately to help with recruitment and retention within the police department. Second, we need to repair the relationship between the police department and the community. I know from neighbors they want community policing officers, but we’re taking away those officers when we have a shortage right now. Jared Cerello, you’re next. The Jensen Hughes report was troubling in in many aspects. I recognize that there may be a culture problem within the ranks of our police department. I have not met the new police chief yet. Chief Sullivan. I’m confident in his leadership, and I look forward to being able to meet with him and repair that relationship between the mayor’s office and the police department. Um, I was also proud to have received the endorsement of the F. O. P. In my 2021 City Council race. Um, I’ve been talking about the public safety crisis since day one. I’ve been meeting with police officers, rank and file police officers since January. Since I launched my campaign, I’ve been meeting with the leadership of the fraternal order of police. Um, and I’m I’m thankful that other candidates are now finally ringing that bell and talking about that subject. We are moving community police officers off the street. These are the officers that are trying to prevent crime, working with our kids, our youth and dare programs, things like that. We are faced with such a shortage right now that so many of those C. P. Officers are vacant because they have to go answer calls on the street. Sheila Davis, you’re next. I think the way to solve the crime is to, um, up minimum wage to $18 an hour that will cut down on the petty theft and, um, get people more opportunity to start their businesses. And as in for the city, getting along with the police, they should have, um, yeah, more events where they could get together and get to know each other on a more personal level. Invite the community in. Thank you. Thank you, Sheila and Julie Stroud. You are last to answer this question. I was taking notes here. Okay, we need to establish a culture. It is all of our responsibility to keep our city safe, right? Um, there needs to be a morning meeting, a morning safety meeting where everybody in the city joins me, them, us. We you on camera joined to this meeting. Definitely police are gonna be there. Police will talk about the safety events that happened every single day this morning. So we all are aware of what’s happening and what’s going on with the city. We need to be aware of everything. Uh, the 29th and grow contamination. These individuals were hurt. Their health were impacted. The city dropped the ball. The state dropped the ball. The federal government dropped the ball. The railroad who took responsibility dropped the ball. We cannot ignore as a city when part of us is hurt. We have to recognize that and bring justice to them. Likewise, everyone in the community and it’s hell that’s done. We’re going to have a problem. So I ask all of us to look into one another as if it was you in those shoes as if she is your neighbor. I am your neighbor. You are my family. Thank you. Thank you, Julie.
Uh, Craig Andrus of K. S. N. Has the next question, Craig. Thank you, Susan. I appreciate it. We’ve seen a lot of high profile violent crime issues recently. We’ve seen other crime issues come up that are not violent crime. Um, we’ve heard the stories about people afraid to come into Wichita late at night. We’ve heard the stories about people specifically afraid to go to Old Town. Now, aside from the old town issues that we’ve seen, describe for me specifically what you would do to fight violent crime in our city and what specific steps would you take to do this? Um, we will, as Jared said, specifics, um, would be very much appreciated, uh, not only for the violent crime, but even nonviolent crime that has gone up dramatic. Some say very dramatically, uh, in our city. So if you could deal with specifics, that’d be great. Jared Cerello, you’re first with this. Okay, specifically, we must raise the pay for our police officers. I am thankful that the city of Wichita focused on firefighters last year, and the firefighters did receive a significant raise. We’re headed the right direction with our fire department. We need to head the right direction with our police department, because if you look at salaries from Wichita to other cities of comparable size, the city of Wichita pays to train many police officers that stay with us for only a year or two and go somewhere else very quickly because they know if they stay 10 or 20 years at another department like Oklahoma City or Tulsa or Colorado Springs, they know they’re gonna make 40 or $50,000 a year more when they reach that rank of sergeant or lieutenant or even higher. We must focus on raising the pay because we can’t focus on violent crime right now. With 97 vacancies, we cannot focus on violent crime when police officers air going from call to call to call to call. They’re worn out, and it’s it’s got to be focused on priority number one. Lily Wu specifics about how you would fight crime in Wichita as a reporter for the past 12 years, I’ve had the chance to talk to victims as well as those who have committed the crimes. And I can tell you that it is sad that we have lost respect for one another. We’ve lost respect for life. We’ve also lost respect for each other as neighbors, and we need to get back to restoring not just trust but also accountability. Those actions, whether violent or nonviolent, need to be created at the bottom of our community bottom up solutions where we as neighbors help one another figure out how to value each other and respect one another. I’m proud to say that Sheriff Jeff Easter endorsed my candidacy for mayor because he believes in a new approach to looking at these community wide problems for the past 12 years. Violent crime has been increasing, and that means our community is hurting, and we need new smart solutions to combat crime. And I’m proud to say that we can do this together because we’re doing it slowly. Thank you, Lily. Specifics. Brandon Whipple. Yeah, guys. Honestly, I think it’s a very political answer to say we’re just gonna throw money at it on my watch. We have increased the police budget by $30 million and a reason why we haven’t seen, I guess, as much as much feedback from that is because it’s not just about money. It’s actually about fighting the variables that cause violence as well. We got to really support the chief when it comes to installing a community wide community policing program where people are in there building relationships with citizens so that they can restore that trust and make sure that folks feel comfortable talking to our officers. We also got to take the fentanyl crisis head-on. And I don’t mean a PR stunt or doing commercials. I mean actually utilizing harm reduction strategies that help people who are addicted to fentanyl be able to get the help they need so they don’t have to turn to petty crime. And then, of course, we got to invest in our youth. We have to invest in programs that help youth who might be involved or