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Topeka City Council District 1

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    Karen Hiller

  • Lindsay Jackson

Biographical Information

What do you think the Joint Economic Development Organization (JEDO) can do to support services to workers such as transportation, living wage, affordable health insurance, paid sick and family leave, or childcare support? How would you propose to facilitate your position?

What policies do you think should govern the use of money from the Topeka Housing Trust Fund?

What is the most important issue facing Topeka and how do you propose to address it?

When the City Council draws new election districts for the Council, what criteria will you take into consideration in determining whether those districts are fair to the voters?

What community support services are needed to reduce crime and gun violence (including suicide)? What is your proposal for ensuring availability of those community support services?

Personal Biography Topeka District 1 resident for 47 years. Retired in 2007. Have been serving on the Topeka City Council since 2009. I know all aspects of our community deeply, and it’s been both hard work and a lot of fun to not only fix long-standing problems in our city, but also to get excitement and energy going for the present and for the future. I built and ran the nonprofit organization Housing and Credit Counseling, Inc. which continues to bring $500,000 in jobs and services to Topeka annually.
Campaign Address 1018 SW Lane Street
Campaign Phone (785) 232-2917
Campaign Email khiller@cox.net
Campaign Web Site http://www.hillerfortopeka.com
Education BS Distributed Studies - Sociology, Psychology and Family Environment Iowa State University 1974
Community/Public Service I’ve led neighborhood revitalization projects as part of the Topeka TurnAround Team, including the Aaron Douglas Mural, the Aaron Douglas Art Fair and the Washburn-Lane Parkway. The mural project was completely funded privately and it has become an icon of Topeka’s reawakening. The Art Fair, also totally privately funded, is now in its 17th year and has produced artists and spirit beyond anyone’s expectations. The Parkway lighting project leveraged over $2 million, saw crime drop immediately after the lights went in, within 2 years saw $2.3 million in private reinvestment along the Parkway, and the city’s investment has already been paid back.
JEDO has not been asked about any of these issues except transportation, as far as I know, As far as transportation, JEDO did subsidize a startup ride-to-work system that faltered for a couple of reasons when it was time to transition to company support. I supported the demonstration program and have continued to monitor the JEDO staff working on the transition.

As far as the other issues, I think JEDO would be open to a proposal that considered all of the other items on the list. We have learned along the way to not insist on all really high-paying jobs, as that cuts out the people who need steps along the ladder. The lowest wage that I can recall being supported in the 12 years I've been on the Council has been $14.00 per hour. I'm not sure we've done less than $35,000 per year for some time. If what LWV is seeking is a minimum of $15 plus other benefits, I think there would be a favorable reaction. I'm happy to start the investigation and help get it on the table.
At the request of all of the advocates, the Housing Trust Fund was created in the hands of the City and all of its governing rules and priorities were set up in the City Code. I helped do the final editing on that language to make sure it reflected what people were asking for and would stand the test of time. Those priorities included prioritizing assistance for low income people in categories most likely to be needed by low income people. All parties seemed to be satisfied when the final policy was enacted in early 2021. Unless I missed something, I think it's good to go.
We need to keep growing in pride and vitality.

To do that, we need to address all of the other issues we have been facing - fix our streets, code compliance, new and enhanced businesses, Downtown and other business districts, neighborhoods, housing, bike/pedestrian/river/trail development and maintenance, safety, inclusion/equity/opportunity/welcome for all, tourism/our history/heritage tourism, excellence internally and in our partnerships, prudent budgeting and spending, and more.

I have been working on every one of those. We have come a long way in the past 12 years, and we have great momentum. People are now looking at Topeka as a place to stay or to choose. .People are having fun, and having to choose between activities, so much is going on. We need to stay the course, both in catch-up and moving forward. That is my continued commitment..
First, it is important to clarify that the City is somewhat limited in what it can do, as precincts are set by the State, federal Census and Census updates are used to determine population counts and we have to use the State's precincts to build our local districts. We are further challenged because the precincts have not been reapportioned by the State in many, many years and some are quite uneven in population.

Our law for redistricting provides that a redistricting commission be given an official population number for the City, then divide it by 9 (for 9 districts). Then, they have to work to add or drop precincts, if needed, to make sure each district has a total population within 5% above or below that 1/9 figure.

What the Commission did last time, with consultation with citizens and Council, was did the best they could to get the numbers right while maintaining what residents felt were natural neighborhood boundaries. I will support that approach again.
It is important to have social services for families and individuals, strong school and after-school programs for our young people, strong mental health services and law enforcement both trained and networked with those services. Topeka is strong in all of those areas, and the community-based services have a strong history of a combination of public and private support.

That hasn't been enough, however. We have a number of new initiatives - initiatives such as SAVE, ABLE, StandUp4Life and the revival of a boxing program - all of which I support, under way today.

I also serve on the Council's Special Committee on Police and Community Relations. Since the tumult of the summer of 2020, that committee has been steadily working its way through all aspects of Police policy, procedures, recruitment, training, evaluation, citizen input and community relations to see if there are ways we can suggest improvement there. A number of changes have already occurred. We are continuing.
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