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Topeka leaders set city government priorities that include housing

Topeka’s growing population was at the top of Tony Emerson’s list when he was asked on Wednesday to share five headlines he would like to see published in The Topeka Capital-Journal five years from now.

“The city celebrates five years of record growth,” was the first of those suggested by the Topeka city councilor as he participated by Zoom in an extraordinary working session of the mayor and the council.

Mayor Mike Padilla and the other Emerson board members agreed, deciding without a vote to identify population growth, housing, and the well-being of the community as their top three priorities going forward.

“This is really good stuff,” said city manager Stephen Wade.

He promised that city staff would use those priorities to prepare a plan, which he will present to the mayor and council on March 28.

“Tax reduction” was discussed as a priority

Wednesday’s meeting was the latest step in a process by which the city held public meetings this past February and March to ask residents what they want from it budget-wise. All board members except Brett Kell were in attendance.

Wade asked the mayor and council to outline three to five priorities that city staff members could use to develop plans setting out courses of action for review by the mayor and council.

Patty Gentrup, manager of consulting services for the KU Public Management Center, served as a facilitator for Wednesday’s meeting, which lasted more than three and a half hours.

Gentrup asked the mayor and council members to each share five headlines about the city they would like to see published in The Topeka Capital-Journal five years from now. He noted that Wade worked as editor of that newspaper before taking a job with the city.

Padilla and the board members each wrote five titles and shared them with each other.

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The mayor and council then had a discussion and decided on their three main goals, which were population growth, housing, and the look and feel of the community.

They agreed to try to use the values ​​of equity, innovation and sustainability as goals through which to evaluate everything the city does in pursuing those goals.

The mayor and council debated Wednesday whether “reducing taxes” should be one of their priorities.

Councilman Neil Dobler has suggested that the city focus not specifically on cutting taxes, but rather on increasing the size of the population that pays those taxes, which could then reduce individual taxes.

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What were the specific goals for the City of Topeka?

The mayor and council subsequently split into three small groups, which added specificity to what had previously been determined by setting goals for Topeka city government of:

• Increase the housing inventory and elevate the city’s current housing stock.

• Increase the number of people living and/or working in Topeka. This community has made progress in that area, as board members noted that 2022 certified data from the Kansas Division of the Budget showed Shawnee County recently saw its population increase by 2,265, the percent growth in one year higher in 10 years.

• Improve the city’s appearance by establishing standard design and material requirements to apply to all parts of Topeka, ensuring that city housing codes are used to enforce these standards.

Contact Tim Hrenchir at [email protected] or 785-213-5934.

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