possibly walking down the wrong path in life find other opportunities. And if we can invest in our youth, invest in our communities, then we can make sure that next generation doesn’t feel like they have to turn to crime. Specifics, Brian Fry. Okay, great. I love hearing solutions instead of just talking about the problem because we know there is a problem. There is a crisis. One of the things that the city has done is using federal money to create a violence interrupter program where we’re actually going to be able to go into the community, find out what is causing the crime, figure out how to work with the neighborhoods on crime prevention strategies. We’ve seen successful programs in higher crime cities. Chief Sullivan’s experienced this in Philadelphia and bringing this type of strategy to this community. Using community service officers to free up time so that our patrol officers can increase their beats and get out more in the neighborhoods. Develop a career pipeline for high school and college students so we’re getting them into the law enforcement career early and an exposure to our Wichita Police Department. And third, or lastly, focusing on neighborhoods, our youth, our recreation centers, developing programs after school where they’re engaged with our law enforcement. Thank you. Celeste Rousset, do you have specifics as well? I sure do. Thank you for the question. So we talked about the violence interrupter program, but unfortunately only 1% of those funds have been spent. So it’s a great program, I’ve studied it. Let’s get those ARPA funds out there. Homelessness contributes to part of this problem too. And that’s a solution that I don’t think we’ve cooperatively worked on with Sedgwick County. And I think one thing that would help with the homeless situation where we ourselves have experienced it when we’ve been downtown planting flowers around Joan of Arc or A. Price Woodard Park is there’s been homeless, maybe they have mental issues, maybe they have substance addiction, but a program we haven’t looked at that’s currently working in San Antonio, Texas is called One Rise. And I want to cooperate with Sedgwick County and look into that program. We also got on CNN, unfortunately, for the shoplifting. We know we need more community engagement. We’ve also had an increase in the illiterate population of Wichita has gone from 42,000, doubled to almost 80. So there’s so many interrelated issues we’ve got to address and work together on. Thank you. Thank you. Julie Stroud, you’re next. I grew up in, sorry for interrupting, I grew up in the city of Wichita right down downtown next to the river. I’ve seen a lot of the crimes happening ever since a young age. I’ve always been, you know, looking out and staying aware of what’s going on. But definitely the morning meeting that I mentioned where we investigate every single violent crime that has occurred and we rank them by risk base. And definitely the fentanyl crisis. We need to invest more money in mental health and social services. We have to, children are in schools for 8 hours a day with an adult and a lot of times that’s the one solid adult they have in their life especially in the neighborhoods that have the most highest crime rates. We need to invest in our teachers. We have to ensure that these children in these areas and know that there’s something outside that they can obtain in life and that it doesn’t matter where you come from or what’s around you that you can level up and you can be the best that you can be. Thank you, Julie. And last to answer this question is Sheila Davis. Sheila? I think when it comes to crime we should lower the standards for job training program. Why people are trying to get in the job training program pay them before they get in. As in with the crime issue the police and fire department and nurses and teachers need more pay. I think $80,000 a year with free medical would be fine. I think if we legalize marijuana we could be able to do that and then tax it. Thank you. Thank you, Celeste. Thank you, Sheila. Celeste had mentioned a problem that kind of coincides with the crime issue has something to do with the crime issue and that is homelessness.
And that is our next question from our panelist, Dion Leffler. Dion. Thank you, Susan. Since the city renovated Nassau Park and made it less hospitable for our homeless residents the homeless population has largely shifted to other areas notably to areas around 2nd Street and parts of Old Town. What specifically would you do to help solve our growing problem of homeless people living on our streets without just chasing them into some other part of the city? Thank you, Dion. Once again, Dion mentioned specifics and we’d appreciate it if the candidates would mention specifics as well to help curb the homeless problem. Julie Stroud, you are first. I would continue to work with the task force and I would insist that we have measurable goals and the current items that we do have that we make them even more… narrow them down, make them more specific. Then, mentioning Nassau Park, I probably didn’t pronounce that right. I apologize. We would have events where we invited the homeless, fed them, talked to them asked them what their dreams were because when it comes right down to it at one point in time, I would have to say that every single person would have a dream. We need to get into our schools, like I said and talk with the students and ensure our youth and our young adults who are at those risk situations where they need help, that they know they can obtain help and that we are here for them and we believe in them. Thank you. Thank you, Julie. Celeste Rousset, you’re next with this question. Thank you. So, thank you for the question. As I was mentioning before, we have seen this problem first hand when we’ve been downtown with the Volunteers Gardening to beautify Wichita. We’ve seen a man with a knife and he was stabbing the ground repeatedly thinking it was his yard. A long knife. We called the HOT team, which is the Homeless Outreach Team and they were so overwhelmed they wanted to know if this man was actually hurting somebody and I can’t imagine with 23 encampments throughout Wichita that they really have the resources they need when there’s violence on the streets with the homeless. Needless to say, there is a solution. Sedgwick County and the city of Wichita needs to cooperate and when I was in the financial industry I was a team leader numerous times or worked with FDIC teams. We need to collaboratively cooperate and One Rise is a program in San Antonio, Texas that has one location for the mental hospital which was just approved with Sedgwick County Mental Hospital. There’s a place for counseling for substance addiction. There’s affordable places for housing for them to be housed. One Rise is the solution to this problem. Thank you. Thank you, Celeste. Brian Fry, you’re next to answer this question about homelessness. Thank you, Susan. So I believe Wichita is a compassionate community and we simply can’t be intolerant of the homeless and be tolerant of homelessness. The