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Merriam Council Ward 1

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    Jacob Laha

Biographical Information

What do you believe are the three critical projects or initiatives that will move your city/district forward?

How do you plan on continuing movement made in ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusion in City operations and projects?

What is your position on privatization of government services?

How can transparency of city issues be guaranteed to the public?

What roll should the city have in public health, affordable housing, homelessness, food insecurity in our communities?

What makes you the best candidate for this position?

Personal Biography I'm an architect in Johnson County. I have lived in Merriam for the last 5 years and served on multiple city committees and boards looking to provide advice and input on the future of the city
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Education Masters of Architecture Kansas State University
Community/Public Service 5701 Merriam Drive Steering Committee – [2019], Merriam Comprehensive (2040) Plan Advisory Committee – [2019-2021], Downtown Merriam Advisory Committee – [2021], Merriam Drive Advisory Board – [2021], Johnson County Brewing Society – Activities Director [2020], ​Professional Advisory Board, Department of Architecture, Kansas State University – [2010/Present], American Institute of Architects Kansas City Education Board/Panel – [2018-2020], American Institute of Architects Kansas – Director at Large [2014-2016], Historic Preservation Board – Wichita, KS [2011-2013], American Institute of Architects Wichita – Board of Directors [2010-2013]
Developmental infill: There are several large development projects on the horizon for the city that will most likely receive tax incentives and the city has a responsibility to be responsible with the tax incentive to provide the most benefit for residents.

Making Merriam Inclusive: Merriam should be for everyone. Currently Merriam is divided by I-35 and it is more difficult for people who are not in personal vehicles to get around the city. We have bus stops that have grass at the curb instead of pavement. Merriam needs to be inclusive of everyone regardless of age, ability, or party affiliation.

Parks: Merriam's Parks and Recreation department is doing a great job and as a city we have some great green spaces. During Covid we spent a lot more time outdoors in the parks and they could use a little more seating and shade.
The city has to represent all people and has to be accessible to all people. Diversity, equity, and inclusion has to include people not just based on ethnicity, but also age, gender, socioeconomic, language, and many other individual differences that should not divide us. Everyone has a different experience, and learning from those experiences should make us better. For example: not everyone can attend city council meetings and we should make sure those are available to people at home. There is zero reason why any bus stop in the city of Merriam should have grass at the curb.
There are some things that the government can do better and some things that the private sector can do better. It is a case-by-case basis. One worry is that when services are privatized, those private businesses don't have the same level of accountability to the people that their elected representatives have. The government has to be accountable to everyone and allowing private businesses to do too much of the government's work makes that difficult.
The city has to be transparent in all decisions with the public. Open meetings, open records, public records, and extremely limited executive session are non-starters for city government. I know that Merriam residents have some misgivings regarding recent decisions (i.e. the Community Center/Pool). I will make sure that the city, as well as myself, share everything we can with the public so that people can know how their government is making decisions and representing them.
The city has some role in public health, affordable housing, homelessness, and food insecurity, but there are a lot more resources at the county, state, and national level as well. The city does not employ a public health official, but the county, state, and national governments do, and we should look to them for advice and policy, and work to implement that at the local level the best way that we can. Housing and food insecurity have a lot more resources available at higher levels of government, but the city knows how to best direct those resources and where the needs are greatest. The city's role is more in getting resources from higher up, and helping direct those resources at the local level where the needs are greatest.
I have been involved on city boards and committees for several years now. I have shown my commitment to being involved and looking towards the future of the city. I think my experience as an architect and work with city planning gives me a good insight into how Merriam can grow responsibly within our boundaries.