simple answer for homelessness is affordable housing and providing a shelter, a roof for someone’s head. Currently, we don’t have enough facilities in the city and we’ve seen a growth in homelessness because of COVID. Fortunately, COVID might be our answer. With federal dollars that we’ve received from ARPA, we have about $14.5 million to build affordable housing shelters for families, for homeless women. We’re going to be able to build a non-congregate low barrier shelter that we currently don’t have in this city. We’ll be able to have a navigation center so that they’re all resources that someone who is experiencing homelessness will be able to come to one center and get the help they need similar to the Haven for Hope in San Antonio. And this is something we have an RFP, a request for proposal on the street right now. All right. Thank you, Brian Fry. Brandon Whipple. Look, I’m just going to put out there. It’s actually, I think, hurtful when we associate folks who are experiencing chronic homelessness with either criminology or violence. We make them out to be criminals. The reality is the majority of these folks suffer from a diagnosable mental health condition or a substance abuse issue and then sadly over half them suffer from one of the two or from both of that. So as we move forward, we’ve got to actually adjust the variables that cause people to be chronically homeless, which means investing more in mental health. The one-stop shop that my colleague on city council just mentioned is something that we have in the works. It’s the best practice. It’s going to make sure that people can show up and get the wraparound services that they need and also get themselves a voucher into housing. And we actually just collaborated with our partners over the United Way to say that we will get to functional zero when it comes to homelessness for veterans because if you defended our nation in uniform, you should not have to sleep on the streets that you once protected. So as we move forward, we got to make sure we’re following best practices. We got to make sure we’re working with our community partners and we got to make sure we’re actually following the best practices. Lily Wu, you’re next. Let’s start with some facts. Under 600 homeless were counted four years ago. This year, that number has increased to 702. During current administrations that could be leading on that effort, they have not. That’s why we need change. What we need with homeless in our community is care and compassion. And we do need to work on the root cause of what they’re suffering from, which is illnesses. We do need to provide that, but we also need to provide collaborative efforts. Nonprofits are doing a great job trying to provide those services. Local government at the state, sorry, at the Cedric County and local levels are trying to also be at the table. And now we’re seeing businesses trying to be part of that solution. I also encourage the faith-based community to also be at the table. As someone who is a political outsider, I want to be the collaborative mayor that will bring these four groups together to help solve homelessness in our community. Since she mentioned current administration, I’m going to offer Brandon Whipple a 30-second rebuttal and possibly Brian Fry a 30-second rebuttal. Thank you. And I appreciate that because it says as a name, if we’re named, we get to rebuttal. And if you say the mayor’s office, I think I should be able to rebuttal. On my watch, we invested more in homelessness and homelessness prevention than the last 20 years combined. We worked the Wichita family shelter or family services to make sure that they got $1.2 million with the federal funds that came into the city so they could leverage that to $7 million so they could buy a new hotel and convert that into shelter for women who are survivors of domestic violence. We are doing what we can when it comes to following the best practices, but it’s an absolute lie to say that we’re not taking a lead on this. We’re taking it more so than any city has done in the past history of Wichita. Brian, would you like 30 seconds? Yes, thank you. I would also like to add that over the last four years, the city has invested more resources in mental health and substance abuse programs. That is something that I have seen when I’ve done the point-in-time count for United Way. And getting resources and help to people in their moment of crisis is an investment that we as a community need to make. We started the ICT1 program in 2019, which puts a law enforcement officer, a mental health worker, and an EMT on the scene of someone experiencing a mental health crisis. All right, thank you. Jared Cirollo, you’re next to answer this question. Thank you, Susan. When I served on the council in 2021, I was proud to support spending $5 million of the city’s ARPA money, which is federal pandemic relief money, to support Sedgwick County’s One Stop Shop. We are working on it. The city and the county are working on it. I will continue that relationship with the county working on the One Stop Shop that will allow chronically ill and allow chronically homeless people to have one place to go to attack those problems. As the mayor said, he’s right. Many times the problem lies in mental illness and substance abuse. We have to provide services for people to attack those root causes. One other thing that I would say is if the city is providing, if providing the housing is the answer, then why isn’t the city providing its housing right now? The city of Wichita currently has 300 in its inventory, 300 single family homes in its inventory that are empty and falling dilapidated. Two entire neighborhoods in the city of Wichita are not being utilized and they’re falling in disrepair. It’s unacceptable. Sheila Davis. When it comes to homelessness, I think we need to change the rules of, because they have times they have to be in, I think it’s 6, 5 in the morning and at times they have to be out. I think if we change that and just work on finding them a permanent place to stay where they could afford rent, where it could be affordable. I know there has to be some kind of more funding out there that could house them and give them the help they need with housing and medical. They could work on substance abuse if they have it or mental illness. Some people are probably homeless because they lost their home Some people are probably homeless because they lost their job doing COVID or stuff like that. I just think there needs to be more funding and maybe a hotel that holds the homeless like a hotel that would hold like 300 to 500 of them and then some kind of city grant or something to help them. Thank you. Thank you, Sheila.
Pilar Pedraza has our next question from our panel. Pilar? Well, a decade ago the city of Wichita was winning awards for its transparency at least as far as its website went and the ability to access information about the city. Obviously, things have changed since then. There have been a lot of concerns from unfulfilled public records requests to various other issues not to mention sweetheart deals that many of you have talked about. Almost everybody up here so far has mentioned concerns about transparency. My question is what to you does it mean for the city to be transparent and what are the reasonable limits that you believe should be placed on that? Brandon Whipple you’re going to be the first one to answer this question. Excellent. Well, hey, I appreciate the question and transparency has to be front and foremost when it comes to not only ensuring that taxpayers can follow the money but really to make sure that we’re building trust. On my watch we’ve taken advantage of our technology making sure that every meeting is not only being recorded and available but also streaming live. We’ve been able to take feedback from folks on all the different platforms to make sure that frankly that we aren’t just giving information we’re actually learning about how people are responding to our programs. So transparency to me isn’t just getting information out there it’s developing a two-way discussion with folks so we know that we’re actually hitting the goals for the programs and making sure that we’re making those changes and transparency in addition to just getting the information out is bringing people to the table who utilize our services so that we can have them help us better those services and I’m proud that as mayor we’ve been able to bring people to the table who traditionally were left outside of the room and in my next term I’m going to make sure that we build upon that but again we got to keep moving forward and it’s something that just can’t be fixed in the first term I think that we can still build upon our success in the next term. Alright, Lily Wu you’re next. I’m a reporter and I’m here to defend cronyism backroom deals sweetheart deals and any insider deals as a reporter I’ve had the opportunity to share the facts report and reveal truth and be transparent in how I’ve gotten to that truth while also holding public officials accountable those are the same skills I will bring to the mayor’s office first and foremost we need to make sure that if there are any deals that happen they need to be transparent they need to be fiscally responsible and they need to hold people accountable and I’m here to defend that and I’m here to defend that and I’m here to hold people accountable how are we going to do all of this by having clear concise and ongoing communication that is the role of local government so that taxpayers know how the government prioritizes projects and how your tax dollars are being spent as mayor I will make sure that we will restore trust in City Hall by ending all sweetheart deals Brian Fry you’re next with this question thank you I’m a reporter and I’m here to defend cronyism backroom deals sweetheart deals thank you I’m still waiting to hear about one of these sweetheart deals that I was involved with surprising this accusation happens all the time you know certainly open lines of communication is what needs to happen better opportunities for people to engage with their elected officials district advisory boards civic engagement academy civic citizen police academy these are all opportunities for you to learn more about your government certainly I’m not going to be able to answer all of your questions certainly having evening meetings when we have budget proposal when we did the baseball development deal we had evening meetings so making sure that we’re using every line of communication whether it’s social media website and certainly our local media as well being as open and transparent and inviting making sure that people know City Hall is theirs and they have access to us 24 7 thank you for your questions alright Jared Cerello your next to answer this question sweetheart deals well first and foremost specifically attacking the problem put the city’s checkbook on the website Sedgwick County did it 3 to 4 years ago Wichita should do it now Wichita should have done it years ago put the checkbook right on the website and allow you to go straight to the Wichita City website and see how every dollar of your taxpayer money is spent I was shocked to see the city’s own survey in late 2022 found that out of 500 random residents that were surveyed only 27% of residents felt that their city government was being open and transparent with them that’s unacceptable follow the money campaign finance reports are due in 3 days and when I file my campaign finance report you’ll see that I have not accepted a single dollar in this community I’m funding my own campaign I’m spending my own money because I think it’s worth it follow the money and you’ll find where those sweetheart deals are coming in Celeste thank you for the question it’s so interesting because I would not be standing before you today if the city had not been so hidden and so non-transparent when the 1.2 billion dollar Riverfront Master Legacy deal was signed and they said it was not public and there was no citizen comment so here I am 4 years later promising to do better in city government and of all the candidates here that talk about the problems who stood up in front of city council and addressed these repeatedly I talked about the Wichita Ice Center rink in 2019 and spoke about the two that are identified and no one said a word and come to find out there was a third one at 29th and Grove I also talked about that there was a problem with no internal auditor for 3 years that’s the internal auditor for those who don’t follow that and there hadn’t been one for 3 years I speak out all the time I don’t know too much about sweet heart deals but I think that shouldn’t be going on I think if someone’s working for a city and they need more money or want more money they should get another job work for or fundraise or apply for a grant or start a side business on the other side of the world and that’s really one of the most important aspects of any government position that can exist the government exists to do right by the people so that morning meeting that I told you that everyone needs to be a part of I work for the city of LA and I’m a mayor and I work for the city of LA and I work for the city of LA and I work for the city of LA and I p our city of the city of LA and I I work for the city of LA and I previously young ah puberty our organization in the sky with no names under it and so they’re given to ah the such and such development corporation and there are no names under that corporation I guess my question is would you be in favor of mandating that the members of that corporation who’s ever gonna benefit from those dollars be named I guess Julie you’d be first I guess I don’t know if you’d be in favor of mandating that the members of that corporation be named I guess Julie I guess I’d be in favor of mandating that the members of that corporation be named I guess I guess within the thank you thank you Celeste would you be in favor of naming names in all these development corporation absolutely when the 18 properties that were bought in Delano and then flipped back to the city for the ball stadium it was just a name of a corporation I would like to know who those principals were when we handed out 1.7 million in subsidies to the Riverside TIF that was just another corporation LLC I would absolutely like to know their names when the Hyatt hotel had this secret agreement or sweet deal I’ll call it where they scrape the revenue out of century 2 for food and beverage and for meeting room income why aren’t we calling out those individuals absolutely let’s name them Brian Fry thank you so every bid goes through a staff screening committee and via our purchasing department where those vendors have to be known large capital projects not only have staff but also city council or mayor representation those are brought to the council there are contracts given and shown being able to register and apply for these has to be known and I think staff does a good job of vetting them that’s what they’re there for Brandon Whipple we’ve restored the firewall between the elected officials and the taxpayers when it comes to the contracts to make sure elected officials can hijack the contract on behalf of their donors when it comes to transparency we’ve got two people running their campaigns through dark money interest groups I just want to know is Americans for Prosperity going to be transparent about what money they spent on Lily’s campaign and is Carl and who donated to me you won’t see where these guys got their money from who’s the first to be named Celeste Lily okay Lily go ahead let me start off by saying PAC money is also being utilized by the current administration so am I proud to be supported by a pro-freedom organization absolutely they’re against cronyism so I’m going to be the first to have on my website the link to the donors that will be revealed in a few days so it’s easy access so that you can all find out who is paying and giving donations remember there’s only a $500 limit per individual per entity uh Celeste sure so in 30 seconds you can all have 30 seconds after this Celeste you’re first yes I find it extremely ironic that Carl Peter John is running for mayor in the campaign and the first thing he did when he was elected is he turned around and formed a PAC and he put his wife in charge of that PAC which is a political action committee so it’s really hypocrisy of the top degree and that’s why I’m running for mayor is he so disappointed me with his lack of maturity I didn’t think I was named actually I think it was yeah I don’t have a PAC I think he responded I get to respond you get to respond next and then Brandon yes political action committee that actually puts all the donors and all the expenses up under the Kansas Ethics Commission website and a dark money interest group that both these candidates are being funded through that has unlimited spending and unlimited donations and the fact is we gotta keep insiders out of City Hall and the idea that they’re gonna bankroll these folks and not be transparent is a step backwards and as we move forward if you’re gonna mention my wife’s political action committee you better know her name her name is Chelsea and she is a person of accomplishment she is a doctoral student and she has spent more time interacting with voters than anyone on this panel Celeste wanted to mention that she has no PAC as well dark money interest group we’re gonna have Jared answer this question we’re gonna have Jared answer this question next go ahead Jared for a minute a minute okay I have not answered this I have not answered this question I do agree with Celeste that it is hypocrisy of the highest degree for the incumbent administration the incumbent mayor of this city of Wichita to accuse other candidates of using dark money is it true? it may be but he did it too in 2021 he used his PAC his two PACs to defeat me by 80 votes in my council race in order to get his friend on the city council that friend is continuing to serve on the city council right now I don’t think we should be putting our friends on the city council we should be putting knowledgeable competent people on the city council and the incumbent mayor absolutely did use his own PAC money that he created to fund my opponent’s campaign in 2021 unacceptable Sheila yes about I believe you get pretty no, Sheila was not mentioned she, okay she gets a minute yes, go ahead about bids like if I don’t know too much about it but if a company makes a a bid and they make a couple bids I was wondering does the city has like laws where like if they have too many bids they have to make a couple bids and then like if they have too many bids could they give that bid to a small business also the other thing I just thought it’d be brave to run for campaign I’m called Sheila Davis Raymond I’m called that because I do a lot of things on my own I never think if I have enough for this or that I just whatever little bit money I do I just do and I do everything independently thank you Sheila Davis Raymond Julie let’s see what was I gonna say dark money I don’t have any dark money I’m gonna do the right thing right I can what am I gonna say here I’m not gonna read this I would never be involved in dark money because I care more about you than I do my own than I do a dollar right and I feel that oh I love you Wichita we need equality we need unity to solve problems and prosper and we cannot do that when we are making deals behind the back or doing things that are not up front and transparent where only a certain individuals get to unfavorably no favorably I guess by the city government prosper up while many other areas of our community do not get those same advantages to move up and to help the city sorry thank you very much Julie
our next question is from Craig Andrews from our panel Craig thank you Susan Wichita is a big city we’re not New York we’re not LA we’re not Boston or Chicago but this is a big city it’s not a small town it’s got a very big budget so let’s talk audit here would you recommend more audits of city spending would you recommend more odds of tax breaks to developers funded by our tax dollars first to answer this question would be Sheila Davis Sheila I would probably do more tax breaks especially on the housing taxes I think more tax breaks would save the city some money or instead of making taxes go up every year just have a rule where it could only go up so much then it just stays right there thank you thank you Sheila Lily Wu you’re next with this question let’s start off again with some facts the operating budget is about 320 million dollars so about 70% of that goes to police fire public works what we need to do is to figure out how to be more efficient so we do need an outside audit to see how local government is operationally working right now we need to find efficiencies from those inefficiencies that are currently happening that is how we’re going to get out of a looming budget deficit that has been created in the future years what we need to do is also look in this current budget there are 15 departments out of the 17 that all had increases in their budgets only the library and HR did not so we need to look and see where we can be more efficient and yes we do need to make sure that we need to have an outside audit and to mention your tax breaks again I’m going to be very clear that we need transparency we need people to be held accountable and we need to have to make sure that it’s fiscally responsible in order for us to move forward with any deals Jared Sorrello you’re next yes I absolutely support more openness more openness and transparency more audits among city government I was proud in 2021 while I served on the council to reject a 10 million dollar tax giveaway to Topgolf did I want Topgolf to come to Wichita absolutely yes I did but the simple facts are those company executives were not truthful with the city government when they told us they needed 10 million dollars to make that project work that vote passed on a 4 to 3 margin with current members Brandon Whipple and Brian Fry voting in favor of giving away 10 million dollars of your money and now we’re faced with a significant budget crisis in 2025 when that 10 million dollars would have come in very useful and our council in 2021 I’m saddened to say gave that money away Topgolf did not need that money the city of Wichita taxpayers deserved to have that money Brandon you’re next if you want to I would love to you know to my colleagues here who claim that we’re still in a budget crisis I wish that they would update the paperwork since March last couple of weeks we’ve actually had revised numbers and we are actually budget has been balanced until 2027 which is an amazing thing by the way as we move forward also just last Tuesday we accepted the third party audit of all of our finances over at the city of Wichita we had a clean opinion so on my watch we are actually making sure that we have third party audits come in and I’m proud to say although it was mentioned that hey for a few years we went without an auditor we hired an internal auditor on my watch and we’re able to utilize her to go and find corruption and make sure that if things aren’t balanced that we get them back in order so again as we move forward we got to make sure that we build upon the success we have we have a clean audit that came out Tuesday our budget is balanced please for the love of God go check the latest when it comes to our budget documents and make sure that you are also seeing the great work that our auditor is doing she is discovering issues and solving those issues and bringing those issues to the council when she needs more support alright thank you Brian Fry the issue of audits thank you and I’m pleased to say that we did have an independent audit done recently and clean bill of health there were no typos there were no wording errors the financial picture was solid and with no meaningful discoveries now have there been typos in the past yes but there were no financial mistakes that’s what an independent auditor looks and finds we hired an internal auditor and I actually got the advice of someone who I trust in this world to help draft that job description we have clawbacks and required ROI’s for development activity star bond revenue is only revenue that is generated because of the success of that business they have to create that revenue in order for them to capture the star bond revenue if they’re not there they don’t get any money so we do have programs and clawbacks and safety checks to make sure we’re being responsible with your tax dollars Julie Stroud you’re next I work for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment as an environmental specialist I did many audits auditing is essential I’m 9001 and 9000 ISO trained which is in regards to quality say what you do and do what you say auditing is essential to ensure our goals and plans are accomplished including contractor audits we do we need to do our part to ensure that the selection of the contractors is accomplished with our contracted with our contract select selection standard operating procedure that is developed with your input City of Wichita when the end of the fiscal year is here we should encourage those allocations we should not encourage wasteful spending but instead invest those dollars into small and local businesses and youth startups thank you thank you Julie and Celeste you’re last to answer this question so I’m the only candidate who can stand before you and say I understand auditing I was a certified internal auditor I was a chief internal auditor I was a FDIC bank examiner and unfortunately there’s a lot of misrepresentation so I want to make it very clear we did not have an internal auditor working inside the city for three years even though on our financial statements it said that that internal auditor was reviewing contracts over a hundred and fifty thousand dollars if you don’t have an internal auditor those contracts aren’t being reviewed and that was an administrative regulation that the city was violating and I spoke about it and it yes we just recently got an auditor but we didn’t have one we give out handouts to developers the Riverside TIF 1.7 million should have been special assessments we called something stormwater utilities that was actually debt on the Fairfield Inn and Waterwalk I don’t know about you but stormwater utilities and a private hotel doesn’t make any sense so thank you thank you alright thank you very much candidates clearly transparency within city government audits of city government and transparency with contracts that are let and bonds that are let for developers clearly huge issue in Wichita and hopefully later on we can all discuss more of this
we’re running out of time for tonight though so we’ve got to get to one last issue and it’s from the League of Women Voters once again they are a sponsor the sponsor of this debate tonight so we wanted to let them in on a couple of questions and a big question the League of Women Voters had tonight is what specifically would you do to combat the growing mental health crisis in our city which also of course leads to crime and leads to homelessness what can we do to help the mentally ill of our community and if we could get specifics on how dollars could be spent where they would come from and what they would go to that would be great so the first one to answer this question is going to be Jared Cerello thank you fight the growing mental health crisis the simple fact is the Wichita city of Wichita does not have a health department does not have anything to do with the crisis Sedgwick County has those responsibilities that doesn’t mean the city of Wichita should not be a good facilitator and a good compassionate worker to help solve the problem and again I go back to the five million dollars of ARPA money from the city of Wichita that I supported giving from the city’s ARPA money to Sedgwick County to help fund the one stop shop that Sedgwick County has but other than other than funding and working with Sedgwick County our partners and our state partners our federal partners as well there are grants that we must go after in trying to help solve the problem but work collaboration with Sedgwick County is going to be the biggest help all right Sheila Davis you are next to answer this question to solve the mental illness I think we should give people who need mental illness you know mental health we should do it different in a fun way like if they like going to McDonald’s you know have their counseling session at McDonald’s if they like makeup or diamonds whatever they like we should we need to have some grants to help with mental health but we need to do it different more nicer more classier and just do it with a more kind and caring heart you know get to know the person first you know talk to them about solving their problems tell them how to solve their problems instead of keep talking about the problem year after year thank you thank you Sheila Julie Stroud mental health I would bring more mental health professionals here by paying them more money I would tax plastic bags and use those that money for the funding of mental health I would help raise the minimum wage by increasing the wages within the city government and therefore encouraging other businesses to do the same because if not their workers will be leaving to work for the city government and I would I would work in our youth again the 8 hours a day that they are in the public school system we have to ensure that if they need help that they receive help we need to work with our young adults who and ensure that they know we have services there work with non-profits who are dedicated to mental health especially in our youth and lower socioeconomic areas thank you thank you Julie Celeste what would you do to promote mental health services in the city sure it is absolutely a growing problem we see it all the time and as I said before when I went to the Orpheum and heard Mary Thoreau present this program that I know Sedgwick County has started looking into and I applaud them for that the city needs to work with Sedgwick County and wherever they put their mental hospital we need to then establish housing counseling for the mentally ill and also this was an interesting idea but a garden area because Hippocrates said that nature is the best healer so we need to set the One Rise program up that came from San Antonio Texas to find the funding we’ve got to stop the special interest and the handouts Riverside TIF I’ve mentioned several of them the Hyatt Hotel and the revenue that they get the Ball Stadium and the fees that they’ve charged for people who go to the Ball Stadium there are so many ways we have misspent taxpayer money but it’s wisely spent towards the mental health the homeless public safety quality of life and as an accountant and an MBA and a certified internal auditor that is one thing I will bring to the table thank you alright Brandon Whipple you are next what would you do to promote more mental health services in the city I just want to say on my watch we have never handed out a cash incentive to any developer and I hope that folks understand that as we continue this conversation we have beefed up we have beefed up ICT 1 into ICT 2.0 which is our response team teamed up with the county making sure that folks who are in a crisis can actually get the help that they need more days of the week we’ve also integrated mental health professionals into our law enforcement because sadly most of the time people will call on our officers to come out to a mental health crisis and they aren’t mental health experts they’re police officers we want them out there fighting crime so now we’ve given them the ability to actually call out a mental health expert so that that expert can give the person the services that they need and we also teamed up with KU Medical Center after their psychiatrist program we’re the only city that’s done this to help them with scholarships so we can grow more psychiatrists right here in Wichita and in return they’re going to come in and help train our first responders when it comes to dealing and serving mental health situations even better Kansas sadly we are at the we are at the bottom of the list when it comes to mental health and in Wichita we can do better by serving our community alright Lily Wu promoting mental health services in our city I know many in our community are suffering from isolation from just the suffering from post COVID and also the divisiveness that has started in the top parts of leadership that has dwindled down into our community and a lot of our community members need to know that there are resources out there from non-profit organizations we need to create better awareness and greater awareness of these resources as someone who went on police ride alongs this spring a majority of the calls that we went to were mental health calls and police officers are not social workers so we need to get back to where we need to be right now which is focusing on public safety and mental health is part of public safety so we need to put our efforts back on that we also need to make sure that today and right now July is minority mental health awareness month so we need to put our efforts back on that so we need to make sure that our community members know about the organizations both at the city and county level as well as the non-profit level that are available to them alright and Brian Fry your last to answer this question about mental health services thank you so Wichita is on the cusp of doing something world class to really address this mental health situation partnering with Wichita State and KU School of Medicine we’re going to be able to create a education and research campus in the heart of downtown partnering with Sedgwick County and ComCare to educate the next generation of students and mental health workers we’ve lobbied in Topeka for this state mental health hospital to be located in the Wichita area the mayor mentioned ICT 2, 3, 4, and 5 additional units out there on the streets helping people in their moment of crisis and embedding social and mental health workers with police so that there is a compassionate response rather than just putting someone in jail I think this community is too good for just old solutions and I think the opportunity we have before us right now will be a game changer and we can make our mark in the rest of the country with how we address mental health and substance abuse issues going forward alright thank you Brian Fry
unfortunately we are running out of time for more questions however because we have enough time we have 7 minutes now we are going to expand the last 30 seconds of your closing statements to one minute don’t have time for another question but we do have time to expand closing statements from 30 seconds to one minute so Brandon Whipple you are first with your closing statement alright I don’t know if I got a full minute but I want to thank folks for being here engaging not only online but also watching us on television making sure you are active and paying attention to this important election and this election is so important again Wichita we have turned the page on the COVID economy we are finally leading the state in economic growth and development we have more opportunity for our young people than we had in the past and we are making the right investments we are investing in public safety including our fire which means that if for some reason there is a hiccup in the economy we can keep these services going so that folks can still get what they expect out of the city now in my next term I want to build upon this success I want to make sure we take on tough challenges because what we do in the next four years is going to determine the trajectory of our city over the next 30 years and I want to make sure that when my boys AJ, Tristan, and Julian I know you are watching I love you guys when my boys look back in this moment when they are my age I want to make sure that they are in the center of this moment that we are able to produce more opportunities for them because it is not about us it is about making sure that next generation can reach their calling here in our city Thank you Brandon Whipple Brian Fry you are next with your one minute closing statement Thank you to the media and the League of Women Voters for this opportunity it is important to share with our public why we are running for mayor I am a life long I have a career here in Wichita moving it forward I have served in government I have served in business non-profit and I am a small business owner my goals are simple let’s keep Wichita safe let’s protect your taxpayer dollars and let’s move Wichita forward again I think we have amazing opportunity right now but it is going to take someone with focus dedication and the ability to hit the ground running on day one because he has been in the position working on solutions talking to people finding out the solutions that they need to make Wichita the best it can be Thank you Brian Fry Lily Wu you are next with closing statement I want to start off by saying thank you for believing in a trustworthy principled individual the donors who have given and who have also endorsed are pro-business pro-safety and pro-freedom organizations there are also individuals that are hard working Americans that are committed to the cause and we have hard working Americans in our community from job creators to educators to working class families like my own mom and dad a hair stylist and a cook whom I want to make proud so thank you mom and dad for making the sacrifice to come to America so that I could have this opportunity I am the political outsider and bridge builder who will bring a new energy and a fresh light on restoring trust in City Hall in strengthening our economy and building a united community because as mayor I will promise you this I will work with anyone who wants to improve our city bring our community together find common ground and make Wichita proud Jared Cerello you are next I’ll keep this short and sweet my name is Jared Cerello I’m a life long Wichita resident I care very deeply if you listened to my comments earlier follow the money there are a lot of dynamics that are involved in this current mayor’s race I am the only candidate that has not accepted a dime from any LLC any business owner I am not going to owe anybody a favor once I am elected mayor of the city of Wichita I’d be grateful to have your support I believe my experience stands out as a journalist being a confident and unbiased over your I’ve served on the district advisory board from my district in southeast Wichita for five years before I was selected by the council to serve an unexpired term for a council member who resigned we must return honesty and integrity to city hall please do not postpone your return to good honest government if you give me your vote I promise to give you honest and ethical leadership thank you Celeste Rousset thank you to PBS and the league of women voters and also for the reporters with their great questions I’ve been a lifelong Wichitan a fourth generation Kansan I’m a mother a wife and a grandmother and I am the only candidate before you with accounting skills and the background to have to be able to stand before you and say there have been insider deals there have been taxpayer handouts and that is one thing I absolutely will do I pledge to you I will be the taxpayers watchdog as mayor of Wichita my role model would be my father who back in the 60’s was a servant leader of Wichita and with others bipartisan support he did so much to do the Wichita Art Museum the Native American Museum to do Century 2 to do the former public library to do the Cheney Conduit that provides water to the city this is the type of servant leadership I’m hoping to bring to Wichita and I would appreciate your support on August 1st I’m Celeste Reset and I love the city of Wichita Julie Strout Thank you I was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas I graduated from West High 5 months pregnant I haven’t made the best decisions but every decision I’ve ever made I’ve owned up to I stepped up to the plate and I did what I needed to do to move on in life I’m an environmental health and safety professional at one time I worked as a firefighter I moved up the career ladder to be in a position where I can protect other people and ensure our environment our resources are reserved for us to live together I come from middle class and I spent a large amount of my time in poverty so I know what it’s like to not be heard I know what it’s like to not be seen I know what it’s like to be told sit down that’s where you belong and I don’t want to listen to you and that’s not going to happen this year I’m here to tell you as mayor to be that I believe in you that you can do it it is possible we can work together and as a city as a team I love you Thank you Julie Sheila Davis your closing statement If elected mayor I plan on only taking half of my pay I don’t know what mayors make but I plan to give that half to the homeless I’m working on putting the homeless to set them up in hotels working on legalizing marijuana working on putting the homeless up instead of for like a few hours or a few months putting them up for four or five years making sure they have what they need making sure they work on their mental health in a fun and safe environment plan on building my Richard Clairville property which is a community where the homeless can stay there and regular people can stay there in separate headquarters and work on job skills computer skills business and computer just plan on working on getting the police in the city to get along better to have parties and stuff and thank you Thank you Sheila Davis We are out of time PBS Kansas very happy to bring you this first debate of the mayoral race for 2023 We want to thank the candidates our panel of journalists here and from the Wichita Eagle from KSN and CAKE News and especially we want to thank the League of Women Voters for being our sponsor tonight If the past is any indication only one in five voters will go to the polls for the primary on August 1st We encourage you to make that number higher Go to the polls The primary election is August 1st and we encourage you to vote Thank you for watching Have a great evening.